Friday, June 24, 2011

Blog 60 -

Family History
Diagram and Picture Forms

Vernon M. Herron

Family history can be told in many ways, among which are the following forms: diagram, picture and narrative. The diagram form shows line relationships of individuals with vital statistics; the picture form records images; while the narrative form reveals facts, dates, statistics, activities, personalities and is told in a story form.

Hanging on my top floor wall are three dimensions of family history; a hand carved red oak clock, representing “time”; a glass-framed mural, depicting ten generations, showing line relationships to others in the Herron family; and nine picture frames of individuals and group activities, germane to the Herron family’s history. These three dimensions are symmetrically arranged to say:



Time represents the research period. It extends from 1795, the approximate birth year of Jane Herron, known as the 1st generation, to the birth year of Asia Truesdale in 1999, known as the 10th generation. This time period covered approximately 204 years. It also revealed:

o Richard and Minerva Herron as the first known structured Herron family of African descent in the Piedmont area of the Tar Heel state in 1870.

o A description of the Pre-Civil War period for our ancestors as well as mirrored their post emancipation years.

o A discovery of 415 known descendants of Richard Herron.

o A genealogical summary of ten generations

o A history of the Family Reunions and the family shield

o The longest first name: Waddell, Michael, James, Lawrence, Keenan Herron.

o The oldest living descendant; Brown Herron, born 1897

o The youngest descendant; Jan Asia Truesdale, born 1999.

Unveils the Past

This period of family history reveals ten unique discoveries:

1. It gives the origin of the family name.

Like most enslaved African Americans, the captives were denied the use of their original (African) name. They were assigned a given name while assuming the surname of the enslaved owner. The record shows that in his will probated 1846, John Herron willed to his wife and subsequently, to his children including his son Isaac, person of his land held in enslavement. My great grandfather, Richard Herron was a part of Isaac Herron’s, M.D. labor force. Thus, this African American family assumed the Euro-American family surname—Herron.

2. It is a tool for the study of “enslavement.”

3. It defines Richard Herron’s early descendants not as “slaves” but as “enslaved captives”.

4. It shows that this family history parallels America’s history: local, state and national.

5. It reveals that the Herron’s ancestors contributed to the birth, rise and growth of the Catawba Presbytery, USA.

6. It reviews a statistical summary of Richard Herron’s known descendants which includes 10 generations, 408 line descendants plus their 180 spouses, totaling 588.

7. It portrays a growth in the concept of family: From 5 to 408.

8. It records that family members run the gamut in services, occupations, and professions, including Mel Watt, US Congressman representing the NC 12th congressional district.

9. It restates that the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, NC take their names after Queen Charlotte Sophia (1744-1818) of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Germany). There is the notion that Queen Charlotte’s mother was an African. Thus, since the wife of King George III had African blood in her vein, collateral relation is possible.

10. It teaches that the family’s shield motto, “The heron (bird) flies over the high cloud,” is reflected in the family spirit to succeed.

To Connect the Future

Nine picture frames reveal family members in action connecting the past with the future.

Frame 1 shows Vernon Herron preaching at the church of the enslaved master, The Steele Creek Presbyterian Church in 1998.

Frame 2 shows Vernon Herron is greeted by friend Ralph Neely at The Steele Creek Presbyterian Church 1998.

Frame 3 shows the descendants of the enslaved and the enslaved master, Vernease Herron Miller and Ashby Harbin worshipping together at The Steele Creek Presbyterian Church in 1998.

Frame 4 shows three great grandchildren of Richard Herron as Samuel, Jessie and Vernon in worship 1997.

Frame 5 shows United States Congressman Melvin Watt, North Carolina 12th Congressional District and great, great grandson of Richard Herron.

Frame 6 shows the first family reunion at Charlotte, N. C. 1979.

Frame 7 shows the third family reunion at King of Prussia, PA 1988.

Frame 8 shows the sixth family reunion crews at Los Angeles, CA 1996.

Frame 9 shows the fifth family reunion at Bushkill, PA 1992.

That’s Family History, friends in three forms! Right On!

Blog 59 My Adopted Family

Blog 59

My Adopted Family:

A Story of Nine Historical Figurine Characters


Vernon M. Herron

Recently, Nomzamo Nobandla Winnifred Madikizela- Mandela from South Africa, was the commencement speaker at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. Billy, a youth from the Community found his way to the commencement just to meet Winnie and to get her autograph. Billy’s experience was not new, nor different for me, because I had similar experiences many years ago.

Related to identifying oneself with people of note, I remember enrolling at Shaw University as a freshman in 1947. I met a sophomore whose name was “Gibbs.”

After looking me over, the following dialogue ensued.

Gibbs: “Who are you?”

Herron: “Don’t you know who I am? Have you heard of Roland Hayes?”

Gibbs: “Yes”

Herron: “Why, that’s my cousin!”

Gibbs: “Wow!”

Herron: “Do you know of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.?”

Gibbs: “Yes!”

Herron: “Why, he’s my uncle!”

Gibbs: “Wow!”

Herron: “Have you heard of Joe Lewis?”

Gibbs: “Wait a minute, you freshman. You are about to lie!”

So I had, because of my desire to be associated with people of note and who were making a significant difference in life. Researching Black history from my youth has always been a burning desire for me, especially knowing those who achieved. I would travel far and near to meet great personalities who were achievers in their own rights. I was inspired to imitate them in character and service. Such personalities, whom I have met and secured their autographs at commencements of several schools, included Mary McLeod Bethune, Hazel Scott, Walter White, Ralph Bunche, Marion Anderson, Frank Rupp, Selma Burke, J. L. Peacock, Muriel Rahn, and Elmar Burrows (See their penmanship which follows:)

You may recall that in 1985, Martha Holcombe Root sculpted a line of figurines and christened them as ALL GOD’S CHILDREN. In 1989, she introduced a Black historical series of figurines to increase “awareness of unsung heroes and heroines of America’s past who had a positive influence in shaping the history of our country with their courage, beliefs and determination.”

I acquired nine of those historical figurine characters and designated them as “my adopted family.” They were a source of company, comfort and strength while living alone following the death of my late wife. The nine characters are located on each step of the stairwell separating the first from the second floors. I enjoy their presence and the significance they give.

The historical characters include:

Richard Allen (1760-1831)

Founder of The Mother Bethel AME Church

First African American bishop in US

Clara Brown (1800-1885)

Pioneer in business, human rights and hospital work.

Fredrick Douglass (1818-1895)


Mary Mahoney (1845-1926)

First African American Graduate Nurse in US

George Washington Carver (c1864-1943)


Mary Bethune (1875-1955)

Founder and President National Council of Negro Women

Advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Bessie Coleman (1893-1926)

First African American Woman Pilot in the World

Martin Luther King (1929-1968)

Minister-Civil Rights Leader

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)

Leader Southern Civil Rights Movement

I lie not, this time! These persons comprise my “adopted family.” They give me no problems; I don’t have to feed them; no upkeep; no expenses; no conflicts! Meet my adopted family. From them, inspiration is gained; lessons are learned; conversations are held; character is noted. Thank you “family” for your presence, comfort, teachings and examples.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blog 58 - Wait, Until the Prayer is Over

Blog 58

“Wait, Until the Prayer is Over”:
The Beginning of The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME)
Vernon M. Herron

In his book, RICHARD ALLEN- APOSTLE OF FREEDOM, the late Charles H. Wesley, a noted historian, my mentor and an Alpha brother, gives a prayerful account of the beginnings of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).

Richard Allen 001.jpg

You will recall that history gives a progression of the birth and growth of Methodism. The Church of England or The Anglican Church broke away from the Catholic; the Episcopal Church in U.S. developed from the Church of England; the Methodist Episcopal Church (ME) left the Church of England in 1784 while the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) was born from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1787 followed by The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ) in 1796 and so named to indicate that it was formed by people of African descent; then, The Colored (later) The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) in 1870.

In this story, Richard Allen is presented as a man, minister, organizer, bishop, citizen, administrator, group leader and exponent of freedom. He was born 14 February 1760, reared in Philadelphia and Delaware, self-educated and directly influenced by the Quaker faith, but in later life he abandoned the Quaker denomination and accepted the faith of the Church of England, then the Methodist Episcopal Church.

At age 17, Richard experienced the religious change, which the Methodist denomination had made popular as “conversion…the dramatic change of life from          the ways of sin to the ways of righteousness.” In Allen’s day, men and women had similar experiences. He went from house to house, describing his experience to his former companions and encouraged them to be more consistent in Christian living.

Shortly afterward, Allen joined the Methodist Society in his neighborhood and began to attend the class meetings. He impressed his master and his enslaved companions that workers who were church members were more reliable than workers who were not.

Richard Allen, his brothers and others received the opportunity to purchase their freedom and they did. Richard became a free man in 1777 and this brought on a dilemma, which was an occupation and security in slavery or freedom’s insecurity.              
Methodism, to which Allen was devoted, was based on itinerancy. He began to travel and to preach, spending much time in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Allen’s career was influenced with the spirit of independence in the American Colonies, known as a period of discontent. In this period, life was motivated by Methodism and the American Revolution. The latter broke with the Church of England and established itself as an independent religious movement.

The spirit of these movements affected the life of Richard Allen. He and his followers became discontented with restraints as the American Colonists were in their relation with Great Britain. His experience in establishing the African Methodist Episcopal Church was to be similar to the rise of this movement for independence. First, a protest, then a desire for peace with the congregation, and then independence, and back of it all was the desire for independence. Methodism was over the religious and social expressions of protest.

Efforts of the Methodists in humanitarian causes continued throughout the 18th Century. Slavery received attention as other social evils. John Wesley preached against it. He did not hesitate in the evangelization of Negroes.

In February 1786, Richard Allen came to Philadelphia. He began preaching by appointment at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church at 5 a.m. There were conversions at these meetings and the results were so encouraging that he remained in Philadelphia for a longer period than he had planned at first. He saw an increase of number in attendance at the church. He began to preach twice a day, sometimes, four and five times.

As the years passed and the number of persons increased, the “Negro Pew” began to manifest itself. Negroes were required to take seats in the rear, or in the galleries of the church of which they were members. They were asked at times to sit next to the walls on the lower floors, in special pews within the body of the church, or in the rear seats, or the gallery.

As early as 1786, Richard Allen saw the necessity for the erection of a place of worship for the Negroes of the city. When he first proposed this idea, he met with opposition. There were only three persons who favored the plan; Absalom Jones, who was destined to be the founder of the first Episcopal Church for Negroes in America, William White and Dorus Ginnings.  The elders in charge at St. George’s opposed the plan and no progress    was made for nearly a year. The number of colored members increased as a result of Allen’s meetings and they began to feel themselves “much cramped.”

To give you, the reader, the flavor of the true birth pains of the AME Church, like Wesley, this writer has endeavored to follow the dictum of David Hume, who said, “the quality of an historian is to be true and impartial; the next, is to be interesting.” In that spirit, I quote Wesley directly for accuracy and drama.

“Another result of the increase in the colored membership was the removal from the seats around the wall to places in the gallery. In November, 1787, on the Sunday following the announcement of this change of seating an incident occurred which has become a classic in the history of the Negro church. Richard Allen… states that when he, Absalom Jones and a small number of colored members arrived at the church, they were told by the sexton that they were expected to sit in the gallery. Assuming that they were to sit toward the front and above the seats which they had previously occupied, they went forward. The services had begun as they neared the seats which they thought were for them. The elder began at the moment to lead the congregation in prayer. They knelt, and Allen says that shortly thereafter he heard considerable scuffling and talking in low tones. Lifting his head he saw one of the trustees seize Absalom Jones and attempt to pull him from his knees, while saying that they could not kneel there. Conscious of the proprieties of the situation, Absalom Jones asked him to wait until the prayer was over. This request was refused and the effort was continued to move him from this particular place. Finally, Absalom Jones said, “Wait until prayer is over and I will get up and trouble  you no more.” Again the trustee declined to desist and beckoned to another of the trustees to come to his assistance. This one started toward William White. By this time the prayer was over. The little group, after a brief consultation, as Allen states, “all went out of the church in a body and they were no more plagued with us in the church.”

It was out of this experience that the African Methodist Episcopal  Church was born.             

Friday, June 3, 2011

I Remember "Winky"

     Blog 57

I Remember “Winky”
Barbara P. Hendricks

Barbara P. Hendricks

It is quite usual to find articles in newspapers and magazines about memory-the long term, the short term, the impact it makes on life-long learning, the loss of it; memory is a favorite topic. It seems that the older I get, the more frequently I recall my early childhood years. I remember fondly many things that happened to me, even before I was old enough to attend school.

Some people might think that I had a lonely childhood because I grew up without any brothers or sisters, but I was never lonely. I enjoyed the companionship of neighborhood playmates and my friends from Sunday school.  Because I was an only child, I had a very special relationship with my mother and father and my grandmother who lived with us. I learned earlier than most children, the art of conversation because I spent a lot of quality time with the adults in my home and with the adults who often visited us.

According to educational terminology, I was a precocious child. My parents were always seeking ways for me to interact with children of my age. Perhaps they needed some time away from endless chatter and questions. The solution for all of us came from a family friend, Miss King,” who lived one street over from ours. We could see her house from our back yard and a shallow creek separated our back yards. Miss King was a first grade teacher and in those days, teachers’ salaries were truly meager. During the summer months many black teachers took jobs as maids or babysitters to supplement their income. Miss King had another idea. She had a big house and no children of her own, so she opened a summer “kindergarten” in her home. There were no kindergarten available to black children and this decision on her part generated much excitement among Miss King’s friends who had children.

I still remember the day my mother told me about the kindergarten and then said that I would be going there for the summer. I was so excited I could hardly wait for the first day! My mother took me shopping to buy my first “book satchel” (today’s kid say “book bag”). On opening day, my father gave me fifty cents to pay my “tuition” for the week and my mother tied it in the corner of a handkerchief for me. I packed a little notebook, a pencil, and a box of crayons in my new book satchel. My mother tucked the handkerchief into a pocket on my dress and I was ready to go. My mother walked with me to the end of the yard and waited until I walked across the plank from one side of the little creek to the other. When I was safely in Miss King’s yard, I waved to my mother and ran to Miss King’s back door.

When she opened the door and directed me to my “classroom” I could not believe what I saw! I had been to Kiss King’s house many times with my mother, but what I remembered as her dining room had become a bright and colorful room filled with all kinds of books, small toys, colored paper for drawing, and a big chalk board stood in the corner in front of her china cabinet. It was the most beautiful room I had ever seen- a room just for children who were five years old, like me. Shortly after I arrived, five other youngsters came and I was really happy because I knew them from Sunday school.

Kindergarten was off to a great beginning! Miss King then told us that she was going to teach us how to read and she brought to the dining room table six brand new “readers.” We most often hear that children in that time period remember Dick and Jane. A boy and a girl were mentioned in my new reader, but I have I have no memory of their names. In addition to their mother and father, there was one other member of their household. His name was “Winky” and he was a little monkey!  I don’t know why Winky stands out in my memory, but I distinctly remember Winky.  After a few weeks, I was reading quite well because I loved to read about Winky’s antics. In the reader he was pictured wearing a little blue suit and a little round hat that sat on the side of his head. To this day, I do not know why there was a monkey in their home as a pet in 1944. Today, it is not unusual to hear of people choosing pets like monkeys and other animals normally considered to be wild. Nevertheless, I remembered Winky.

Winky set me on a course that is with me to this day. I am sure that my enthusiasm for reading was enhanced by my introduction to him at Miss King’s Kindergarten. Every day I would carry my little reader to school and back in my book satchel! On weekends I would line up all my dolls and read to them the stories about Winky. I even created some new stories about him that were not in the book! My creative juices flowed freely back then and that little reader was very special to me, mainly because of Winky. I have retained that love of learning to this day.

When my own children were born, I bought a book for each of them and they too grew up loving books. A great joy to me has been seeing my daughter reading stories to her children from books that she owned as a child. My home still has some of those books on the book shelves and our grandchildren often select them to read when they visit us. I don’t know which characters they remember or find most appealing, but as far as I am concerned, I still remember Winky!

            A brief bio of Mrs. Hendricks can be found in blog 39.