Language of Family History, and Choosing your Hill…

  Tracing the Black Nuns in your family, thanks to this new book from Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, just got a bit easier.  Her “ 1st book, #SubversiveHabits, will be published by

in May 2022! It provides the 1st full history of #Blacknuns in the US & recovers their activism & leadership in the fight for racial, gender, & educational justice.”

The challenges of family history, particularly a family full of mostly Enslaved Persons, and some Free People of Color (free before the Civil War and subject to the Black Codes in most states), means learning the language of genealogy, and then learning your own family language, with names that run in families, especially middle names, and have certain meanings known only to the inner circle at that time.  In order to survive, each of those People of Color had to decide and choose which hill they wanted to die upon: the hill of passing for White, in some cases, despite loosing family to do so, the hill of fighting to educate other Colored people, despite the many hurtles, as my 2xs great grandfather and his daughter, in her turn, did, or the hill, today, of bearing the torch to help educate all people, as many of us are choosing in this difficult time.

  Their story inspired me to write my book Do Better, in the hope of inspiring others to take up the work of changing our system to a more empathetic, ethical, and kinder one for all of us.  That is the hill I choose to die upon.

What hill do you choose to die on? Building or choosing ‘Found Family’ for me is about connecting deeply and personally with other folks who share my values, as my great Aunt Sr. Mary Felix Manzilla did,


when she joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first Catholic sisterhood open to Colored women, in 1914. I seek to help build community that honors safety and Enough for All, and is willing to die upon the hill of Empathy and Compassion, fighting for Everyone to have Enough of everything that each person needs to live with human dignity. But I seek that community as one looking to build personal family connections, to walk, to teach, and eat together, to look after one another and if necessary, to die for and with one another. In other words, Family, like my great aunt found, with the OSP.

Dear Readers, please consider the people and institutions linked above, and

Action Prompt:

    Share your Hill, if you wish.


  Thoughtful Readers, ideas on learning, especially multiple #LanguageLearning, on-going education and empathy-building, to #EndPoverty, #EndHomelessness,  #EndMoneyBail & achieve freedom for All HumanKind?



Click here to read, if you like:

Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows, Lupin…

Holistic High School Lessons,

Thoughtful Readers, if you are on Twitter, please consider following   #Project Do Better  on Twitter.


Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


10 thoughts on “Language of Family History, and Choosing your Hill…

  1. History, as a discipline, depends on documentation. Sadly, that is lacking much of the time and scarce on other occasions. Usually, the documentary record favors powerful white men. Women and members of minority groups fade into the historical background much of the time. For those of us who seek to portray a broader picture of the past, this reality is problematic.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. True, but at least, and thank you for this, you do acknowledge it. I’ve been told by certain people to “just follow the hints like we did” even after explaining the lack of last names, in most cases. My own Manzilla ancestors actually put me at a disadvantage, as this person refused to understand that that is an exceptional case.
      Problematic, but we continue to work on it.
      Thank you for being here, Good Sir.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. The Pickwick Papers are mentioned in Sr. Felix’ recollections (in pdf The Singing Heart) of growing up in Oklahoma, following the story as her mother read an installment each week at bedtime, if they didn’t hear a Bible story (or along with one?).

    Liked by 4 people

Please Share your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s