Thursday, January 24, 2019

Miss Pauline

Pauline Cunningham was my Grandma Madie's best friend. When Miss Pauline and my grandmother were little girls growing up in Lancaster, S.C., my grandmother said they would hide under the front porch and listen to grown folks' conversations.

Miss Pauline spent most of her adult life in Washington, D.C., where my military father was stationed for three years. I attended middle school and a year of high school there.

During those years, we visited Miss Pauline several times. I remember her home was full of antiques, and my little sister and I loved looking at her old Jet and Ebony magazines stashed under her coffee table.

While living in D.C., we visited three or four other families that had roots in Lancaster County, S.C. All of these people were our people, although at the time I didn't understand why they all lived there.

Since then, I've learned through genealogy research and DNA matches that Washington, D.C., was one of the northern destination cities for many Lancaster, S.C., families during the Great Migration of African-Americans from the early 1900s through the early 1970s. Buffalo, N.Y., was another destination, and Cleveland, Ohio, and there were other places.

Growing up, I always considered the Carolinas as home, but by following the paths of my ancestors' involuntary movement through slavery and their voluntary migrations through freedom, I've come to realize that I have to look beyond the Carolinas to find my roots.