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Uncovering Your Family Roots: A Journey (Video)

Introduction to the Reunion

Since the 1940s, Willa Mae Lane had been passing for White. Her daughter and granddaughter, Becky Jo and Jeannene, are attending the family reunion in South Carolina for the first time. They have been welcomed back and are slowly coming to terms with their true identity.

Reunion Preparations and Family Memories

Becky Jo is excited to visit Nebraska for the first time, invited by her nephew Josh. As they look through a collection of family photos, Becky Jo and Jeannene see a picture of Willa Mae with the Black family for the first time.

Historic Liberty Hill AME Church Visit

In 1867, members of the Summerton community, including ancestor Preston Ragin, built the historic Liberty Hill AME Church. As part of the family reunion, the Ragin Watsons attended services at the church. This was the first time Jeannene and Becky Jo, both devout Catholics, visited the Black church and community where Willa Mae was raised.

Connecting with Cousin David Ragin

Robin reconnects with cousin David Ragin, the only family member still living in Summerton. David shares stories about their land, racism he faced, and memories of living with Granny after moving from Philadelphia in the seventh grade.

Reflections on Willa Mae’s Choices

David recalls Willa Mae’s mother, Mae, who left South Carolina due to limited opportunities for Black people. In the late 1920s, the only options were picking cotton, being a housekeeper, or a teacher. Mae chose to leave the racial and economic oppression for a new life in the north.

Family Reunion Banquet

The family reunion banquet, held on a scorching day, celebrated with the family colors of blue and white. Robin expresses excitement about the connections made and looks forward to meeting more family members from Nebraska. The reunion ends on a high note with laughter and applause, solidifying newfound family bonds.


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