Monday, January 16, 2012

"I have a dream that one day...the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

Angela Walton-Raji & Colin Kelley
A Choctaw Freedman Descendant  and an enrolled Choctaw who descends 
from the Choctaw slaveholder of her ancestors
(Source: Photo taken by Tonia Holleman in her home in western Arkansas)

I met the descendant of the Choctaw slaveholder of my ancestors in 2010. Two years ago, this month will mark the anniversary of my meeting with a man who found me. I received an email from a gentleman living in Oklahoma who saw my name in an historical journal.  His letter was brief and to the point. He was a descendant of Nail Perry.  

I was stunned. I knew that name--Nail Perry had contact with my ancestors--my ancestors who lived in the Choctaw Nation.  Same and Sallie Walton had lived in Indian Territory as slaves.  Sallie, my gr. grandmother was a person whom I knew in my lifetime, and I had loved her for she was the face of kindness, wisdom and love in my tender young years.  I was 9 years old when she passed and hers is a face that still smiles at me from the old photographs in my home.

Sallie Walton, Choctaw Freedman
Source: Personal Family Collection

But Nail Perry---this was different. I knew his name from family records. When I found the family file in the Dawes Records, his name appeared. He testified at the Dawes Commission interview on behalf of Sam and Sallie Walton, and he spoke about Sallie's mother being a slave in his family.

Partial Testimony of Nail Perry in front of Dawes Commission
National Archives Publication Number: M1301 Choctaw Freedman File No. 777

Nail Perry's name appeared in other family documents between the 1880s and 1900s. 

So back in 2009 when I received the email from Mr. Kelley. We exchanged emails and since that time, we have spoken several times.  And in 2010, while I was on a trip to western Arkansas, he drove to pick up another cousin and they both came to meet me.  Mr. Kelley arrived with documents, and we shared records, and talked.  Our meeting was a pleasant one, and we have a relationship that continues to this day. 

Meeting Nail Perry Descendant Colin Kelley
Photo taken by Tonia Holleman

I think about that meeting often, and I am especially appreciative because it was he who found me. There are many stories of African Americans who have met the descendants of slaveholders. This meeting however, was historic---it is probably one of the first meetings of a Native American slaveholder descendant who on his own initiative, reached out to one whose ancestors were enslaved in his family. We did meet, and yes, history was made on that day.

On this day that we honor a man who had a dream that such meetings were possible, I think that not only are such meetings possible, but so are so many more good things possible! I am so glad that Dr. King had a dream and  he expressed his dream to the world.


Martine Brennan said...

Angela, this is so moving. Your grandmother sounds so lovely too. Grandmothers are so important!

Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

Thank you Martine! Yes indeed grandmothers, and gr. grandmothers are such treasures in our lives.

DearMYRTLE said...

Thank-you for this post. I can only imagine the emotions. ((((hugs))))

Yvette Porter Moore said...

This is a beautiful post!! Very emotional!! What a true honor it must be to walk in the spirit of your ancestors. This is a story that gives hope for healing.

Anonymous said...

Greetings I find that this is the goal and objective of what we all can strive to achieve today. With all being told we learn that indeed Social Media can draw us closer. This is a teachable moment which I look to present to others with your approval.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

Thanks for your comments. I would love to hear about your teaching project. Email me at

Anonymous said...

Hi Angela,

I have a problem. My Great great grandfather was Native American. I have his name but can't find anything on him. My Grandmother and Great aunt who lived to be 91 and 101 years young would go and stay with their grandad often and told be about him. I tried to use and even took the DNA test which confirms what my family told me. Angela, IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!!! :) It is as if he is invisible; dropped from the face of the earth! I live in an area that is surrounded by Cherokee, Cawtawba, and Lumbees. I am thinking the last name was changed because there is nothing under the current name. What suggestions would you might have? Thank you so much!