My story is the story of America. My maternal ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War. I have seen the papers from this time. My father’s people were slaves and I have seen the census of 1870 when they had the name of their slaveowner, a name that had changed ten years later. I was born in a city above the Ohio River, a city known for its underground railroad to freedom. The spirits of my ancestors seemed to swirl around that river and a black person’s life was determined by which side of it one lived on. Researching my history continues to be an emotional journey. But America is a place where rivers meet and join and flow to the sea. Each history is the story of America.
Michele Norris is the host of NPR’s All Things Considered and the author of The Grace of Silence.