The Zeitgeist and Serendipity

In light of current events and the preceding article (“Inconvenient Facts”), the most recent issue of NGSQ is of particular interest. It’s also particularly timely, an almost impossible achievement for any journal with a production schedule that stretches over many months of planning, developing, editing, and finalizing.

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG, CGL, authored the issue’s lead article, “Parents for Isaac Garrett of Laurens County, South Carolina: DNA Corroborates Oral Tradition.” Earlier this week, Garrett-Nelson wrote a Facebook post about the publication and its timing.

Zeitgeist. The image on the cover of the June issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) is my great-grandfather: Wister Lee Garrett (1863–1928) of Laurens County, South Carolina. The NGSQ editors could not have predicted the death of George Floyd or the ensuing protests that would focus the nation’s attention on unjustified killings of Black people by police, yet they selected the image of a parent who suffered the pangs of having his unarmed nineteen-year-old son killed by a white peace office, after his son complied with a request to step outside a church. The peace office was held blameless after he testified that the victim had “made a flourish as if” to draw a pistol and he feared for his life.

My great uncle’s killing took place 101 years ago, one of many in a long line of racially based injustices that continue into the present. Genealogy can be a force for social change, especially in a time that may well be an inflection point in race relations. By correcting misconceptions and fostering intellectual integrity as we tell the lives of our ancestors, genealogists can contribute to the process of racial reconciliation.

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  1. June 28, 2020 10:31 am
  2. June 28, 2020 6:24 pm

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