Say My Name

An African-American Family History

Pictured here is Solomon, Cherry, their youngest son Whitman, his wife Mabel, his daughter by his first wife who was Mabel's sister, and their youngest daughter.

      Solomon’s oldest son was James. James was born a slave in 1852. His mother was the mysterious Amy. Jim, as he was called, was a dark, short, handsome man with a full mustache. Sometime between 1870 and 1880 he met a beautiful young woman named Jane Roberts. They married and became the parents of seven children. Jane was a very proud woman of very light complexion. Oral traditions say she ruled the family. She was younger than James by eight years and he probably doted on her. The family prospered enough for them to own a cafeteria and race horses. They also farmed on the land given to them by Solomon.

      Willie Koonce was born to James and Jane on July 8, 1879. Willie was my grandmother’s father. In looks, he favored his mother more than his father. He was one of four boys--Edgar, Johnny and Earnest were his brothers. In the photo, Curtis is on the far left, Willie is second from the right. His sisters were Tedie, Lillie and Romie.

     At 21, Willie married Lizzie Brasfield, Lizzie was the youngest daughter of Susan and D. Brasfield. I am not sure of her father’s name. It may have been Derick but it hasn’t been corroborated. Willie’s mother was a midwife. Lizzie had an older sister named Cora and an older brother named Howell, pictured on the left.. On the 1900 census, Lizzie is living with her mother, her stepfather Daniel Avery, a stepsister named Rosa and a younger sister named Jennie.

                   Lizzie (on the left next to her sister Cora) married Willie when she was only 17 years old. Very little has been said of her personality. She seemed to have spent most of her marriage pregnant. She bore six children successfully but was said to have had more pregnancies. On November 1, 1914, Lizzie died after giving birth to her namesake. Her epitaph read “She was faithful to any duty."

      After Lizzie died Willie cared for the family. Two years afte her death he was engaged to Estelle Love. Unfortunately, Willie caught pneumonia and died soon afterwards on April 14, 1917. The story goes that he was on his way to pray for someone and got caught in the rain. He was one of the first deacons of Bishop Charles Mason, the founder of the Church of God in Christ. Willie’s epitaph read “He was a kind, loving son, an affectionate brother.”

      Willie’s and Lizzie’s untimely deaths left their children orphans. Fortunately, the grandparents were still living. The oldest girl, my grandmother Posie, went to live with Jim and Jane. She was supposed to be sickly. All the other children lived with Grandma Susie.

      Posie was said to be timid, cautious and sickly as a young girl. After Grandpa Jim died of a stroke, Posie decided it was time for her to marry and be in her own household. She told me that she didn’t want a “Pete.” That was the nickname for a suitor that wasn’t “saved.” Posie’s strict upbringing in the church taught her not to be “unequally yoked.” She told me how there was once a young man who came to her house with a marriage license in hand, ready to marry her. Posie turned him down flat. He walked away out of her life forever.

      Instead, there was another young man she had her heart set on. That person was Fred Warren. Freddie was tall, dark, and handsome. He always wore a straw hat and carried a walking cane. He liked to gamble and dance and play his guitar. He didn’t belong to the church he loved Posie. Posie believed it was better to marry a man who loved the woman more than the woman loved him., or so she claimed. Who loved who more is debatable but they married in September, 1923 and their loving marriage lasted over 50 years.

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