History matters at Morgan Memorial

Published 8:20 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A piece of Suffolk’s history is getting the spotlight this week, and it comes from the Great Dismal Swamp.

Suffolk Public Library is hosting “Dismal Roots: A Genealogical Success Story” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Morgan Memorial Library. The program is free.

Eric Sheppard, president and chief executive officer of Diversity Restoration Solutions, will discuss his genealogical research into his ancestor, Moses Grandy, a member of a maroon colony of escaped slaves that hid in the Great Dismal Swamp during the 19th century.

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“This is one account in a portion of the slave narrative that I think gives people an idea of what it was like in the early 1800s,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard’s research into his family’s history led him to the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge and to archeologist Daniel Sayers, who was digging for answers to the maroon colony. The refuge was designated as an important landmark on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom in 2004.

Sheppard wants folks to understand both sides of this story.

“I want them to take away from this how the archeological work and the first-person account complement each other,” Sheppard said. “The importance of having such a significant historical landmark in the community is a treasure.”

Preceding the event will be an overview of Suffolk Library genealogical resources, which allow local visitors to search billions of records both in person and online.

“These resources are useful in aiding people in tracing their ancestors, whether it may be for medical reasons, inheritance or just to locate relatives to connect to their past,” local history and genealogy coordinator LaSandra Adams stated in an email.

This event marks the first time Sheppard has worked with Suffolk library. He said he was both interested and willing to do the event, and that it’s an opportunity for learning and healing.

“We need to heal from the legacy of slavery,” Sheppard said. “The treasures and tools we can use to heal from the legacy of slavery are the accounts of the maroon community in history and the Moses Grandy slave narrative.”