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Posted 06/18/2022 in Category 1

Junteenth Family Story of Enslavement

Junteenth Family Story of Enslavement

I would like to share my family story in honor of my family and our ancestors who were enslaved for Juneteenth 2022.  Joseph A Firmin my wonderful dad escaped New Orleans after the mayor of the city fired all Black people from public jobs. My dad from 9 years old showed himself as an artist entrepreneur painting exacting portraits of tourist in the streets of New Orleans where he worked with permission from his parents.  He was asked to be a guide for the city museum at the age of 9 years old.  At the age of 82 he took my sister and I to New Orleans to view the museum artifacts where the same portraits of white colonist hung proudly.  Then, to our amazement he repeated the presentation he had given to hundreds of people at the age of 9.   


Dad was a merchant seaman when he married my mom.  We were born to a man who had many journeys and experiences with racial injustice. Including being denied military rights and benefits until he was in his 80’s causing financial hardship to our family.  Because dad was such a great griots our punishment when we were bad was to sit before my dad and listen to his many ventures on the sea and in the world.  He and his J+B Scotch, Beefeater’s Gin and kidney beans and rice would talk forever.  We begged to be relieved of the discourse meant to teach us valuable lessons.


My dad’s father had an ice business before refrigeration in New Orleans.  My dad would help deliver Ice to Jute joints where Jazz was the rule of the day!  When refrigeration came my Dad’s father lost his business putting his family in pure poverty so my dad had to work young.  Dad also played the guitar and practiced in the house singing songs he wrote just for his daughters.  He was always dressed to the T and he danced and believe me he was the best dancer. At events my mom would allow my Dad to dance with all the ladies who did not have a dance partner. I was included because I always had a boyfriend who could not dance.


In a video interview at 85 my Dad told us that as a little boy he would sit on his grandfather’s lap and play with his buttons and his grandfather would say to him “ My grandfather came from Senegal.”  Passing the story of our family heritage.  While visiting Senegal several times I see Black men who looked like my father, walked like my father, and danced with the same spirit as my dad, Joseph A. Firmin. 


In the spirit of Juneteenth I honor our Ancestors!


Share your story of enslavement.