Genealogy and the American Presidency

HDS Greenway had an interesting article in the Boston Globe on January 20, 2009 regarding the ethnicity of US Presidents. According to the article:

“THE CLUB that Barack Obama now joins has traditionally been far more exclusive than just all white and all male. There has never been an Italian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Russian, Greek, Spaniard, or Hispanic elected to the White House. No descendent of the great waves of immigration from southern and eastern Europe that washed over this country in the 19th century has ever made it. Most presidential ancestors came from earlier, 18th- and 17th-century British immigrations in which the few names ending in vowels were mostly Scottish or Irish.

Michael Dukakis, of Greek ancestry, went up to the clubhouse door but wasn't allowed in. Nor have there been any Swedes, Danes, or Norwegians. Walter Mondale, of Norwegian descent, didn't come close. In more than 200 years there has never been a Jew, and only one Catholic, John Kennedy.”

In lieu of the awesome events of this week, it seems fitting to share the political history that the Atlas family has had and the implications of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Here are some excerpts from information we've gathered:

The Carroll Parish, LA Record - September 19, 1868 - The Democratic Club Bar-B-Que was held. King Atlas, Sr. was selected one of the secretaries of the Colored Democratic Club of Lake Providence, LA

The Carroll Parish, LA Record - May 22, 1869 - Names of Jurymen - King Atlas, Jr. State of Louisiana, Parish of Carroll, Thirteenth District Court. We, the undersigned, parish Judge, Sheriff, and Clerk of said Court, in and for said parish and State, and qualified Electors, do hereby certify that the above is a true list of the names drawn by us for the adjourned May term of said parish and State. This the 18th day of May, AD 1869. CA DeFrance, Parish Judge. JW Draughnon, Sheriff, RK Anderson, Clerk, by RJ Loudon, Dp'y Cl'k. Attest: John S. Leftwich, John H. McIntyre

The Carroll Parish, LA Republican - November 1, 1873 - Names of Jurors. Regular Venire of Jurors of The Parish of Carroll, State of Louisiana, drawn at the Court-house, in the town of Providence, in said Parish and State, on the October 11, 1873. Regular November term of 1873, 13th Judicial District Court, for said parish and State. The same being drawn by Nicholas Burton, Sheriff, David Jackson, clerk of the District Court, MA Sweet, Recorder. FM Hoppin, and Andrew Sutfield, qualified electors of said Parish and State, to Wit: Andrew Atlas

The Carroll Parish, LA Watchman - April 29, 1875 - List of Jurors, State of Louisiana, Parish of Carroll. Be it known and remembered that on this 25th day of April 1875, we the undersigned of the parish Judge, Sheriff and Clerk of the 13th Judicial District Court, in and for the parish and state afore said, in connection with Robert Nicholson and Peter Biggs, two qualified electors of said parish, did meet in the court room of said parish, for the purpose of drawing and selecting a jury according to law, and did there and then proceed from a box of containing the names of all the registered voters of said parish; whereupon the following named persons were drawn to serve as Jurors at the next ensuing term of the 13th Judicial court, to be held in said parish on the 1st Monday in June , 1875, in the town of Lake Providence, LA, said parish and state to wit: King Atlas, Jr.

East Carroll Parish, LA Banner Democrat - July 27, 1887 - King Atlas, Sr., King Atlas, Jr. and John Atlas signed resolution regarding what should be done by the Colored Republicans of the parish, that their political status might be better established and maintained. Meeting held at North Star Missionary Baptist Church.

With a political landscape as challenging and intense as the one in Louisiana during Reconstruction, it is remarkable that our ancestors were able to participate in the political process (ie. voting), let alone serve on the police jury in (East) Carroll Parish, LA. What's even more amazing, is that one of their descendants spent many years fighting for the very rights that they attained in the same parish after being freed as slaves a little over 90 years prior.

Another excerpt from our research offers additional perspective:

East Carroll Parish, LA Banner Democrat - Oct. 22, 1892 - There is another of our colored friends named King Atlas, and industrious, clever, responsible citizen, who tells us he has an excellent crop this year, he is not only King by name but he is a King among cotton growers. We know nothing about his peculiar methods of cultivating the tender plant, but he rarely fails to realize a fall and satisfactory harvest, not only of cotton and corn, but many other things produced from the soil, such as potatoes, peas, melons, cantelopes, and turnips. Atlas is one of quite a large working family of negroes born and raised in old Carroll, who enjoy the full confidence of the white people who know them, and it affords us much pleasure to make mention of such thrifty well behaved citizens; and what is better we can safely say, that we have lots of the same kind in this our parish of East Carroll.

It is clear based on the blurb above that the Atlas family was a well respected entity in East Carroll Parish. Despite this though, we and other African Americans in the parish continuted to deal with adversity regarding many things, one of which was the political process. The Justice Department is still monitoring elections in East Carroll Parish, LA, as well as in other cities across the US.

With the election of Barack Obama as president, people everywhere can believe again in the fact that the sky is the limit. The tangible evidence is all around us, especially in little old Lake Providence! With the election of the first ever black clerk of court, Beatrice Carter (right), with a black mayor, Isaac Fields, Jr., a black president of the police jury, Joseph Jackson, and an awesome website redesigned by a company owned by of our own family members, change has proved itself to be here! Hope is real and if you truly hope in what you dream, anything is possible. If the son of Kenyan and American parents can become president, it's not impossible for any of us to attain anything we want.

Interesting Tidbits - The clerk of court in East Carroll Parish prior to Beatrice served for nearly 60 years and was the longest serving clerk of court in Louisiana history. Beatrice won over half the vote during her race. The parish also overwhelming voted for Barack Obama, but the state's electoral votes went to John McCain. Similarly, in the 2004 election, the parish voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry although the states electoral votes went to George Bush.


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