One of the saddest aspects of baseball history is that, due to the failure of newspapers to cover all the games of black baseball, there’s incomplete knowledge of the Negro Leagues. Researchers have to work twice as hard as others, and depend on oral history.
The same sort of situation exists with African-American genealogy. No one knows more about this than Char Bah, a native of Alexandria and a genealogist for the City. An expert on the descendants from Alexandria connected to the Freedman Cemetery during the Civil War, she spoke today at the Alexandria Black History Museum. Bah gave a workshop on how to conduct family histories by showing her work in searching for information about John F. Parker and Sarah A. Gray, the two highly respected black educators in Alexandria in the latter part of the 1800s, and the namesakes for Parker-Gray School.
The biggest challenge for Bah was Sarah Gray. There were two Sarah Grays born in Alexandria in the middle of the 1800s, and both taught at Hallowell School. Some people have confused Sarah A. Gray with Sarah D. Gray. Bah showed how she used Census and school records, articles and addresses, to track down the distinguishing evidence.
John F. Parker lived at 810 N. Columbus. After the talk, we went there but were disappointed to see no houses from 806 to 810, and just an empty space. Then we drove over to the east side of Columbus in between Queen and Princess to hopefully see the house that Gray's father had left her. Same story, an empty space, house gone.
One last try was at the 100 block of Queen. There's something there, town homes built circa 1970, but like the other two, the living connection had been torn down.
As sad as that is, the loss is symbolic. When it comes to certain aspects of our history, much is lost. But through the hard work of researchers like Bah, the stories can be told. We thank them and we thank Char Bah.