Descendants of Slave Owners and Slaves Meet

Descendants of Slave Owners and Slaves Meet

For 21 years Sacramento genealogist Karen Burney – the descendant of slaves, American Indians and a Revolutionary War hero – has been tracing her roots back to Africa.

"They're lost family heroes," Burney says of the slaves who helped build this nation and survived so that she and millions of other African Americans would someday taste freedom.

Burney celebrated America's birthday by finally meeting the great-great-grandson of Louisiana planter Henry Marshall, a founder of the Confederacy who owned Burney's ancestors.

After years of searching, she walked into the lobby of a hotel near San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf on Saturday morning to meet a tall, middle-aged Southern gentleman in khaki pants and a short-sleeve knit shirt. He brought a folder filled with family documents.

The Sale of Uncle Tom at the Slave Market, Plate 9 from "Uncle Tom"




The Sale of Uncle Tom at the Slave Market, Plate 9 from "Uncle Tom"


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He's not ready to publicly confront the ghosts of his family's past, and asked Burney not to share his name. But they spent three hours poring over photos and papers, and exploring how their roots intertwined.

"About 150 years ago his family owned my family," Burney said. "The fact that we can have breakfast, put aside the past and reflect on our proud family histories demonstrates how far we've come as a nation."

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