Nicholas Gray ’21

I have never questioned my history. I have a book, two books, one for my mother’s lineage, another for my fathers. I can name most every member of my family, where they lived, what they did, who they were. I understood that having a pre-printed family genealogy was a privilege, but coming from a wealthy, predominantly white, protestant community most everyone I knew had some form of record tracing their family’s lineage. For some, their records began with a date or a name of a ship or an immigrating ancestor. However, my, and many of my friends’, genealogies began before the revolutionary war, and record hundreds of lives spanning decades. I am especially proud of that; I know that I belong.  

I met Katherine Overton on a zoom call on a September Salisbury morning. My classmates and I and were arranged, socially distanced, pencils at the ready, anxiously waiting. We were all staring up at a massive video panel, that projected onto us an equally anxious, bright, sincere face beaming through thick glasses and slightly static connection. I was immediately struck by how deeply Ms. Overton cared about her family history. She has this warm smile that slowly creeps upon her face whenever she talks about her mother, her daughter, and especially her grandchildren. As our class get to know her story, and her history, Ms. Overton, and her devotion to those who are lucky enough to be related to her always radiates through.  

I have been working with Ms. Overton for five months, and one thing has become abundantly clear, her family deserved a book more than me. She deserves a book more than me, however, her families are not available, so, she wrote it. Her family deserves this, and she needs it, so she wrote it.  My classmates and I are making a documentary everyone can see this also, but this…this is amazing.  

The Cesar Family history matters because it exists. Because it persists. Because it has survived the white-washing, the errors, and the erasing. Narratives like the Cesar Families give a sense of belonging to Americans who feel are made to feel alien in their own country. With this project we hope to make it clear that the noble Cesars, as a free African American Family in the north, should be written into the stories of American history, of Connecticut History, of our history. 

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