It was 1966 in the small town of Giddings, Texas (about 50 miles from Austin, Texas) where I was heading to meet my great-grandmother, Anne Collins. Little did I know that this was one of the rights of passage for my grandmother. I did not know that within two days of visiting her, she would pass.
Annie Collins was born in the 1800s and had a vivid recollection of, as she called it, “the changing times.” Being very young, I did not have a great understanding of what she was talking about, but my grandmother definitely did.
There was a tradition in the Collins family at the time that when elders were “passing,” every member of the family would hold their hand as they passed so they were aware we were there. Being of mixed heritage in the 1800 was a dangerous time, and my grandmother had told many stories of how the lynchings happened in Texas and how her parents keep moving further and further away from the cities to the point where a black community sprang up out of sheer determination for safety during the era of reconstruction. Annie Collins and her brothers and sister (11 in all) were awarded land grants for farming, and the Collins family had a valley of 340 acres where they settled.
She passed stories of how her father had to keep his wife from being sold away from the family by intentionally keeping her with the owner until several children were born. I can only imagine the cognitive dissonance that had occurred to keep the family together.
My great-grandmother, while I held her hand, uttered words I could not make out, but she cried out from some form of pain she had been in for so long. She passed with all of us around her, and I remember my grandmother and my mother telling me, no matter what …. you keep your family together.
With 12 kids in my family, I think Anne is smiling down on us now. We kept our promise.
-- Quincey Daniels, PhD, School of Education