Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ruby Wheat Daniel (1928-1991) carried on the legacy instilled by her mother, Mandy Jones Wheat (1892-1977)

Ruby Daniel (1928-1991), shared by Michael Daniel
Ruby Wheat Daniel (1928-1991) was the youngest daughter of Mandy and Bass Wheat.  She and her husband Isaiah Daniel, Sr. had two sons.  Ruby taught her mother to read and write.  Mandy accomplished a lot as an African American female, farmer, midwife, herbalist, and healer considering the location where she lived in the South and the time period.

No doubt, Ruby, seeing these great achievements wrought out by her mother saw the importance of passing her mother's legacy on to future generations.  Ruby taught Mandy to read according to her son, Michael Daniel, who said his mother stressed that Mandy was a "shining example especially of African American independence."  She owned her own land.  She did not have to sharecrop.  She could work for herself.  "Don't ever sell the land," Ruby cautioned.

Ruby insisted that they preserve the family artifacts and keep the family legacy.  Mandy, only one generation from slavery, had started a legacy for her posterity by teaching them to be self-sufficient.  Ruby, mother of two sons, kept this legacy going by instilling the importance of getting an education and learning to appreciate black history and culture.
Ruby Daniel (1928-1991), shared by Michael Daniel

"Ruby taught her children the importance of preserving family artifacts, holding on to the land, and keeping the way of life taught by her mother.  She also prepared her sons to embrace modern-day advancements," said genealogist, Antoinette Harrell.

If you recall, I recently shared an article introducing Mandy Jones Wheat (1892-1977).  The last couple of days, Antoinette has been busy working with Mandy's grandson, Michael, unearthing family artifacts in Mandy's old shed.  "There is a close relationship between archaeology and genealogy.  An archaeologist's studies are partly based on artifacts.  A genealogist traces a family line using oral history, historical documentation, and other records," said Antoinette.

Artifacts need to be considered along with the records a genealogist uses to learn about a family's history.  "The type of house, everyday tools, type of materials, and way of life can  provide great insights about an ancestor.  For example, today's coffee pot would look much different than the percolator used long ago."

"Some of our ancestors were determined early on to pull themselves up by their bootstraps--some even without their bootstraps.  If they had a feather mattress instead of a mattress or pillow stuffed with hay or Spanish moss, you know they had accomplished something.  She had to have a great deal of respect."  explained Antoinette.

Mandy owned a 1912 model washing machine (see actual) during a time most people had a washboard and a #3 foot tub.  This had to have been an important item to her for use in sterilizing linens which she used for birthing and healing the sick.  Michael also rediscovered a 1964 Word Fair cup buried in the shed.

Ruby attended school in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.  In the 1940's, she moved to New Orleans.  Her husband discovered work was available in New York.  He went up on his own and found work and later sent for Ruby where they settled in Buffalo, New York.  Isaiah worked for GM where they built engines.  Ruby was a homemaker and an "avid photographer," explained Michael, "She took a lot of photographs between the 1950's and 1960's."

When asked what he remembered most about the family trips South, Michael replied, "The food and the trip down.  In the 1960's, lots of places were not accommodating to African Americans especially in Mississippi."  An African American and a new car was not a good mix.  Michael recalled how his mother would make sandwiches for the trip because they would not be stopping much after Bowling Green, KY.  His father seemed to know all the African American parts of towns where they could stop.

Brothers Isaiah and Michael Daniel, shared by Michael Daniel

Michael remembers the food being especially spicy and somewhat different than what they ate in New York.  He remembers having goat meat which he thought tasted pretty good.  He noticed that the young folks had a lot more respect for the older people in the South.  It was 100 degrees every day, and he and his brother had morning chores which included feeding the cows.
Isaiah and father Isaiah Daniel Sr., shared by Michael Daniel

Michael also remembers his mother teaching the importance of not using "undue language" and communicating well.  She would also show them photographs of family members to make sure they knew who their people were.  As time went on, he came to understand the importance of what she was doing.

"I am almost overwhelmed by so many people who are interested in this history,"  he said.  In reference to those who are not yet interested in their own history, he added, "As time goes on, you will realize the important significance of your ancestors to you and where you came from."

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