CV BLACK HISTORY MAKER – Mathias de Souza

CV BLACK HISTORY MAKER –  Mathias de Souza

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Mathias de Sousa was possibly the first Cape Verdean to set foot in America arriving on the “Ark” as an indentured servant to Jesuit priests who were a part of an expedition led by Lord Baltimore in 1634. I was first introduced to the story of Mathias by Cape Verdean historian, Ray Almeida (1944-2010).

While there isn’t much documented of Mr de Sousa and his Cape Verdean ancestry, I did find some compelling evidence that one of the ships did go through Cabo Verde on its way to Maryland.

The expedition left England in November 1633 with two vessels, the Ark and the Dove. Within a few days, the expedition hit bad weather and the Dove returned to England while the Ark continued. A few weeks later, the ship’s log notes visiting the island of Bonavista/Boa Vista. (Maryland State Archives) It is VERY plausible that Mathias could have boarded the ship in Boa Vista, Cabo Verde. The Ark and the Dove arrived in St Mary’s City, Maryland in February of 1634.

Mathias was one of 9 indentured servants on this expedition and the first Black Marylander. He went on to become the first black man to cast a vote in Maryland and what was to become the United States of America in 1642 as a member of the Maryland General Assembly.

Cape Verdeans have been a part of American History since before there was a United States of America.
I am extremely proud to know that the first black man to cast a vote in this country was a Cape Verdean!

CV Black History Makers: Barzillai Lew.

CV Black History Makers: Barzillai Lew.
 
Barzillai Lew, a distinguished American Revolutionary War Hero, was a free born black man from Groton, MA born in 1743 to a “mulatto” slave owned by Capt. Samuel Scripture, named Margaret Lew, native of Cabo Verde.
 
Margaret married Primus in 1742 and had two sons and two daughters, Barzillai being the oldest.
 
Barzillai was an accomplished musician and served as a musician in the French and Spanish wars. Years later he was called to serve as a fifer, drummer and soldier in Capt John Ford’s Chelmsford Militia in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775!
 
He then joined Capt. Joseph Bradley Varnum’s Dracut Militia that was ordered to the “Tyconderoga” in 1777 where Varnum wrote in his diary, “ ‘Zeal is a fifer and fiddler for the grand appearance the day that Burgoyne’s Famous Army is brought in”.
 
This battle was captured in a portrait that sits today in the US State Department Public Room… Yes, a black man of Cape Verdean descent is memorialized in a portrait in the Capital of the United States!!!
 
Not only that…. Duke Ellington dedicated a composition to him called “Barzillai Lew”.
 
Barzillai went on to marrry Dinah Lew and had 5 children whose descendants still live in Massachusetts!
 
If ya didn’t know… Now you know!!!

CV Black History Makers – Paul Gonsalves (1920-1974)

CV Black History Makers – Paul Gonsalves (1920-1974)

The next time someone asks you what have Cape Verdeans ever done for America, let them know that it was a Cape Verdean-American who single-handedly revived the career of one of America’s most well-known and beloved musicians known as The Duke!

 
Paul Gonsalves was born on July 12, 1920 in Brockton, Massachusetts to Joao Jose Gonsalves (1889-1943) and Maria Vieira Fontes (1888-1973). Mr and Mrs Gonsalves were from Djam d’Noli, Brava, Cabo Verde and arrived in the United States in 1905 and 1913, respectively. The family lived at 50 Sprague St where Paul was the third of four children. He had two older brothers, Joseph and John and a younger sister, Julia. The family moved to 449 Mineral Springs Ave in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1930.
 
As children, Paul and his brothers were taught to play the guitar by their father and formed a band that played traditional Cape Verdean music. This changed when Paul was a teenager and he and his brother went to see the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra in downtown Providence. He became mesmerized by the alto saxophone and decided he was going to find a way to have his father buy him one. For weeks he bewildered his parents by pantomiming playing the saxophone around the house. When one of his friends finally let his parents know what he was doing, Paul’s father bought him a used Melody C Tenor Saxophone for $59 and insisted that Paul pay him back $1 a week until it was paid off. There’s no question his parents were true CV parents!
 
Paul went on to study at the Boston Conservatory of Music and he began a career playing with the Phil Edmund Orchestra and other big bands led by the likes of Duke Oliver and Henry McCoy that were dominated by Cape Verdean-American musicians, including Joe Livramento and others. But as happened to many young men in those days, his career was put on hold when he was drafted into World War II in 1942. Sergeant Gonsalves served in the Quartermaster Corp in India and Burma. When he returned home, he started playing with The Sabby Lewis Band in Boston, where he caught the eye of the one and only Count Basie. After spending a few years playing with Basie he later joined Dizzy Gillespie until he disbanded the group in 1950.
 
The story goes that Paul was down to his last $7 when he decided one night to head down to the Birdland in New York where, as luck would have it, he met Duke Ellington. The next day, Paul Gonsalves was playing in The Duke’s Big Band.
 
At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Paul managed to get on Duke’s bad side by missing practice and being late for the performance along with a few other musicians. The Duke’s idea of punishment took the form of having Paul play a solo to “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” and not stop. So Paul played… and played for 27 Choruses!!!! The crowd included many of Paul’s family and friends who urged him to keep going and deliver the performance of a lifetime. The Duke was back and within weeks, this recording became the Duke’s biggest selling record and he was even put on the cover of Time Magazine!
 
Paul Gonsalves and Duke Ellington were best friends until they died within days of each other in 1974. His life story can be seen in a stage play by Arthur Luby, called “Paul Gonsalves Life on the Road: A Play in One Act”.
 
The recording of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” from the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival can be heard here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vnrNWyvI-U The solo begins at 3:45.
To see Paul Gonsalves play his famous solo during a later TV recording, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbjzfZSmQMM
 
I have to add that in doing research on my daughter’s paternal family tree I found that her paternal great grandfather, John Ellington, was kin to one, Edward Kennedy Ellington, also known as Duke Ellington. Since Paul Gonsalves is related to me on my maternal great-grandmother’s side, my daughter, Nia, is related to BOTH Paul Gonsalves and Duke Ellington!!!
 
If ya didn’t know…Now ya know!!!
 

CV Black History Makers : The Honorable George S. Lima (1919-2011)

CV Black History Makers :  The Honorable George S. Lima (1919-2011)
George
The Honorable George S. Lima, Tuskegee Airman, Civil Rights Activist, and Rhode Island State Representative, was born to Ana Morais Silva, native of Rabil, Boa Vista and Manuel Duarte Lima, native of Quemada, São Nicolão, Cabo Verde.
Mr Lima was one of eight children born in Massachusetts to the couple who arrived in the United States around 1900.
In 1939, George attended North Carolina A&T State University on a football scholarship where he met his wife of 55 years, Selma (Boone) Lima. It was during his time here that he learned to fly planes just in time to join the Tuskegee Airmen at the break of World War II. Lieutenant Lima was one of 60 black officers who risked court martial in 1945 protesting segregation at an officer’s club on an air base in Indiana. The facility was desegregated 3 years before President Truman ordered the desegregation of all US Armed Forces in 1948.
After the war, Mr Lima finished school at Brown University where continued to play football, study sociology, founded the University’s first chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and eventually started a family in Rhode Island. An Ivy League degree in hand, Jim Crow and racial segregation could not keep Mr Lima from rising through the ranks of local AFL-CIO to eventually become the first Black Man to sit full-time on the State Workers Union.
President John F. Kennedy appointed him to head the New England branch of VISTA, a National Service program before becoming the President of the local NAACP of Providence in 1963 where he was instrumental in beginning the push for a fair housing bill which he would later pass while serving two terms as a Rhode Island State Representative.
After retirement, Mr Lima formed the Black Air Foundation, later named the George S. Lima Foundation, which aims to introduce minority youth to flying.
My cousin and filmmaker, Napoleon X, turned Mr Lima’s life into a PBS documentary, “Black Men Can Fly: The Story of George S. Lima”. https://youtu.be/J6PsHQHWFpo
George S. Lima’s legacy continues through his children and the foundation in his name. He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2012 and in 2014, the city of Providence named the George S. Lima, Sr Memorial Park.
If ya didn’t know… Now ya know!!!!

Remembering Loved Ones…

Remembering Loved Ones…

Genealogy isn’t only about discovering forgotten ancestors.

It’s also about remembering and preserving the life stories of people you’ve known your whole life.

The absolute hardest thing I have ever had to do is to put an “end date” to a loved one’s profile in my family tree. It seems so finite and almost cruel to summarize a human being with just two dates. It took almost a year for me to open my FamilyTree program and add my step-father’s death date. I remember thinking “What now? That’s it?”. What about the 66 years in between? Was this all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren were going to ever know about him? I wrote a post about him after his death as a way to personalize his profile on my family tree. That was in 2011.

On January 30, 2017, my Titia Stella died. (I wish I could stop crying because it makes it so much harder to see the keys). Her breast cancer had metastasized into Paraneoplastic Syndrome and took over her whole body. She was 70 years old but, for at least the last 20 years, she was only 49 🙂. She was the first daughter of Raimundo F. and Rosa R. Lima, mother to Charles, William Jr., and my late cousin, Stephen, grandmother to Kayla, Jordan and Aaron, and great-grandmother to Tayla.

To me, she was Titia Strella (Star in Portuguese). You couldn’t help but smile with her no matter how you were feeling before. She made it her mission to make everyone feel happy and loved. I truly believe that when God made her, He took a bit of the sun’s warmth and the brilliance of the moon and stars to create her. When you saw her or even heard someone say her name you couldn’t help but smile. She was the embodiment of a true Christian. Whether it was visiting someone who was sick or in jail, providing a place to stay for anyone who needed it, or simply lending an ear to listen to your problems to which she would respond “Oh Honey! It’s gonna be OK”.

Her fashion sense was second to none 😋 and she always had some interesting stories to tell. It was a treat to hear her tell the story af opening a bank account with $25 to buy a house. Or the dream she had of a Portuguese-speaking black dog who told her that she should move to Brockton from Wareham. She wasn’t afraid to wear white shoes to Thanksgiving dinner and I can’t recall anyone having a bad word to say about her.

She loved her sons, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved her brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins. And we all felt it.

She always said that I was her favorite niece… she apparently said that to my cousins as well. So a few days before she passed away, as the family was gathering to say their goodbyes, me and my cousins, Michelle and Sindy (the other supposed favorite nieces😏) decided to get to the bottom of this … just which one of us was her favorite?!? She couldn’t move or speak at that point so we gathered around her bed and whispered in her ears to give us a little signal to let us know who it was. In the middle of the smiles and tears, I felt the faintest squeeze of my hand…. and then she gave each of us a smile.

“Questions I’ve always had but never knew… or thought… I could ask” Series. 

(If you don’t want to get mad you may not want to continue reading) 1. Why do we refer to our Kriolu language as “Portuguese dialect”? Or a mixture of Portuguese and African?&nbsp…

Source: “Questions I’ve always had but never knew… or thought… I could ask” Series. 

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