The Magnificent Sum of My Parts. A Personal Story

Personal Stories

African, Native American, Irish, and Italian: The Magnificent Sum of My Parts. A Personal Story

My name is Linda Simpson [Bradford] Jenkins. I am the youngest of three siblings, and the only biological child of my parents’ union. I grew up in a deeply spiritual family who loved and fought fiercely for what they believed in.My father, the great grandson of freed mulatto slaves, was raised by his maternal grandparents.

Although my grandparents weren’t married, cemetery records and oral accounts from my father’s second cousin, reveal a long history of connectedness between both families (Simpson and Bradford). The Bradfords (African and Cherokee heritage), and the Simpsons (African, European and Cherokee heritage) have been buried in the same Tennessee cemetery dating back to the 1700s.

My mother’s lineage on her mother’s side is Ethiopian and Choctaw. I remember my mother talking about conversations between her mother and grandmother (who she described as Black Indians “with coal black skin and long straight coal black hair that shined as if it was always wet). She said they would “shoo the children outdoors to play” as they talked in the Choctaw language.

To both my mother’s and my dismay, my grandmother’s children never fully learned, and ultimately lost the language of their mother because my grandmother was insistent that “You kids must learn to speak English”. I always felt “different” as a child–never really feeling as if I “fit it” or “was accepted”. At visual appearance, I was African American, but I was always reminded at some point, that I “don’t talk like us”. I remember being teased by a young classmate who called me “pie face” for years. Almost 50 years later, “it all makes sense”. In recent years, I started conducting my ancestry research, and the discovery has been nothing short of “liberating”.

Every child and individual should know and have access to their “culture and heritage”. We are a magnificent sum of our parts, and I have much to celebrate, as do we all. I am proudly African Native American, with a dosing of Irish and Italian. I celebrate life and my ancestors each and every day, and I am loving the reddish-brown skin I’m in!

~Linda Simpson Bradford Jenkins

Photo by: Creative Silence and Edited by Carlton Mackey

Personal story curated by the creator of 50 Shades of BLACK, in partnership with I Love Ancestry called TELL MY STORY featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

TELL MY STORY: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

Inside of you is a story…that the world needs to hear. We value your voice and would love to give it a platform to be heard. We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing. Share Your Story.

Releasing our ancestors stories as well as our own is a powerful experience that can serve as a form of liberation for other people and their ancestors who have had similar stories. That is the amazing thing about sharing stories…we soon realize we are not alone.

I Love Ancestry is a global issue advocacy campaign that explores identity, diversity, heritage and culture, highlighting the experiences of marginalized people and Indigenous communities around the world.

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