Queen Willoughby, my 5x Great Grandmother

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Queen Willoughby, my 5x Great Grandmother

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COVID gave Janice Gilyard the opportunity to dig deeper into genealogy, one of her hobbies. On July 4, 2020, she uncovered details about the remarkable life of her 5x great grandmother, Willoughby McWhite. Here is Janice's story about finding Willoughby. (Other items in the archive include an interview where Janice tells the story of how she discovered how Willoughby went from being property in 1829 to being a wife who was independent and keeping house in 1870. The interview with Janice was recorded on July 21, 2020).

I’m the President of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society – New Jersey Chapter. Following is the link to the show that aired. It is at the very beginning. Thank you for reading. From a proud descendant of a STRONG woman who endured, overcame, and refused to die during the struggle!!! Her name was Willoughby and I honor and celebrate her today with my entire being!
After finding and viewing a segment on the PBS Program, The History Detectives regarding Willoughby, my 5th Great- grandmother, there are new questions that I must answer. I pray that the answers will be found and in my lifetime. They are:
 Were you born in Charleston, South Carolina, Africa, or the Caribbean?
 Who are your parents and where did you last see them?
 How and why were you separated from your parents?
 Did you cry?
 How were you treated by your enslavers? Ugh!
 Did you and Essex decide to be a couple or was the relationship/marriage forced?
 Were you ever reunited with your parents?
 Where is your final resting place?
 Other than me, who are your descendants?
All of these questions caused tears to stream down my face. I can’t image my children being ripped away from me and not know what their fate would be? To have your child taken away and you don’t know anything is unfathomable. You were bought and sold three times. It is hard for me to even type these words.
Willoughby McWhite, you were victorious to me. You survived, you were married, you had children, and you purchased land! Because of you, I am. I hope that when you purchased the land (160 acres), that you felt free, empowered, and strong! I hope you felt safe that you could breathe freely.
When I found about you, I was stunned. Then I wondered why I didn’t find you sooner. Although I wish I had, I realize that I found you when God wanted me to find you, the 4th of July! This is a day that freedom is celebrated in this country. Yeah right! Settlers came to this country for religious freedom, yet they enslaved you and countless others. If one group is free and another is not, there is no real freedom!
Thank you for refusing to die. Many would have died from grief but you didn’t. Many would have died from disappointment, but you didn’t. Many would have died from loneliness, but you didn’t. In the segment for The History Detectives, they stated that you were alone twice! Unbelievable! You were still a child. Did you cry yourself to sleep? I was left with my grandmother whom I loved when my mother moved to New Jersey without me and I cried for three days!
I have so much more that I will share for your essay. It will include as much information as possible regarding what was going on in the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina as you were being transported/taken from Charleston, SC to Marion, SC. Who were your neighbors? Were there other enslaved people near you that might have been family members?
After speaking with my Aunt Ruby and then finding you and a part of your history, I know that I was supposed to find you on the 4th of July! I will celebrate you, tell your story, and make sure that as many people as possible know who Willoughby McWhite was. Thank you for finding me! Thank you for the tugging at my heart to go to Charleston, to visit the slave cabins, to meet Maxey Foxworth, the chat with Joseph McGill via Facebook. Oh yes, I can see clearly now that it was meant to be. Thank you Queen Willoughby! You are forever etched in my heart and soul! For your DNA exist in me!

Other entries in the archive relate to this one. To find them search by Willoughby McWhite.
genealogy, spirituality, AAMNC, African American, ancestors, enslaved

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This item was submitted on July 28, 2020 by Janice Gilyard + Juilee Decker using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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