Vignettes of Indian Territory "Freedmen"
Evelyn Norwood nee Brown
The first time I met Evelyn she phoned me out of the blue and where she got my number I can't even recall. She was living in Georgia and wanted to talk with me about some relatives of mine she knew. During the course of our conversation, Evelyn told me she had some photographs of some of my ancestor's; she offered to send me copies and I gladly accepted (trying not to blow my cool.) This must have been about ten years ago and over the years we would talk, always over the phone and to this day I have yet to meet her face to face (it's on my bucket list.) What I have found in Evelyn is in my opinion a one of a kind TREASURE! During the years I've moved and lost her number, so we had not been in contact for at least three or four years. During that time I would hear about her through other people but for some reason we had not talked.
Eliza Stevenson (Evelyn's mother)
What became more important for me was the oral history Evelyn would share with me; about my ancestor's I never knew but who she grew up with or grew up hearing stories about them. With Evelyn telling me the history of her people and those she grew up with allowed me to know my own ancestors. It has been invaluable in a way that allowed me to have images of these ancestor's I would not have had without her.
I should point out one of the reasons we have connected is Evelyn and I share some family members. My great great grandfather John Taylor is Evelyn's great grandfather. This connection brings with it so many other ancestral lines that boggle the mind. It also has brought a great deal more information my way by having conversations with Evelyn. She is funny, has a grasp for the history that defies her eighty plus years on this earth. Evelyn is giving to all who will take the time to listen to her and she loves to share oral history as well as the images of our ancestors. One of those images included my grandmother and grandfather who I never met. I'm glad to say that earlier this year Evelyn got word to me she wanted to talk and ask that I give her a call; we have been talking like we never lost a step and she has continued to provide so much information about our families and the history of Ardmore, Newport, Milo and Berwyn Oklahoma. Her information has helped me to dig deeper in the research of the Blacks and African-Native people of Indian Territory.
Evelyn like so many of our elders is a treasure because she doesn't mind sharing the stories of our ancestor's if only we take the time to listen. I'm doing my level best to document her stories and preserve them for future generations. I would like to encourage those who subscribe and read this journal, seek out the elders; the "treasures" in your life; record their oral history and more importantly utilize today's technologies so their story is preserved for future generations. If we don't tell our story, who will?
If we don't preserve our history, who will?
If we don't document our story, who will? Evelyn doesn't use a computer. She can't use the technology available but she is willing to talk and share her story with all who listen, I'm sure the elders in your family are similar in many ways. Give them a call, better yet; if possible visit them and record those stories in a video or an audio recorder.
Note: This is a reprint of an article that was first published in June of 2011. Evelyn joined the ancestors a few years ago but her spirit and her stories live on.