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Summit Beginnings

The International Black Genealogy Summit was held October 29-31, 2009 at the Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, IN. This momentous event signified the first time that all of the black historical and genealogical societies in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean were invited to come together to celebrate the joys and challenges of black genealogy.

The first meeting to host a national black genealogy conference was held at the conclusion of the 7th annual West Coast Summit on African American Genealogy, held in Phoenix, AZ (2007). The idea to host this event is the brainchild of three visionaries: genealogist Ronald W. Higgins; Marjorie Sholes, professional genealogist, FGS Director and former President of the California African American Genealogical Society (CAAGS); and Curt Witcher, former president of the National Genealogical Society (NGS), former president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the Department Manager for the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library.

The group was very excited about the prospect of having a national conference but wanted to expand it to an international conference to include all black genealogical and historical societies, thus the conference was called the International Black Genealogy Summit.

This conference included all AAHGS chapters, the SIGs (Special Interest Groups) of larger societies, the independent black groups that make up the West Coast Summit as well as independent black genealogical and historical societies in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

Marquee Meal Speakers

Banquet Speaker: Dorothy Spruill Redford

Dorothy Spruill Redford was born in Columbia, North Carolina. She spent her early years in Queens, New York, and received her college training at Queens College. Inspired by Alex Haley's Roots, by 1986, Redford had researched for nearly ten years to connect her life with those of her enslaved ancestors held on Somerset Place plantation in Creswell, North Carolina. Her research culminated in the first Somerset Homecoming, a celebration of African-American culture and heritage attended by 3000 descendants of the enslaved community and others connected to the former plantation. The account of her family history and the homecoming titled Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage is available through the University of North Carolina Press. Since 1988, following a fifteen year career with the Portsmouth Department of Social Services, Redford has managed Somerset Place, a North Carolina State Historic Site and overseen the reconstruction of the plantation's former slave community. Redford's approach to the history of Somerset Place has been a familial one. Since she places the human family at the center of her historical thinking, everything at the site is designed to illuminate human family relationships. According to Duke University historian, Peter H. Wood, under Dorothy Redford's direction "one of the largest antebellum plantations in North Carolina is now a remarkable site used to educate citizens about the social history of African Americans and whites in North Carolina. Somerset Place has effectively changed the interpretive paradigm and is providing a rewarding and successful experience for its visitors."

Ms. Redford lectures extensively on topics including African-American Genealogy, Antebellum History, and Slavery's Legacy and from 1993 to 1996 served as a visiting lecturer at Elizabeth City State University teaching Oral History Methods. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Congressional Black Caucus Carter G. Woodson award, resolution from the Commonwealth of Virginia General Assembly, and has joined eminent historian Dr. John Hope Franklin in receiving the North Carolina Humanities Council John Tyler Caldwell award. Redford is a member of the East Carolina University Chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and has appeared in the nationally distributed programs "Roots of Resistance" and "Roots, Celebrating 25 Years." Redford currently serves on several boards including the African American Advisory Boards for Monticello and Fortress Monroe and was a 2006 Portsmouth (Virginia) Notable.

In 2005, her second book, Generations of Somerset Place: From Slavery to Freedom, was released by Arcadia Press.

Luncheon Speaker: Hana L. Stith

Hana L. Stith is the Co-founder, Curator and General Manager of the African/African American Historical Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a native of Fort Wayne and attended all local schools. After graduation from high school, she attended Wilberforce University, in Zenia, Ohio, on a scholarship awarded to her from the 4th District of the AME Church. She received both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees from St. Francis College and Certification in Guidance and Counseling from Purdue University. She has done additional study at Ball State, Indiana and Indiana Wesleyan University's Extensions.

Stith was the first African-American teacher to be hired at McCulloch School, where she taught for seventeen years, at which time the school was closed. There she made friends and gained respect across the city as she became recognized for her teaching skills and compassion for children. She started and spent most of her 36 year teaching career in inner-city schools, where she felt she was most needed. Stith was a classroom teacher for 22 years and a Title One Teacher for 14 years. To this day, she still has relationships with a number of her first students, their children and grandchildren.

Stith has been active in her community and church as long as she can remember, she joined the first branch of the Junior NAACP, in the city, while still in high school, and she was an original member of the Fair Housing Group and the Panel of American Women. She was the first women ever to serve on the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission; she was on the commission for twelve years. Stith served under four mayors, the longest years in history. Following these years, she was on the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission for four years and then six years on the Board of Safety.

Stith is a life long member of Turner Chapel AME Church and has served as a Sunday School Teacher, Dean of the first Vacation Bible School, Director of Christian Education, a Trustee for 18 years and now serves as the Church Historian.

Stith retired from Fort Wayne Community Schools in 1996. Since retirement, she served as a docent at the Lincoln Museum, on the Executive Board of the NAACP, and a founder of the African/African-American Historical Society/Museum of which she is the General Manager and Curator.

Stith has received awards too numerous to name, she is proud of each one, however her most coveted award is The Sagamores of the Wabash received on April 10, 2004.

She is married to Harold Stith, the first African American Plumbing Contractor in Fort Wayne. She has one daughter, an attorney in Columbus, Ohio and a 13 year old granddaughter, who was an "Apollo Kid Star of Tomorrow," New York City, October 2, 2006.

Hana Stith believes when a change is needed, it begins with you. She is a relentless worker.

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This site last updated 14 February 2010