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An Extraordinary 100th Family Reunion

After the Friday night reunion dinner, Marvin Grigsby dances with his granddaughter, Christian.
Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR
After the Friday night reunion dinner, Marvin Grigsby dances with his granddaughter, Christian.

Summer is the traditional season for family reunions -- and this summer, Day to Day reporter Karen Grigsby Bates returned to her roots for the 100th-anniversary gathering of her extended clan in North Carolina.

The story begins in 1906, when John Wesley Roberts and his cousins Wesley Mauney and Eli Borders Roberts sought to reconvene families scattered by slavery and then by Emancipation. The three men, born into slavery, gathered their nearest relatives and began to trace their common origins.

Their efforts led them finally to Kings Mountain, a small town about thirty miles west of Charlotte, N.C. Since that first gathering, the extended family -- the Roberts, Borders, Mauney, Howell, Briggs and Related Families clan -- has been meeting every year, without exception.

At this summer's reunion, about 500 relatives from 22 states made it to Kings Mountain. The common thread that connects them all is one woman from Guinea, the family's oldest known ancestor. Her African name has been lost to time, but she was later given the name Sylvie.

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Karen Grigsby Bates
Karen Grigsby Bates is the Senior Correspondent for Code Switch, a podcast that reports on race and ethnicity. A veteran NPR reporter, Bates covered race for the network for several years before becoming a founding member of the Code Switch team. She is especially interested in stories about the hidden history of race in America—and in the intersection of race and culture. She oversees much of Code Switch's coverage of books by and about people of color, as well as issues of race in the publishing industry. Bates is the co-author of a best-selling etiquette book (Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times) and two mystery novels; she is also a contributor to several anthologies of essays. She lives in Los Angeles and reports from NPR West.
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