North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A Kerchief of Sense.

Timed to coincide with the anniversaries of his father’s birth in 1923 and his mother’s death in 1963, Effenus Henderson‘s recent memoir, A Kerchief of Sense, is available at It is a simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming story of family and faith.


So much of what Effenus has written of occurred during the period that our branches of both the Henderson and Aldridge families had lost contact. I found my way back to them through my grandmother and father, who often mentioned that we had a cousin called Snook — Horace Henderson — still down in Dudley. My grandmother only knew bits and pieces of the story told here, but her recollections led to our reconnection with his children and our larger family. Tribulation was no stranger to either of our lines, but we survived and now thrive. Thank you, Effenus, for capturing this aspect of our common legacy.

snook 12 2

Horace Henderson Sr. and his twelve children, 1963.

North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

A reckoning. And recommendation.

I know I have a romantic view of old East Wilson (old, as in before it was ravaged by the crack trade), and though I know that’s attributable to my very safe and happy childhood there, I am reminded of just how shallow my rosy recollection is. One of my cousins, 20 years older than I, has just published a memoir. The early pages of Sherrod Village are set on streets I walked and peopled by folks I knew in East Wilson. Barbara Williams Lewis’ grandmother was my great-great-grandmother’s sister; they were two of the “innumerable” children of Adam T. Artis. (Her mother, in fact, is who described them to me that way.) I thought I would recognize so much in Barbara’s book. But I didn’t.
Children are shielded from so much ugliness (if they’re lucky) and understand so little of what they see. The ragged pasts of sweet old people are not always apparent in their mild presents. Nonetheless, I had believed that my truth was true. I had, perhaps, counted on it. I’d thought that I’d viewed East Wilson as a palimpsest. Instead, though my family’s story there involved poverty and insecurity and pain, I processed little beyond the surface of my own memories of crepe myrtles, corner stores and swimming lessons at Reid Street Center. I knew the history of the place, but not the lives of its people. Fifteen pages into Sherrod Village, I wrote to Barbara that I was “staggered.” I finished the book in the same state of astonishment. I HAD NO IDEA, I told her. No idea. And I thanked her.