Cheryl's legacy and book "Die Free" profiled in German Newspaper

cut and paste this link to read the German article. Tochter Afrikas means “Daughter of Africa”
daughter of Africa

[this is a rough translation]

As the New York presenter Cheryl Wills discovered her great-great-great-grandfather, so they wrote history. Not only for her family, but also for their country they fought against the deep-seated trauma of slavery.

From Nikolaus Piper , New York
The story begins with a terrible traffic accident. On September 4, 1980 races Clarence Wills, a 38-year-old black firefighter, on the bike over the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. A motorist trying to avoid him. Motorbike and car collide, Wills is hurled against a bridge pier and nearly decapitated.

Cheryl, the oldest daughter of Clarence Wills is, at that time 13 years old. Not only the death of his father was a shock for them, but also that his personality had changed before the accident. Actually Clarence had achieved everything he could possibly want. He made ​​one of the first blacks in the New York Fire Department career, he had a wife and five children who idolized him. But suddenly he let himself go, he neglected his family and was interested only for his motorcycle club. The clinical diagnosis would have been: depression. But then no one asked.

Today, daughter Cheryl Wills is 48 years old and sitting in a television studio in Chelsea. She is a star among the presenters of the news channel NY1. The question of why her father’s life ended so early, was the theme of her life. One of the ways to deal with it, was the study of family history. They discovered almost by accident that one of her great-great-great-grandfathers, who was still born into slavery, had run his slave owners and had fought as a soldier on the part of the northern states during the American Civil War. The discovery changed her life. “Today I am a different person.” Suddenly there was a hero in the family.”I’m sure my father were alive, he would have known about it.” About everything she wrote a book called The Free (to “die in freedom”). It made ​​her a celebrity in the civil rights movement. At a ceremony for the victims of slavery she spoke before the United Nations.

My ancestor was born into slavery and fought in the Civil War


In the debates on social problems in the United States usually one important detail is forgotten: The trauma of slavery and racial segregation, that’s not gone well today – more than 150years after President Lincoln had proclaimed the emancipation of slaves. For almost all African American gapes in the family history a hole: At some point there was a man or a woman “as cargo” (Wills) were shipped across the Atlantic, with no identity, no past, no name. “None of us has only one idea of where we come from,” says Wills. “Imagine how it would be if someone would your connection to Germany completely hats.”

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There have been repeated attempts to process the trauma. 1976 published the historical novel Roots . Author Alex Haley tried to return to his family on Kunta Kinte, a young man who allegedly 18 . Century was deported from the territory of present-day Gambia. Roots was based on an award-winning television series that ran in Germany. However, Haley was liberally with facts, Kunta Kinte has probably never existed.

Member of the “United States Colored Troops”

Cheryl Wills’ story, however, is well documented. One evening in 2009 she clicked on a genealogy site and came across a certain Sandy Wills from Haywood County, Tennessee – the district from which came her father. Cheryl hired a professional genealogist who showed: Sandy was the great-great-great-grandfather of Cheryl Wills. The evidence he found in the National Archives in Washington.

Sandy was 1840 born into slavery in Tennessee. When he was ten years old, he bought a certain Edmund Wills. As was customary at that time, Sandy took the surname of his slave owner. The big turning point was the American civil war. In October 1863 Wills escaped with another slave of the cotton plantation and fled to neighboring Kentucky, where it was indeed slavery, which, however, had taken the side of the northern states. On 13 . October, he enlisted in the 4th Heavy Field Artillery, Company F, of the Northern States Army. Behind his name is in the National Archives, the abbreviation USCT It stands for “United States Colored Troops”, so those 175 regiments, in which black soldiers fought for the end of slavery.
15 November 2014 15:13
US anchorwoman Cheryl Willsdisappeared from the memory of the family


The importance of the 200,000 black soldiers for the victory of the Northern States is hard to overestimate. The most famous is the unit 54 . Infantry Regiment from Massachusetts, of whose fate the film Glory starring Denzel Washington is. For the black soldiers of the war meant a special risk. They had to reckon not captured in case of defeat, but to be massacred literally. The black freedom fighter Frederick Douglass told them, “It is better to die free, than to live as slaves.” The set is available as a motto in Cheryl Wills’ book.

Sandy Wills returned as a free man to Tennessee. He leased a piece of land, married, had children, and seems to have led a poor, unassuming life. After his death his widow Emma successfully fought by the US government a veterans pension, the lawyer turned their former slaveholding family. The pension application is in the archives, he was one of the most important sources.

“If they found out, they would have killed him.”

The great-great-great-granddaughter tells the story of Sandy Wills today before school classes, seminars and lectures. She let examine their DNA with the result that among their ancestors must be many members of the Bamileke people of Cameroon. She traveled to Africa, thus visited Gorée Island off the coast of Senegal. There is a “house of bondage” were shipped from where slaves.

One question remains: How could such a thing as the freedom struggle of Sandy Wills from memory the family disappear?There is a very simple explanation, says Wills: the Ku Klux Klan. Discarded Confederate Soldiers had the Klan in 1865founded in Tennessee and established a reign of terror was directed against blacks and “Yankees”, so Americans from the Northern States. “The soldiers who had fought for slavery, want no slaves, who had himself fought,” says Wills. “If they found out, they would have killed him.” Otherwise, their family have arranged in the years of racial segregation with the circumstances. It was only in the fifties sat her grandfather, a blues guitarist, in the Greyhound to find a better life for himself and his family in New York.

Cheryl Wills founded in New York, a regional group of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Colored Troup, a step of great symbolic power. The name is inspired by the the Daughters of the American Revolution on, a patriotic women’s association of descendants of the revolutionaries of 1776 or the soldiers of the War of Independence. There is also the United Daughters of the Confederacy,who uphold the Southern heritage. “I try to make people treat you with respect,” says Wills. “They have their own heritage But you have to face facts:.. The Confederates fought that should remain slavery for eternity”

And then it must also still a white family Wills give the descendants of slave-Edmund Wills. There are cases where the families of former slaves and former slave owners have kept in touch. The family of Senator John McCain, whoin 2008 lost the presidential election to Barack Obama, meets regularly with the family of Lillie McCain, a psychology professor. Your great-great-grandparents were slaves on the plantation of the great-great-grandfather of Senator McCain.

Cheryl Wills has never tried to find the descendants of Edmund Wills. “I do not want anybody feel guilty,” she says. “It’s a terrible story. But many countries had a terrible story. Germany but also.”

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