Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Growing Up with Fannie's Story

I grew up in an adoptive family with a long line of storytellers. They were multifaceted and skilled in Biblical storytelling, family history, and were community Griots.  They spanned several generations and could engage you in a way that made you feel like you were standing in the scene of the story.

My maternal great-grandmother was a country midwife who birthed most of the babies in Barbour County, Alabama during her era.  Her name was Fannie Herron and she was born circa 1876 in Barbour County, Alabama and she died 15 June 1946 in Barbour County, Alabama.  She had two children my grandmother Lucinie Walker born 28 November 1890 in Barbour County and she died 29 June 1966 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; and John Henry Roberson born 1 December 1893 in Barbour County, Alabama and he died 3 July 1922 in Barbour County, Alabama.

My grandmother always told me the following story about my great-grandmother (her mother) which left a colorful vivid impression.  A few years ago, I retold her story to a group of girlfriends and was encouraged by my friends to write it down.  I took their suggestion and wrote my memory of my grandmother's story in my journal.  As with any story that has been handed down through oral tradition and has endured the narrative of time there tends to be an element of creative non-fiction. However, the process of remembering and reliving the experience was more than I would have ever expected.  It reinforced the importance of storytelling both orally and in writing.  In the spirit of genealogy, I challenge you to take a family story that you have been told, write it down and share it in your Blog.  Here is my great-grandmother's story via three generations of storytelling.

"Her brown-skin belly was swollen like a vertical watermelon. This was her third time being with child.  She was having strong pains and could feel the discomfort way down in her back.  She had spent the last few hours like this so she knew it was almost time to give birth.  As she tried really hard not to push, she wondered if the midwife would get there before the baby arrived.  The midwife opened the door and walked quickly toward her bedside.  Aunt Fannie was a short stout dark-skin woman with gray eyes.  Eyes the color of hot coals and the kind you see on old folks.  You could see her thick gray hair peeking through her tattered head wrap and she wore an old discolored striped shift-dress that had its own history and traditions.

It was January 16, 1943, and Aunt Fannie was more than 60 years old now.  Her body was beginning to wear down but she loved her work and never missed a birthing.  She wasn’t classically trained. She had learned midwifery helping to deliver the babies of the sharecroppers.  She was known by the town’s people as the most trusted midwife in Barbour County, Alabama.  At a time when the races were segregated in the south, she had delivered all the black and white babies in the county since she was 18 years old.  Everyone knew she had a passion for bringing life into the world and that is why the town’s people called her God’s assistant.

Aunt Fannie’s first words to the mother were, “Are you ready honey?  We bout’ to bring this baby into the world.”  The mother looked up at Fannie with sweat pouring down her face and wishing that this was already over.  At that moment, she knew that they were equally matched contenders.  “Yes ma’am Aunt Fannie.  I’m ready,” she said as she scooted her bottom toward the end of the bed preparing to give birth."


  1. Wow! That's quite a story. How wonderful to have a griot heritage - the skills have certainly been passed to you.

  2. Great story and wonderful that it's been handed down through 3 generations.


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