First African American Inducted Into Local Sons Of The American Revolution
Following years of research, Winston-Salem’s Learmond “Buddy” Hayes made an unusual discovery: an ancestor who fought as a “free man of color” in the Revolutionary War. On Thursday, Hayes became the first African American member of the local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
He tells WFDD’s David Ford it’s the culmination of a life-long curiosity.
"Our people have been involved in every conflict and war since this nation was founded. But if you look at the movies, look at documentaries, you very seldom see us involved or even shown," says Hayes. "But I know my dad fought in Korea. My uncles fought in World War II, so we had to be there. But we're not referenced a lot. So, I think it's my duty to just tell the people about what went on and who we are."
On his first big discovery:
Ancestry[.com] came along with the DNA tests. So, I said, “Hmm. I’ll give it a shot." I took the DNA test and the family name of Graham started coming up on my contacts as cousins and second and third cousins. I’d never heard that name mentioned in my family before, so at first, I didn’t pay it too much attention. But one name kept standing out. His name was Kevin Graham. He not only had his own account, but he managed accounts for other people in the family. I contacted him and immediately he knew exactly who I was. We had to start, of course, with my parents and we had to just keep going back. So, I looked at census records, wills, death certificates, birth certificates. I started going backwards in time. And Kevin was very instrumental in helping me because he had a lot of the information already done. And we went back to 1754, when the Patriot John Blanks was supposedly born. And that's how we kept going from that thread all the way back.
On viewing a 1784 pension check issued to John Blanks by the state of North Carolina, proving Blanks' status as an American veteran of the Revolutionary War:
Sometimes, you know, it just brings tears to my eyes to think that things of this nature actually happen, and to someone in my family. It’s just amazing. You know, first I wondered exactly what he did. Was he a soldier? Was he on the battlefield somewhere? Because there were African Americans who fought at Shallow Ford here in Forsyth County. I was just amazed. It really blew my mind. The only African American I'd ever heard of in the Revolutionary War was Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre. And I'm 63 years old.
On plans for the future:
On Ancestry[.com] there’s a page called ThruLines which documents all the way back to a young lady from Africa — it just says “African woman” — as the first known ancestor of mine. And she predated John Blanks. I want to find out who she was and what she did. Was her journey from Africa via the slave ship, or was she from England also? My goal before I pass away is to visit Africa. And I think it’s in the country of Ghana where they have the Door of No Return. I have to go and see that. And I really want to connect with my African brothers and sisters, too.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was edited lightly for clarity.