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My Privileged, White Ancestry Contributes to the Injustice of Emmett Till

Origin stories have a certain something that captures the human psyche. Perhaps it is because we were forced to exist as human beings and live our lives trying to comprehend how we ended up here to begin with.

These types of questions conjure curiosity and suspense about one’s own genealogical past. For this reason, one’s own journey through ancestry records and DNA can reveal the past in an eye-opening experience. I have learned a great deal about the individuals who are the reason I now exist in America, and these people were as real as the person I see in the mirror every day.

Responsible for My Privileged Existence

My earliest colonial Virginian ancestor is Robert Offley, a member of the Virginia Company of London, which was a joint-stock company that King James I chartered in 1606 to establish a colony, eventually Jamestown, in North America. This undertaking allowed the British Crown to reap the benefits of colonization—natural resources, new markets for English goods, leverage against the Spanish—without footing the costs.

Offley was also on the 1609 Virginia Charter, and is listed in several 1619 Assembly meetings. He invested money in the Virginia Company that same year.

King James I of England granted the 1609 Virginia Charter to the investors of the Virginia Company of London, which transferred control from the Crown to private investors, extended Virginia‘s borders from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and installed a new, more powerful governor whom they intended would introduce discipline to Jamestown.

On May 23, 1609, King James I of England granted the 1609 Virginia Charter to the investors of the Virginia Company of London, which transferred control from the Crown to private investors, extended Virginia‘s borders from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and installed a new, more powerful governor to introduce “discipline” to Jamestown. Photo courtesy Encyclopedia Virginia

Two other Virginian ancestors of mine are Isham Randolph and Jane Rogers, grandparents of President Thomas Jefferson. Sharing the same ancestors means President Jefferson and I are distant cousins. However, we are closer than you may think. Jefferson’s mother Jane Randolph is my five-time

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