Singer-songwriter Lionel Richie appeared last night on NBC’s genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? In the show, Richie traced his grandmother Adeliade Towson’s ancestry and the mystery surrounding the identity of her father. He set out on a journey that took him from his childhood home of Tuskegee, Alabama to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Along the way Richie uncovered the identity of his great grandfather John Louis Brown, an “editor” of Knights of the Wise Men, a national organization created to assist African-Americans in their local communities.
Later in the show, Richie learned that John L. Brown fought in the Civil War (see United States Colored Troops in the Civil War) and was previously a slave to a Dr. Morgan Brown. This doctor happened to record in his diary in 1839 that Mariah, one of his slaves, gave birth to a boy named “Louis” though it is not clear if the doctor or his son, Morgan W. Brown, was the father. However, Dr. Brown’s will, which was written during Mariah’s pregnancy, states that Mariah should be freed from slavery along with the as-yet unborn child. The will also states that Mariah would be given a house on Dr. Brown’s land and that the child would receive two years of schooling, which was illegal at that time.
What are your thoughts about this latest episode in which Lionel Richie searched for his ancestors?
See Who Do You Think You Are? for additional information about this and other family history television programs.