An Extraordinary 100th Family Reunion

After the Friday night reunion dinner, Marvin Grigsby dances with his granddaughter, Christian.

After the Friday night reunion dinner, Marvin Grigsby dances with his granddaughter, Christian. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR
A Roberts family descendant touches the grave marker of one of her ancestors.

A Roberts family descendant touches the grave marker of one of her ancestors. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR

Summer is the traditional season for family reunions — and this summer, Day to Day reporter Karen Grigsby Bates returned to her roots for the 100th-anniversary gathering of her extended clan in North Carolina.

The story begins in 1906, when John Wesley Roberts and his cousins Wesley Mauney and Eli Borders Roberts sought to reconvene families scattered by slavery and then by Emancipation. The three men, born into slavery, gathered their nearest relatives and began to trace their common origins.

Their efforts led them finally to Kings Mountain, a small town about thirty miles west of Charlotte, N.C. Since that first gathering, the extended family — the Roberts, Borders, Mauney, Howell, Briggs and Related Families clan — has been meeting every year, without exception.

At this summer's reunion, about 500 relatives from 22 states made it to Kings Mountain. The common thread that connects them all is one woman from Guinea, the family's oldest known ancestor. Her African name has been lost to time, but she was later given the name Sylvie.

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