genealogy

Courtesy of Nadia Orton

When Nadia Orton’s kidneys were failing, she sent letters to friends and relatives in the hopes that someone could be a donor or help defray the cost. Orton’s great-aunt Philgradore responded with money from her church. So a few years later, when Aunt Phil asked on her deathbed that her family not be forgotten, Orton knew she had to find a way to honor her ancestors. The problem was that she didn’t know who they were, or where to find them.

Various branches of the Dula family come together at the Dulatown gravesite.
Courtesy of Leslie Dula McKesson

Dula family reunions in western North Carolina include members of the black and white sides of the family. But for decades these two sides did not communicate or even acknowledge their relation. The two branches of the family started with a man named Alfred and a woman named Harriet. Before Harriet, Alfred had married a white woman and had six children, but his first wife died young. He then bought an enslaved woman named Harriet to help him with his family, and the two had eight more children.