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Author tells story of her family and black Bethania in new book

Author tells story of her family and black Bethania in new book
September 11
00:00 2014
Kerins

Kerins

(pictured above:  Photo fromAfrican-American Sons & Daughters of Bethania, N.C. This vintage photo shows students at Cedar Grove School.)

Priscilla Kerins had always wanted to learn more about her family tree. She and her brother, Wayne Glenn, would do some digging here and there, but only enough to barely scratch the surface.
“It would just be off and on,” she said.

Book cover_0002It wasn’t until after her son Jason died in 1996 at age 18 that she kicked her research into overdrive. It was a grieving mechanism, she said, one that would eventually give birth to “African-American Sons & Daughters of Bethania, N.C.,” a book she released in June through the publishing service Xlibris.

“It seemed like I was staying in the past. It seemed like I couldn’t adjust and move forward with my life,” she said. “This gave me something to really concentrate on.”

Through interviews, letters, photographs and historical documents, she details the unique history of the African American Moravians who have called the Forsyth County community home for generations. Settled in 1759 by Moravian settlers, Bethania is the county’s oldest municipality. After slavery, blacks remained there and put down roots, building their own church and school. According to 2010 figures, about 16 percent of the less than 400 people who live in Bethania today are black.

Kerins’ grandparents, Robert George Glenn and Ella R. Lash Glenn, spent their lives in Bethania. She relied heavily on materials she found in their home to guide her research. The records, which were stored in trunks, included writings and notes written by Kerins’ great-grandfather, aunt and grandmother. Elderly relatives, including her mother, uncle and cousin, helped Kerins make sense of the material.

“I figured they wouldn’t have kept all these records if they didn’t intend for someone to record this information, which I thought was very valuable,” said Kerins, a Forsyth County native who now lives in Ellicott City, Md. “A lot of times, black people just don’t know their roots and their heritage. In a lot of instances, things were unpleasant so they did not pass it on to later generations. I wanted to make those things known.”

The book is getting high marks from Bethania residents like Alma Joyce.

“When I read the book, I remembered a lot of things that had happened. They came right back to mind. I remembered the little one-room schools that you would attend through third grade,” Joyce said. “It is a good book to read if you are from the community.”

Kerins’ cousin Gwendolyn Washington said that even she received an education after reading the book, even though she was born and raised in Bethania.

“I’m 69-years-old. (There were) names of roads and streets I did not know.” Washington said. “It has quite a bit of family history in it, and most of it is my family. There is a lot of stuff in there that the younger generations do not even know about. It was very educational.”

Kerins, a retired educator, wants her book to be embraced by young people.

“People can go back and find some of their ancestors, and the young people can see how people truly sacrificed, created their own homes and schools and contributed to the community,” Kerins said.

The book is available in hard cover ($29.99), paperback ($19.99) and as an e-book ($9.99) at Xlibris.com, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Kerins will sign books during the Black Walnut Festival in Bethania on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Historic Bethania Visitor Center. Reach Kerins at cillann6@nullgmail.com.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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