ST.CROIX, Virgin Islands, July 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- St. Croix-born
lawyer/historian Wayne James has uncovered several centuries-old documents which
establish his family's direct, unbroken, fully documented connection to his
great-great-great- great-grandmother, Azunta, born in Africa in 1785 and sold on
St. Croix in 1798 at the age of 13.
"I am a black man, and, obviously, I know that my ancestry is African, but it
is still humbling to actually see and hold the documents which identify the
African who establishes a branch of our family in this part of the world," James
said. "It is an honor to know that it was our Azunta, my Azunta, a 13-year-old
girl, who survived the ravages of the infamous Middle Passage and the horrors of
slavery to establish her branch of our family tree in these islands. It is
heartwarming to know that she endured so that we could exist and thrive today.
Finding her, after all these years, is like unearthing treasure. Her name is
once again being called by her offspring, 150 years after her death."
According to the Death Records of the St. Patrick's Catholic Church in
Frederiksted, St. Croix, Azunta died of old age at Estate Annaly on Aug. 3,
1857, at the age of 72, nine years after Emancipation. She was buried in the
estate's cemetery. But before she died, she bore two daughters: Ancilla Thomas,
born in Annaly in 1809, and Christianah Thomas, born in Annaly in 1816. It is
via Christianah that the Jameses of Frederiksted descend.
On April 25, 1842, Christianah gave birth to Mary Jane Andrew at Estate
Annaly, and just over 20 years later, on Feb. 9, 1863, Mary Jane Andrew bore a
daughter named Roxcelina John -- Wayne James' great-grandmother -- at Estate
Annaly. At age 25, on May 19, 1888, Roxcelina John married Lucas James, a
cabinet maker from Estate Hermitage, at the St. Patrick's Catholic Church in
Frederiksted, and together the young couple bore Isaac Gateword James, Wayne
James' paternal grandfather, at Estate Orange Grove in Frederiksted, on April 5,
1893. Isaac Gateword James was the father of Gustav James, born in the town of
Frederiksted in 1919. And Gustav James was the father of Wayne James, born at
the Charles Harwood Memorial Hospital on St. Croix in 1961.
"Almost all of the research was done at the St. Croix Landmarks Society
Library," James said. "Church records, censuses, tax lists, estate inventories.
They are all there. And fortunately for us, Azunta and her descendants remained
at Estate Annaly for many generations; consequently, tracking her offspring was
not as daunting as it would have been had there been much movement between
"What is also very significant to our family is the fact that Azunta kept her
African name," James continued. "A team of African linguists is already
researching the origins of the name and the regions of Africa where it was used
in the late 1700s. We have also enlisted the services of a Danish-speaking
researcher to comb through the Danish maritime archives to uncover the name of
the ship that transported Azunta across the Atlantic in 1798, the African port
from which she departed, the number of Africans who perished onboard, and other
historically significant information.
"Research undertakings of this magnitude often involve many contributors,"
James said. "It was my cousin and genealogist Veronica Heyliger Phillips, for
example, who actually found Azunta on the 1841 census, the entries thereon
establishing Azunta's origin as African. Ronnie called me screaming, 'Wayne, I
found the African!' And historian George Tyson, who is presently in Copenhagen,
was able to search the Copenhagen archives to establish that Azunta arrived on
St. Croix in 1798 and was sold to the Ferrall family, then the owners of Estate
The Middle Passage and the African ancestors who traversed it have long been
part and parcel to Wayne James' life. On July 3, 1999, in celebration of the
closing of the 150th anniversary of Emancipation in the Danish West Indies,
James lowered the Middle Passage Monument onto the floor of the Atlantic Ocean
to serve as a gravestone to the estimated millions of Africans who died crossing
the Atlantic en route to slavery in the New World between the 15th and 19th
centuries. And James has devoted much of the past 20 years to researching and
writing on the culture of the Virgin Islands.
"Finding Azunta is, I firmly believe, a gift to me from the ancestors," James
said. "I have always acknowledged and respected them. I have long celebrated the
role they play in my life. It brings me immeasurable joy to show my appreciation
of them and to them by bringing life and meaning to their lives through
research," James concluded.
Oh the very young being FORCED, CAPTURED, BROKENED, KIDNAPPED, A WITNESS of a GREAT CRIME with having ALL THINGS left behind from their HOMELAND to a new land PREPARED to TEST all ASPECTS of their MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT. That is OUR ANCESTORS. Glad this man found HIS.