Search catalog for:

Meet Descendants of Louisiana's Black Homesteaders: A City Archives & Special Collections Event



Amanda is a librarian and certified archivist in the City Archives & Special Collections at New Orleans Public Library, where she works with genealogical and municipal government records.

The Homestead Act of 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation, and subsequent Reconstruction amendments didn’t just abolish slavery –– they gave African Americans a chance to earn a living and own land. For many of these Black pioneers, this meant risking their lives to achieve this American promise of freedom.

Author Bernice Alexander Bennett sets out to change the narrative about the largely unknown Black homesteaders in the South. In her new book “Black Homesteaders of the South,” the descendants of Black Homesteaders of Louisiana share 19 stories representing nine parishes: Ascension, Bossier, Claiborne, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, Washington, and West Feliciana.

On March 18, the Library’s City Archives & Special Collections will host a panel discussion with Bennett and some of the Louisiana homesteader descendants’ featured in her book. Ahead of the event, we asked our panelists to tell us how they discovered their homesteading ancestors, and some of their favorite online genealogy resources.

Attend the Zoom program to hear more about their journeys researching these fascinating histories.

Crystal Williams-Jackson

All my life, my parents stressed the importance of family. From a young age, we would travel to different parts of the United States to visit family, take pictures, interview through casual conversation, and go on to organize family reunions. 

My father’s research began after he met his cousins in Homer, Louisiana and was able to capture a picture of a portrait of his paternal grandfather. After my father’s death, I continued the research. I learned there was some land ownership in 2019, but I didn’t know its significance until I was listening to a presentation by Bernice Bennett. 

Her presentation is when I learned about homesteading and how this history intersected with my own family’s.

What online genealogy resources helped you the most in any and all genealogical research you have undertaken?,, various state archives, and I help transcribe records online, when possible.

Dr. Antoinette Harrell

The first step in my genealogy journey was to collect as much information as possible about my Richardson family through oral history, and research at the local clerk’s office where my ancestor lived and owned land.

Locating my ancestors was made easier by As a result of the workshops, lectures, and conversations with Bernice Bennett, I learned how to use Ancestry to determine if my ancestors were homesteaders, which I discovered they, in fact, were. 

Bernice pulled the records of Andrew and Sarah Ann Foster Richardson for me, which told me a lot about my ancestors.


Rex Holiday, Ph. D

Although I am a direct descendent of Henry and Julia Gordon [two homesteaders featured in Bernice’s book], my wife, Jane, does the bulk of the research, which she describes below:

“I gathered the information that I had on hand, spoke to older living relatives, and researched each ancestor to look for records for the time period in which they lived.

For Henry and Julia, I found their marriage record listed in the index and then wrote to the Parish clerk for a copy of the record. They were listed on the Bureau of Land Management site Home –– BLM GLO Records, so I sent for a copy of those records.

I found them listed in the 1870 U. S. Federal Census as Henry and Julia Gorman, instead of Gordon. They were listed as living next door to Dempsey Kemp Gorman. 

When my family and I visited Louisiana in 2007, we went to the courthouse in Greensburg, Louisiana, and looked up Conveyance records for Dempsey Kemp Gorman. We found the record dated March 25, 1848, showing Dempsey Kemp Gorman purchasing Henry, Julia, their oldest daughter Louisa, and other family members from his mother.”

What online genealogy resources helped you the most in any and all genealogical research you have undertaken?, including the catalog and Wiki, LA Secretary of State Online Public Vital Records Index (, Bureau of Land Management GLO Records, Louisiana Archives TOC (, eClerks LA, Make a FOIA Request (, / Newsbank,

Dr. Dolores Mercedes Franklin

My research at the LSU and the UNC Chapel Hill libraries and special collections on the slave owner family of Stephen Minor of Concord Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi led to my discovery of Wooley Franklin, my 2nd great-grandfather. 

He was born in Africa in 1774, and was brought to Natchez with his wife and children – including his son, William Franklin, my great-grandfather. My research confirmed that he was sent from Natchez to the Minor family’s Southdown Plantation in Terrebonne Parish, LA during slavery.

Then, I identified and connected with my cousin Kimberli Hornes, who discovered that Wooley’s son, Shedrick Franklin, was sent to the Minor family’s Waterloo Plantation in Ascension Parish. 

Later, his widow Phoebe Bartlett Franklin, became a homesteader.

I later dove deeper into genealogical research with a friend, Brianna Riley. Together, we discovered a notation in the margin of original records in the archives at Natchez. The notation stated that Sally Thompson, Brianna’s ancestor, was in fact Wooley Franklin’s daughter, who was also at Waterloo Plantation in Ascension Parish.

By researching lawsuits in Ascension Parish and the Bureau of Land Management website, I discovered that many of my Franklin/Thompson family members settled on contested land after the Civil War, aspiring to be homesteaders. The experiences of my homesteader relative, Frank Thompson –– Sally’s son –– conveyed our family history.

What online genealogy resources helped you the most in any and all genealogical research you have undertaken?

Online genealogy resources that have helped me in my genealogical research include but are not limited to:;;;; Library of Congress (LOC); National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Find A Grave;; Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy; Bureau of Land Management.

Learn more about our panelists’ stories, the history of Black Homesteaders and how to research your own genealogy at our virtual event this Saturday, March 18, from 11am – 1pm. The program is sponsored by Friends of the New Orleans Public Library.