Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Story of a Freedmen's Community in Texas

Family members pose with a reaper, used to gather hay in the fields. This is the only known photograph of the original Cheney residence, which burned in 1946.
“As the name suggests, the Garden of Eden was always a fertile place, both in terms of its rich soil that produced bountiful vegetation for decades and in terms of the strong people who occupied the land. . . .
Major and Malinda Cheney, the patriarch and matriarch of the Sanders family.
We had been steeped in the teachings of family, understanding from an early age that there was something special in that clan that had survived and flourished against incredible odds.
Bob Ray Sanders has not only had a significant career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram but also with KERA public television and radio. Bob Ray is shown here at the microphone shortly after KERA-FM went on the air in 1974. Courtesy KERA.
I was patriarch Major Cheney’s great-grandson; Drew was his great-great-grandson, and we knew that we were part of a legacy that was still being built by my father and his. We grew up knowing the stories of how this was a family which, although descendants of a slave, had no fear of white people, and thus was a family in a position to help people of all colors. . . .
A. J. "Drew" Sanders, the author, with a family automobile circa 1955.
This is the story of a family - and a community that grew up around it - whose ancestors shook off the shackles of slavery, refused to be cowed by prejudice and discrimination, and resisted the temptation to hate even those who sometimes hated them.
Drew’s book tells the true tale of a family tree deeply rooted in a garden - The Garden of Eden.”

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