Griffin Speaks


Gregory Oswald Griffin Sr.A few months ago I traveled with my family to my ancestral home. My children were impressed with their family history. Thanks to my cousin, Tuskegee Socialite, Velma Braye, I now have a book that sheds light on our ancestors.

In his book, "DISCIPLE ASSEMBLIES OF EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA," my cousin William Joseph Barber writes: "Much has been said about the Free Union Community of Jamesville Township, Martin County, in this text. Many of the early Negro Disciple leaders of Eastern North Carolina came from this community. Something of its history and development should therefore, be set forth here.

The community dates at least back to the late 1700s or early 1800s. Its original population was a mixture of Indian and free Negro. The Indian heritage is Croatian and possibly Tuscarora, with the later probably dominating.

I have learned that my maternal ancestors were never enslaved. They were Mulattos that mixed with various groups of Indians. The main groups of Indians in Piney Woods were from the Matamuskeet Tribe.

My great-great-grandfather, Stewart James was once considered one of the wealthiest Black men in America. He was the largest black land owner in the Free Union Community. He and my Great great-grandmother, Lucretia James had fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls. When each of these children married, they received a substantial amount of land and very large two story homes from their parents. Some of these homes are still standing in the community. My children were amazed to witness their family history.

Stewart James's father, my Great great great-grandfather, Nizer James was hung by the Confederate Army for being a spy on behalf of the Union Army. I have not been able to trace how Stewart James became so wealthy. I do know that after many years and descendants later the money did not trickle down to me.

I certainly know first hand how wealth can disappear. If you do not have a financial planner, you should consider getting one. So many people earn lots of money only for it to be lost before it can be passed on to later generations. In many cases it is passed on and then lost by following generations.

We must encourage our kids to graduate from college or learn a trade. Present family wealth can only last so long if there is no plan. We must plan for the future of our descendants.

There are many people today living off the wealth earned by ancestors that have been deceased for hundreds of years. Black people must learn how to pass it on in a way that it will last for generations to come. Examples of bad financial planning are forever visible in Hollywood and the Sports Industry. So many of these individuals end up broke.

We are increasing our earnings every year. Are we building wealth or simply consuming? Stop what you are doing and call a financial planner today!

Greg Griffin is a columnist for the historic Montgomery-Tuskegee Times. He can be reached at


Home ] [Article Index]