Christian Rappers Lecrae and Thi’sl Reflect on Enslaved Ancestors in Sobering Exchange

Artist Reveals He Was Born on Plantation and Described as ‘Negro’ on His Birth Certificate

Lecrae Thisl Slavery Faithfully Magazine

Hip-hop artists Lecrae and Thi’sl, both Christians, reflected on their ties to slavery as they shared images and information about digging into their family histories on social media on Sunday.

“Just found the slave [m]aster that bought my 3rd [g]reat-grandmother at 9 years old from Africa. Sobering,” Lecrae, born Lecrae Devaughn Moore, tweeted early Sunday morning.

The image he shared was a copy of a U.S. census ledger for “slave inhabitants” in a particular Arkansas county. The ledger was dated September 25, 1860, and included the names of slave owners and the number of people they held in slavery.

 

Later in the day, the Reach Records/Columbia artist shared the same disturbing image of the U.S. census ledger recording on Instagram and Facebook, where each post drew massive responses.

On Instagram and Facebook, Lecrae also shared images of his ancestors.

[Use the arrows on the left and right of embedded image below to see the images Lecrae shared].

 

“I’ve been working on learning my family history. It’s exciting, encouraging, and sad all at once,” Lecrae, 39, wrote to his more than 6 million social media followers and fans.

Hip-hop artist Thi’sl responded to Lecrae’s “sobering” tweet about his discovery by sharing details about his own family history.

“Had this moment a few years ago when it sank in I was born on a plantation,” Thi’sl tweeted. “My family didn’t move off that plantation until 1985. This was the actual house I was born in. Bell Chase Plantation, Minter City, Mississippi. I played in cotton fields every summer until [I was] 8 years old.”

The image Thi’sl, 42, shared in his tweet was the cover image for his 2016 LP “Against All Odds,” which featured the Mississippi house where he was born.

Thi’sl, born Travis Tremayne Tyler, went on to post an image of his birth certificate, which listed his race as “Negro.”

 

“Here is a picture of my granddaddy on the plantation with the [s]laveowner (Mr. Billy) son,” he wrote, describing a second image of two young boys — one Black and one White — apparently playing together.

“My granddaddy grew up there, got married, had children (9) and his whole family, even my mom, picked cotton for them,” Thi’sl added.

In response, Lecrae suggested that if he were in Thi’sl’s shoes, he would be demanding reparations from “Mr. Billy’s” descendants.

“You know me well enough to know I’m looking for my reparations. I’m trying to get some DNA done,” Thi’sl responded.

Thi’sl didn’t share in his social media exchange with Lecrae his ancestors’ place of origin. However, Lecrae did tell one Instagram follower that “most [of] my ancestors came from West Africa to America” while others “came from Africa to Jamaica.” As for his European ancestors, “they don’t acknowledge their mixed children,” he added.

Lecrea revealed that his African ancestral ties are in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Ghana. His grandmother, purchased at just nine years old to work as a slave, likely was taken from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“When you understand the sacrifices made and that certain people had their descendants (me) in mind while they struggled to break cycles, fight oppression, and love God…it inspires you,” the rapper said.

As for those interested in also researching their roots, Lecrae suggested they interview older relatives, make copies of family photos, and consider using resources found on Ancestry.com. He admitted, however, that his mother and aunt “did a lot of leg work for my family.”

The rappers’ conversation and revelations about their families’ history of enslavement emerges amid the 400-year anniversary of when the first likely enslaved Africans arrived at the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

This year has also seen ongoing national conversations about the need for the U.S. government to provide reparations “to the descendants of African Americans who were enslaved and suffered from large-scale racial discrimination.” Colleges and universities, including a Baptist seminary, have also been grappling with their history of financial reliance on stolen labor.

Less than 30 percent of Americans have positive views toward the idea of reparations being made to the descendants of Africans enslaved in the U.S. One common claim of resistance to demands that the government redress “the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery” through reparations has been that the it would be too difficult for Black Americans to prove their direct lineage to the enslaved.

As Lecrae and Thi’sl showed in their exchange of information (also gleaned from living relatives), documents, and images, it is more than possible for Black Americans to provide direct links to their enslaved ancestors and to even the men and women who kept them in bondage.

While 50 percent of Christians believe the legacy of slavery still impacts the U.S. today, some believe a spiritual renewal could be another benefit of reparations being made to the descendants of Africans enslaved in America.

Greed, Revival, and Korea: Another Case for Reparations From the Pyongyang Revival of 1907

Take the poll: Should the government provide reparations for slavery?


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    Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.

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