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An extraordinary family

Posted: February 23, 2017 3:12 p.m.
Updated: February 24, 2017 1:00 a.m.

"You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!"  — Maya Angelou

Black History Month offers the community a chance to celebrate some extraordinary people and in so doing share their energy and vision.  In this case, we have a whole extended family of achievers with ties to Camden.

In the account of Rotimi Vaughan, a noted Nigerian lawyer and legislator, who has periodically reached out to Camden, his ancestor Scipio Vaughan was captured from the Owu Kingdom in Western Nigeria in 1805 during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and shipped to South Carolina, where he was sold to Willie Vaughan, a Camden newspaper publisher.  Scipio Vaughan established a reputation in Camden as a talented artisan in fashioning iron gates and fences, skills he had learned in Africa. According to family lore, after he gained his freedom, he married Maria Conway, the daughter of a Catawba mother and a free black father, Bonds Conway; she gave birth to 7 daughters and two sons, both of whom followed their father's advice and returned to Africa where they thrived. James Churchill Vaughan, one of the sons, became rich selling ivory, palm oil and other products before his death in 1893.

The descendants of Scipio 

 

Vaughan who remained in America included several state legislators during Reconstruction and a high proportion of teachers, doctors and lawyers. Descended from the daughters who remained behind, the Cousins, as they call themselves, have traced eight main family lines: Barnes, Brevard, Bufford, Cauthen, McGriff, Peay, Truesdale and Vaughn. 

“The Vaughan Family story, the subject of intense research, presents “an intriguing and educative historical material, shedding light on African, American, and Diasporic history, by providing a specific example of African identity in the United States,” according to Lisa Lindsay of North Carolina University, author of Atlantic Bonds (UNC Press). 

Mary Elizabeth Vaughan Mac Laughlin [1838-1863], was James Churchill Vaughan’s sister.  She married a Scot named MacLaughlin and had one child, Harriet Josephine MacLaughlin Carter [1856-1917]. Harriet MacLaughlin’s third child, Aida Arabella, married Cornelius Francis Stradford, a renowned Chicago attorney and historic activist, and in turn had three children, Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious, Burrell Carter and Cornelius Francis Jr.  Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious [1922-1997] became the first woman to earn a law degree from the University of Chicago.  In 1973, President Nixon appointed LaFontant to be the first woman Deputy Solicitor General in the Justice Department. Her son, John W. Rogers, at 24 became the first African-American to start an investment management company, Ariel Capital Management in Chicago, which by 2004 became the largest black-owned investment firm in the country, and served as part of the inner circle of the Barack Obama presidential campaign. Another cousin, Laurel Stradford, was Revlon International’s London-based Executive Director for Special Programs for Africa and Europe.

 Yet another relative is South Carolinian genealogist and Cherokee artist Elsie Taylor-Goins. Goins’ Great-Great Grandfather was Andrew Henry Dibble, related to the Vaughans through Dibble’s wife, Ellie Naomi Naudin, the daughter of Harriet Conway and Moreau Naudin. Harriet Conway was half-sister to Maria Conway. Three of their sons, out of 12 children, operated grocery stores in downtown Camden through the latter 1800s and into the early 20th century.  Dr. William Goins was the recipient of the 2008 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for Native American traditions.

Members of the extended Vaughan family include: Lady Kofo Ademola, wife of the first indigenous chief justice of Nigeria, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, who was knighted in January 1957 and in 1963 appointed one of Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Councilors.  Lady Kofo Ademola was the first black female and first Nigerian woman to receive an undergraduate degree from Oxford University  in 1935.  A prolific author of children’s literature, she was the daughter of the Honorable Eric Moore, a member of the Colonial Legislative Council, and Arabella Moore of the Vaughan family. Another descendant,  Bill Sutherland, African-American pacifist and Pan-African activist,  was sentenced to four years in prison as a conscientious objector during World War II and lived in Ghana for several decades afterwards.
As the private secretary to the finance minister, he invited Martin Luther King to the independence of Ghana in 1957 and assisted Malcolm X in what would be his last trip to Tanzania. It’s worth noting that Rotimi Vaughan’s grandfather, Oladeinde Vaughan, himself the grandson of James Churchill Vaughan, Scipio Vaughan’s son, founded the Nigerian Youth Movement, one of the earliest nationalist political parties.  Go Vaughans!

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