Personality: Lawrence ‘Larry’ Clark | Richmond Free Press

The history of African Americans remains obscure because of the effects of slavery and white supremacy. It is this lack of information that Lawrence “Larry” Clark seeks to address as president of the Greater Richmond chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.

First elected in 2019, Mr. Clark is charged with leading the chapter’s mission to bring to the public the knowledge, sense of discovery and self-awareness that he himself has experienced in genealogical studies in a city and state filled with the untold stories he seeks. to unveil.

“Richmond is central to the history of African Americans in the United States,” says Clark. “Yet throughout this history of racist activity in Richmond, our African-American ancestors were able to survive.

“With genealogical studies, we can learn more about the survival of our ancestors, and we can pass those learnings on to future generations.”

Mr. Clark cites his late wife Patricia’s interest in exploring his own family history as the spark that “ignited the genealogy bug” in him. The two were among many founders of AAHGS in Richmond in 2010.

“Since joining AAHGS, I’ve learned a wealth of information about my ancestry and African-American family history in general,” Clark says. “I am better informed about how our ancestors lived and, more importantly, how they survived slavery, wars and Jim Crow laws.”

Seeking to expand access to genealogy in the Richmond area, Mr. Clark is working to grow the chapter’s membership, improve its use of technology and expand its work with community partners like the Richmond Public Library, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, and the Descendant Project at the University of Virginia.

With 80 members currently, the AAHGS Greater Richmond Chapter is one of the largest branches of the national organization, with virtual meetings during the pandemic allowing people with roots in the state but who live outside of Virginia to join chapter discussions and workshops.

“I am determined to see our chapter continue on its successful path of sharing genealogical and historical information with the African American community,” he said.

Meet a leader in exploring and documenting African American history and this week’s personality, Lawrence “Larry” Clark:

Volunteer position #1: President of the Greater Richmond Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.

Occupation: Retired in 2019 from CarMax Auto Stores after 15 years.

Date and place of birth: 1954 in Buffalo, NY

Where I live now: County of Henrico.

Education: Bachelor of Mathematics from City University of New York, Lehman College.

Family: I was married for 40 years before my wife, Patricia, died of cancer in 2014. I now live with my domestic partner, Artile White. I am the father of four children, grandfather of 10 children and great-grandfather of five children.

The African American Historical and Genealogical Society is: A Washington, DC-based organization that pursues scholarly and educational work on the genealogy and history of African Americans. The purpose of the AAHGS is to provide a membership organization committed to the preservation of the history, genealogy and culture of the ancestral African peoples of the local, national and international community. The AAHGS emphasizes the importance of our history and genealogy by encouraging active participation in recording research and documenting personal family histories.

Date and place of creation: AAHGS was founded in Washington in May 1977. The Greater Richmond chapter was launched in 2010.

Mission: The African American Historical and Genealogical Society, or AAHGS, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that strives to preserve the family history, genealogy, and cultural diversity of African ancestors by teaching research skills and disseminating information throughout the community. Our primary goals are to promote scientific research, provide resources for historical and genealogical studies, create a network of people with similar interests, and help members document their stories.

Number of chapters: AAHGS currently has 37 state chapters. Virginia has four chapters – Richmond, Newport News, Charlottesville and Danville.

Discoveries since joining the AAHGS: Since joining AAHGS, I have learned a wealth of information about my ancestry and African American family history in general. I am better informed about how our ancestors lived and more importantly how they survived slavery, wars, Jim Crow laws, etc. I researched many of my family’s ancestors and found out where some of them were enslaved in Georgia. While researching my family, I was encouraged by receiving from another genealogist a photo of my great-great-grandfather who was born a slave in 1850. Recently, I have studied and learned more about DNA. I am now collecting DNA from my family members. This work led me to discover a DNA link with white family descendants who were the slavers of my Georgian family.

COVID-19 and AAHGS: So, as the pandemic has changed most of our lives, our chapter has had to change, to move to delivering our meetings and workshops virtually. It gave us the opportunity to reach out to more partners and friends. Our virtual presentations were well attended. We have also experienced an increase in the number of members and interested parties who live outside of the Richmond area. We now have members from Arizona, California, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee who have family roots in Virginia. And in recent months, we are grateful to have participated in virtual joint presentations, in collaboration with some of our partners.

Importance of oral history: Oral history is of utmost importance. People should research their older relatives to understand their family history. Much of the information seniors hold in their heads will not be available on any website or in any public document. A crucial step in this process is recording the oral histories your older parents tell you. It is extremely easy for someone to forget what they have told you. And, sadly, they won’t be around forever.

Research Challenges Facing Black Genealogists: A major challenge that African American genealogists face is that prior to 1865 most of our families were enslaved and there were few records documenting the names and relationships of enslaved people. Although this is a unique challenge for African Americans, information about our ancestors can be found in the records of their white slavers. And nowadays, DNA helps uncover the relationships between our ancestors and the families of their slaveholders.

A perfect day for me: Sitting in a park or on a beach, jazz musicians perform.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I watch all the HGTV home improvement and home repair shows.

Quote that inspires me: “Ask yourself what makes you alive and do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come to life. —Howard Thurman

My friends describe me as: Kind, intelligent and somewhat introverted.

At the top of my to-do list: After the COVID-19 pandemic, travel to places where my ancestors lived.

Best late night snack: Peanuts.

Best thing my parents ever taught me: Along with treating everyone with respect, gaining knowledge and education will lead to a fulfilling and successful life.

Person who influenced me the most: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Book that influenced me the most: “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson.

What I’m currently reading: “Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Pedigree” by Blaine T. Bettinger.

Next goal: I am determined to see our chapter continue on its successful path of sharing genealogical and historical information with the African American community. And specifically, I look forward to greater efforts and more progress on the revitalization of African American cemeteries in the Greater Richmond area. I believe that efforts to establish a national memorial in the Shockoe Cemetery area at Shockoe Bottom are essential to uncovering and elevating the stories of our African American ancestors.


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