This post brought to you by MassMutual. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Girl Next Door is Black.

Father and Daughter in San Francisco | The Girl Next Door is Black
With my dad in San Francisco years before I moved to the City.

Lately, my dad is prone to falling into reflective reveries during which he shares stories from the past with a forthrightness that is surprising given how miserly he’s been with details previously. He’ll affect what my sisters and I call his “Professor [Our last name]” voice and begin his oration: “You know, Keisha, our family…”

Just last April I learned about the six brothers – including my grandfather several generations removed – who together escaped from the plantation where they were enslaved. Had they not made a run for freedom, an entire family line may never have existed! It awed me to think of the strength and fortitude these men possessed. I’m related to people like that!

Yesterday, I asked my grandmother, who is her late 70s, (she doesn’t look a day over 60 and I told her she could score herself a hot 60-year old boyfriend) about her grandmother, my great-great grandmother. I wanted to know if she could read and write.

A tweet I read a couple of weeks ago reminded me that for some black Americans, they are only the second or third generation of readers in their family! That’s incredible when you think about it. If the idea is that each generation surpasses the one before, boosted by the foundation laid by past generations, not having the basic ability to read and write puts one at an extreme disadvantage.

Grandmother and granddaughter | The Girl Next Door is Black
With my grandma when she came to visit me in Los Angeles a few years ago.

As it turns out, my great-great-grandmother had basic schooling and could read and write on that level. My great-grandmother also knew how to read and write and my grandmother is a retired longtime educator, so reading and writing was her bread and butter.

I’m pleased to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month with their #JourneyofYou campaign. Thanks to the family who came before me, my journey is that much less arduous. I strive to live my life in a way that honors their legacy.


How has your family helped pave the way for you? How do you honor the legacy of your ancestors? Share the #JourneyofYou in the comments. You can also visit MassMutual on Twitter or MassMutual on Facebook and share your story there using #JourneyofYou.

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  • BritishMumUSA
    February 18, 2015

    Your grandmother is adorable looking. My mother worked her buns off so that I could attend college, I thank her and her mother. Both of them instilled in me an amazing work ethic. Here’s to hoping I have done that and more for my children. I never even thought that several generations back would not be able to read or write. It is amazing to think about.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      February 19, 2015

      I will tell my granny you said that; she’ll get a kick out of it. 🙂

      Sounds like you come from some strong, hard-working women!

      The literacy thing really gave me pause. It’s heavy.

  • lifeofatravelingnavywife
    February 15, 2015

    This is awesome. I just told my husband, “If Keisha knew how much I want to meet her and how obsessed with her blog that I am,” she might call the police! I truly love learning about your life. Great read.

  • susielindau
    February 10, 2015

    I should tell my husband that he should start affecting a professorlike dialect next time he expounds on his early days! Ha!
    Amazing history. Thanks for sharing!

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      February 11, 2015

      Haha, yes, if your husband does that, at the very least, you should get some laughs from it.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • cielorasca
    February 10, 2015

    Great post, Keisha! Uncovering family histories never gets old.

  • Very Bangled
    February 10, 2015

    I love learning family history.