Remembering Our Ancestors: I Vote for Adolphus
As the last day to vote for president approaches in America, the nation is literally divided and distressed. A plethora of unfathomable events have broken out the country over. All matter of voter suppression is taking place in real time. On Sunday, Trump supporters surrounded a Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign passenger bus in Texas. While In North Carolina yesterday, police pepper sprayed protestors who were peacefully marching to the polls. My goals is not to change the outcome of the election, I just want you to know that my vote is for Adolphus.
No, Adolphus is not a contemporary of Kanye West asking to be written onto the ballot. Adolphus is my great-great grandfather. I know this may sound confusing but allow me to explain. As the world protested the heinous killing of George Floyd this summer, I turned to my roots to find answers to this chaotic world of inequality.
I joined Ancestrsy.com, took a DNA test, talked to my family, blew the dust off my library card, did extensive and expensive research and covered myself with the dirty roots of my family tree. I found gruesome stories of rape, slavery, and murder. I found hopeful stories of businesses owned and sprawling properties. I found a rainbow of races and long buried family secrets. Most importantly, I found Adolphus.
Adolphus Johnson Marable is my great-great grandfather by way of my father’s mother. He was born in Georgia around 1840 -1850-ish. His mother was an unnamed black slave (probably Jamaican) and his father was a white farmer named James.
I learned from official documentation my dear old grandpa got into a bit of legal trouble. Quite frankly Adolphus went to jail. Was it for murder? Nope. Burglary? Nope. Kidnapping? Nope. On February 21, 1877, my 21-year-old (his birthday was never formally recorded so age is not certain) great-great grandfather was convicted in Clark County Georgia for illegally trying to vote.
His conviction date corresponds with one of the biggest presidential elections in American history where like today, the country was divided.
The presidential election of 1876 could have been the start of another Civil War. The race was between Rutherford B. Hayes, Republican governor of Ohio, and Samuel Tilden, the Democratic governor of New York. The election itself was riff with voter suppression of free blacks, beatings, lynching, and voter fraud.
Black people were largely Republican at the time and after slavery free black men had the right to vote. Largely, Black people wanted a win for the Republican party so that a military presence would stay in the South and they could continue to enjoy their new freedom and human rights after the Civil War with the aid of military force. Southern whites conversely wanted a win for the Democrats so they could take back control of the South and abuse African Americans.
Somewhere in the mix of all that mayhem was our story’s hero, Adolphus, a 5’6 young black man who just wanted to exercise his right to vote. However, Adolphus was convicted of “illegal voting” in February 1877 while there was still a race to count ballots before the presidential inauguration coming up in March.
Adolphus- though technically mulatto, with a white father and a black mother – was looked at as a ‘colored’ unworthy of casting a vote in an election that would greatly effect the course of his life and the lives of all black people for generations to come – including his great-great granddaughter who was born 88 years after his last breath.
Hayes eventually won the vote, but with an exceedingly steep price. He won the White House, but in exchange he had to let go control of the South, thusly ending the Reconstruction era and leaving disenfranchised blacks at the mercy of Southern whites who were still bitter after losing the right to enslave African Americans after the Civil War. Jim Crow now enters the South.
On November 3, 2020, I vote for freedom, I vote for democracy, I vote for change, and most importantly I vote my great-great grandfather Adolphus Johnson Marble. My ancestor risked his life by going to the polls on November 7, 1876 so that the future of his children would be secured. He did this heroic act, so that every extension and expression of his seed would be treated fairly and equally.
Though the 1876 election did not actually bend in favor of the black race as he hoped, what’s the problem with his great-great granddaughter giving it another try for our family 144 years later?
I vote so that 144 years from today and maybe 88 years after my last breath, my great-great granddaughters and grandsons can enjoy a country that is safe, free, and equal.
Though I never meet Adolphus and all I have is a picture of his brother Morris, his son George Washington Marable, and his niece Aldora Marable named after him-. I love my grandfather and I am thankful for his brave sacrifice and the sacrifice of others like him -such as Abraham Woods, John Lewis, Fred Shuttlesworth, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, and millions more.
On November 3rd, I vote for Tamir Rice, Trayvon Emmett Till, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Virgil Ware, and Johnnie Robinson because racism wouldn’t allow them to grow old enough to gain the right to vote.
On November 3rd , I vote for Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Philando Castile, George Floyd, and Walter Wallace Jr. since they weren’t given the privilege of making this years election.
On November 3rd, I vote for my family – I vote for Adolphus.
Who are you voting for?