Okay, so I’ll be honest…I’ve always been a fan of Bow Wow. One of the first albums I ever owned was his 2001 EP “Doggy Bag,” which I would have on repeat in my CD-player in Middle School (along with Ludacris’ “Word of Mouf” and Usher’s classic, “8701”). Since he is only 3 years older than I am, I felt a sort of kinship; as much as you can admire the plight of celebrity through a TV camera.
|Shad Moss with his daughter Shai. Source: http://d236bkdxj385sg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/bow-wow-1.jpg|
Then reality set in. Not as painful as the day I first saw Dr. Ben Carson on FOX NEWS, but as cringe-worthy as that time Raven Symoné told Oprah that she was not African American.
This week, Bow Wow, now identifiable by his government name, Shad Moss posted this on twitter:
|Source: Twitter.com (@smoss account) via. http://hiphopwired.com/2016/07/28/bow-wow-posts-pic-of-his-estranged-dad-to-prove-hes-mixed/|
“Man i believe what the eyes see. I’m mixed. I don’t know what my ancestors was doing…I’m saying my Moss side of family is NOT BLACK. Heritage Different”
Moss, in response to his feelings on Civil liberties and the Black Lives Matter Movement claimed that he did not feel a complete connection to the struggle of people of color because his Moss family in Particular was “NOT BLACK”. He went on to post this picture of his father Alfonso Preston Moss, highlighting his “Cuban” and “Native” looking features.
As a genealogist, I had to investigate this claim further. I decided to tackle his father’s lineage, and discover the origin of Shad Moss’s surname.
Shad Gregory Moss was born on March 9, 1987 in Columbus Ohio. His father, Alfonso Preston Moss was born in Ohio in the 1960’s as per public records. Although probably incorrectly identified by some websites as Moss’s paternal grandparents, his paternal great-grandparents are likely Frank Pierce Moss (1909-1972) and Ernestine Coggins Moss (1909-2007) both of his birthplace, Columbus, Ohio. I connected the dots after finding names of family members in Ernestine’s obituary.
Moss’s own family history is just the reason why he should be able to appreciate the efforts of of our modern Black activists and embrace his African Heritage.
Please turn your attention to:
Exhibit A: Shad Moss’s Great Grandparents were a part of the Great Migration from the segregated South.
Frank (aka Pierce) and Ernestine were definitely people of color. We can find them together in the City Directories as early as 1945 while Frank worked as laborer in Columbus.
|Columbus, Ohio City Directory (1945); Source: Ancestry.com|
Frank’s movement from his native Georgia to Ohio was a cry for civil liberties, itself. While African Americans left the South in droves in the mid 1900’s to find better working conditions, quite a few of them left to escape the confines of de jure segregation. Frank’s family was from Hancock County, GA. This was a county that did not legally end school segregation until 1965, and in which White citizens created their own private school just to avoid having to follow the law once it was passed. In essence, Shad Moss’s very birth in Columbus is a direct result of Civil resistance.
Exhibit B: Shad Moss’s 2nd great grandfather could neither read or write
Tracing Frank Pierce’s family back to Georgia was tough with the available records online, but given the naming patterns in the family, I am fairly certain that he is the son of Jack Moss and Annie Moss of Hancock and neighboring Morgan county, GA. Here is the census record for 1920 listing “Pierce” with his siblings and parents.
|1920 Census: District 0098, Fairplay, Morgan County, GA|
Moss, Jack (40)
Eddie Mae (3)
Lucy Mae (1 yr, 6 mos)
You will notice the last two columns across from Jack’s name, which are labeled “Can Read” and “Can Write” are both marked “No.” This proves that Jack, even well into the 1920’s had not yet learned to read or write. Before the Civil War, it was illegal for people of color to do either due to their enslaved status, and even 60 years later, the children of those formerly enslaved often did not attend formal schooling to do such.
Exhibit C: Shad Moss’s 2nd great grandmother was buried by the “Colored Undertaker,” after her untimely death.
One of the complications of Black genealogy in the South is dealing with historically segregated communities. People of color had their own churches, schools and even cemeteries. Yes, even in death, Jim Crow pushed to keep communities separate and unequal. When Annie Moss died in 1922, her body was put under the oversight of the “colored undertaker.”
|Annie Moss Death (1922, GA). Source: GA State Archives, Virtual Vault|
Annie Moss passed away as a tenant farmer: a sharecropper. Her cause of death? “Pellagra”: and old school term for a vitamin deficiency that was purported to be the underlying cause of “mental confusion” The secondary contribution was listed as “insanity.” It’s hard to say whether Annie, who was no more than 40 years old at this point, had developed a mental illness contributory to her death. Unfortunately the plague of racism had also seeped into medicine and Science as well. In the antebellum era, Doctors would sometimes use Black women for medical experimentation because of their easy access to their bodies. Other’s held deep set notions about people of color that they were somewhat “inferior because of a difference in biology. We soon discovered that none of this was true. Although more information is needed about Annie’s case, we can assume that some in her case may not have received the best treatment.
Exhibit E: Possibly Born as Slaves, Shad Moss’s 3rd Great Grandparents were in the first generation to be married legally
As listed in her death certificate, Annie’s surname was Moss as well. Her parents were Crawford “Croff’ Moss and his wife, Susie Reynolds. Crawford and Susie were married just 14 years after the Civil War. Only the 14th year in this country that Black people could legally be betrothed. Both of them could have likely been born enslaved, themselves.
|Crawford Moss + Susie Reynolds Marriage (1879); Source: Ancestry.com|
After finding Crawford and Susie’s marriage certificate in Hancock County, GA, I traced the Moss name back one more generation to Shad Moss’s 4th great grandparents Crawford Moss and Fannie Moss. Here they are in the 1870 census, the first enumeration of African Americans after Emancipation.
|1870 Census: Mayfield, District 111-112, Hancock County, GA|
Moss Crawford (45)
Louisa (2) (Not Shown)
Exhibit F: Were Shad Moss’s “NOT BLACK” ancestors former slaves?
There may be some burgeoning proof that at least Fannie Moss may have been enslaved by the local Moss family. When Crawford Moss Jr. died in 1937, his death certificate listed birthplaces for his parents. Although the origin of Crawford is not know, Fannie is reported as being born in Hancock County.
|Crawford Moss Death (1931), Source: GA State Archives via Ancestry.com|
When looking around Hancock county, there are two slave-holders reported with the Moss surname. One in particular was William R. Moss. William died in the late 1850’s, leaving a reasonable lot of enslaved men and women to his nieces and nephews.
|Except from Will of William Moss (Hancock County, GA Wills and Administration Records, Book R, pg. 642)|
“I give and bequeath to Mary Whaley, my niece, the following negroes: Ellick, Ebenezer, Little Claiborne, Francis and Child, and Patsy”
Could “Francis” and her child be Fannie Moss, the mother of Crawford? It’s possible, although further research must be done for a more confident confirmation.
William Moss’s farm is also one of the few to be chronicled in the slave narratives, a project of Frederick D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, set up into interview survivors of slavery.
One such interviewee was Claiborne Moss.
|Claiborne Moss WPA Interview (1938) (81 Years Old, Resident of Little Rock, AK)|
Claiborne described how he was the youngest of 5 children, and that most of his family was split up at the time of Moss’s death. His parents lived on different plantations. Although Bill Moss is described as “good master,” there are still elements of subjugation and power evident in Claiborne’s story.
“Moss sold out and went to Texas and all his slaves went walking while he was on the train.”
He also describes how in Moss’s migration, he left both of Claiborne’s parents with Mr. Beck just to “keep the family together.”
….A family that he owned….
So I get it…
We are nearly 150 years removed from the horrors of slavery, and half a century gone from the days of legal segregation. I understand growing up in a position of privilege, where you wanted for little. Yet, those sacrifices cannot go unacknowledged, and saying that your family is indeed NOT BLACK is a slap in the face to your ancestors Mr. Moss, who are the embodiment of the a true Black American story.
Afterthoughts: I wrote this article in response to an event, and used the genealogical and historical sources, and public records available to me at the time. I invite other researchers and those with additional information to challenge any of the aforementioned points presented on its clarity, verification of facts, or to provide additional commentary.