By Regie Stites

Bird’s Eye View of Clinton, Illinois — 1869

Andrew Jackson Smith is, without a doubt, an American hero — but for more than a hundred years, his heroism was ignored and all but completely forgotten. Heroes are not easy to find, especially in rural, small-town America. When one turns up, out of the blue, we should do everything we can to make sure we remember and honor them. Smith earned the highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor. He was one of twenty-five Black soldiers whose bravery under fire during the American Civil War earned them this rare commendation. …


Seek Truth from Facts

The triumphant, bald ignorance of Donald Trump was once again on public display as he tweeted his congratulations to “the Great State of Kansas” for the Superbowl win by the football team from Kansas City, Missouri.

It was a simple mistake, one in a long string of simple mistakes based on ignorance. But not all ignorance is so innocent or so seemingly inconsequential.

Few things are as dangerous as willful ignorance. Simple ignorance is easily dismissed. It’s a mistake knowledge can erase. …


1660 Castello Map of New Amsterdam

The history of border walls is a long unbroken series of failures. Erecting an imposing physical barrier to keep aliens out is a fool’s errand. Case in point, the present occupant of the White House — a man who knows nothing of history and is fueled by a pretentious belief in his own power to act as savior and protector of white America — is fixated on the idea of a wall on the southern border to keep Latin American immigrants out. This wall, too, will fail.

Walls mark borders. They do not make borders impenetrable. Inevitably, people find their…


Racial disparity in ownership of American farmland reveals plainly the long-term effects of institutional racism in America. Land is wealth. White Americans are about seventy-five percent of the U.S. population and own more than ninety-eight percent of privately-owned U.S. farmland, more than 856 million acres. African Americans are about twelve percent of the population and own less than one percent of private farmland. Native Americans, about one percent of the population, own less than half of one percent.[i]

Long before America became the “land of the free,” it was, for my white ancestors, the land of free (or very cheap)…


For white Americans like me, finding illustrious people in the distant roots of the family tree is not so difficult. It’s partly just a matter of numbers. Go just ten generations back and we all have more than a thousand eighth great-grandparents. In my ancestral line, more than half the couples in that generation were living in the American colonies. Add in the great aunts and uncles and cousins and the numbers get even bigger.

If you don’t at first find the notable ancestor you are looking for, you can invent one. Creative ancestry is more common than you might…


There is a story I puzzled over as a child, a story about a nineteenth century journalist who went on a quest through the untamed wilds of Africa looking for a lost white man, Dr. David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary, abolitionist, and renowned explorer who had gone missing on an expedition to locate the source of the Nile.

The journalist was an American, Henry Morton Stanley. On assignment for the New York Herald, Stanley set out to locate Livingstone in 1871. Over a period of eight months, Stanley’s entourage trekked across East Africa in search of Livingstone. Finally, following up…

Regie Stites

Author, archival archeologist, ancestry investigator

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