“Robersonville” An Editorial by Eric Roberson


I’m a Jersey kid born and raised, but my family is from a small town in North Carolina called Stokes.

It always felt good turning down my grandparents road where cell phones barely worked, and the conversation were better than any show on TV. Well some years ago i was riding with my grandma and we passed through Robersonville, NC. Growing up I would see the signs for this town and thought how cool it was that my last name was in a town. Until that day i really never thought much about it. That is until my grandma pointed at this big old white house and said “that’s the old Roberson house.”

Right then and there it hit me. This was the grounds where my ancestors were slaves. And a chance for me to collect as much information about my limited family history.

I have always been interested in history but this opened a whole new level of curiosity in me. I was so busy studying the stories of my heroes such as Dr. King, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman and the likes, that i never tried to invest in my own family history.

Maybe slavery was such a sore spot that I was only interested in learning about it from afar, rather than the part I was actually connected to.

For days I drowned my grandparents with questions about their parents, grandparents, great grandparents and any one they could remember or knew about before me. Truthfully at first they were a bit hesitant to answer. Maybe they were surprised i was interested, but soon they filled my mind and the paper i was writing on with names, nick names and stories. How a great relative had 5 sets of twins, my great great grand father’s name, Johnny Clayton, and the legendary nicknames everyone had. It was so filling.


I got to understand why my family no longer lived in Robersonville. How there was a mutual respect but clear distance between the white Robersons in Robersonville and the black Robersons in Stokes. How many people including my grandfather’s brother moved and changed his name to Robinson, and how below Virginia my last name was pronounced with a soft “O” like robber, and how above Virginia we were taught to say it with a strong “O” like rover.

It was all a method to distance ourselves from the pain. The sad, brutal history that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for over coming.

No I can not trace my family tree all the way back to Africa, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to color the branches as much as possible.

So for Black history month i want to encourage you to go to your oldest family member and ask them about their earliest memories. Record it, write it down, film it, just make sure you get it so we can pass it down. Because once they are gone so are those lessons, and stories that may possibly bring us closer. It’s not just Black History Month, it’s YOUR Black History Month.

Click to join the discussion with Eric Roberson on twitter! @MusicFanFirst

-Eric Roberson


30 responses to ““Robersonville” An Editorial by Eric Roberson”

  1. Thanks for this! My great grand mother passed away two years ago at 98. She told us a lot about her family and our history, but I do wish I would have written it down or recorded it when she was still here.

    • My great grandmother Nellie Fleming lived in Robsonville, NC. She was married to Henry Harrington. Nellie’s mother’s name was Mahalia Whichard Teel.
      My mother was born in Robsonville, in 1935. Her name was Louise Harrington Riley.

  2. Hi Eric,

    I am your great aunt Jo Ann’s daughter-n-law. (DJ’s wife) Great article! I am from Williamston NC. I enjoy finding out about my history. My family’s website is http://www.williamstonhomecoming.com/Bond, I made it myself from information from older relatives. Congratulations on the grammy nomination also! Mama Jo talks about you all the time!

  3. This is a wonderful article. It brings memories of Family Reunions of when my Aunt Carrie was alive. She was over 100 years old. Oh, what stories. What history.

    I hope that your article will inspire others to seek and to find out more about their history.

    Happy Awakening, My Brotha!

  4. When my Dad passed away last year, my Mom and I ran to the nearest CVS and got a paternity test, took it to the funeral home to swab his cheek and mailed it off to a ancestry link company. Weeks later I was able to trace my family back to the 1700s in Nova Scotia and New Iberia, LA…Funny- we had the same reaction with the “White” Broussards…keep them at a distance and learn more about the more relative side of the Broussard. This story is great because more people need to be encouraged to reach out to elders and get as much information now! Great story!

  5. Wonderful article and I’m glad to see a young person taking an interest in the past and the history of their own family. I’m not from Robersonville, but spent a lot of time there as I’m from one of the neighboring towns so this was interesting! Great article and keep digging and searching, you have to understand the pain of the past to get over it! Be blessed.

  6. My last name is Roberson as well but my husband’s family is from Mobile, AL by way of Loiusville, MS. I am from Greensboro, NC. We also pronounce our last name with the lon”O”. I have always been very proud to have been one of the survivors of slavery. My mom and her 8 siblings grew up sharecropping and this was only 50 or so years ago. History may be painful but it is also empowering, knowing the strength that you are able to tap into……..there is nothing like it. My huband and I love your music; we often joke that you are our cousin because of the last name. Take care!!!!!

  7. Thanks for sharing fam! My grandmother is from the Cherry’s/ Slades’ of Robersonville and grandfather’s from the Lynch’s of Oak City. In the 70’s, my moms and aunt researched our family history at the Martin County courthouse, where you’ll find a lot a info on our history including slave records, marriages etc. They learned, unfortunately, that the courthouse had a fire in the late 1800’s so most records prior to that date were destroyed. The records they kept of our people were meticulous, like any “property” records. I think of the white North Carolina property owners “jacking” our foreparents for their/our personhood, and “extorting” them/us for their/our labor for an entire lifetime, over a period of generations. Makes you say wow, you OWE!!

    • My great -grandfather was Thurston Lynch from Oak City, NC. He died in 1969 in Martin County, NC. I live in Charlotte, NC at this time, still today I meet people who still remember him and his spouse Nellie House Lynch. If you google Lynch Family of Oak City, a very detailed thread was started by a distant relative on http://www.ancestry.com.

  8. My brother I am very proud of you for wanting to know and sharing. Many of the young people I encounter don’t have a good grasp of LEGACY. Too many times children now are born out of wedlock and never carry the father’s name. I am so proud of my son that after a little encouragement and her expressing a desire, he married the mother of his children. Moreover, he gave them my name which he does not carry (at this time). He did it because he recognized how much I value my family Legacy. We have a very rich history that I hope to pass on to my grandsons… Oh did I fail to mention we were blessed with Triplet Boys – Nov 12 2009 – The Legacy lives on.. – Thanks again for the great essay

  9. Very good article! I have an ancestor by the name of Smart Robinson. In early census’ his last name was Roberson. He was a slave in Virginia and ended up being owned by the Troup family in Georgia. Your story is very interesting and I wonder if there is a connection. If nothing else, you have given me other avenues to research. Thanks so much!

  10. Hi Eric,
    This is Aunt Jo Ann. I really enjoyed reading your article. I just wish your Great Grandmother Lee was still alive to tell you more history. I was born and raised in a small white house across the street from the big white house you spoke about in your article. I even had to opportunity to play in it. Image that. They talk about terroist today of today, well I can remember being afraid of terroist in my day and in Robersonville.
    I love what you’re doing. Keep up the good work.

  11. I was very suprised to read your article because it’s so suprising to hear about Robersonville because don’t to many people no that little town exist. I have family that lives in Robersonville. My grandmother who’s name is Mattie Crandell. It’s a lot of history and a lot of black history and that little town.

  12. I dont know if you know me. But my father’s name is Johnnie Burnest Roberson.(If not ask Aunt LouRay and Uncle Dap about me) And I find it extremely interesting to read about my father’s family history. It was something that I found to be very enlightening.

  13. This is so interesting. Our history is very interesting because of the way our ancestors were forced in this country and the way they were forced to live once they got here. I don’t know what part of Africa my great great grandfather came from but those who knew him pass down the story that he told of how he was captured and brought to America from Africa. I hope I can one day acquire more information.

  14. This was very interesting. I recently got information from my grandfather about our ancestry. No I can’t trace back to Africa either, but like you said it’s good to know what we can for now. You’ve inspired me to finish what I started with my grandfather and write down the family history in a more permanent place so that it wont be lost.

  15. I enjoyed this piece ~ As a North Carolinian, I can especially relate to it. You are so right that when our grandparents, or other historians of the family pass on the information goes with them. That is unless we take the time, like you said, to record the history. There is power in our last names – the legacy, whether it is a strong legacy or a weak one our names, first and last are powerful. Thank you for your insightful and enjoyable editorial. Keep it coming… By the way when are you going to tour in NC again?

  16. I enjoyed this piece ~ As a North Carolinian, I can especially relate to it. You are so right that when our grandparents, or other historians of the family pass on the information goes with them. That is unless we take the time, like you said, to record the history. There is power in our last names – the legacy, whether it is a strong legacy or a weak one our names, first and last are powerful. Thank you for your insightful and enjoyable editorial. Keep it coming… By the way when are you going to tour in NC again?

  17. Great piece Eric. As a first-generation Ghanaian-American, I’m fortunate enough to still have family members “back home” in Ghana, but the catch 22 is that, because of this, I often find myself just brushing off the fact that I, for the most part, know where my people come from. But, I always have to find remind myself, that it’s still beneficial to know about my ancestors, etc, I probably have extended family that were enslaved somewhere. So yes, I’m going to take your advice, and reach out to a family member or three once I go back to Ghana. Very good piece once again!

  18. My dad, Leroy, was born in Robersonville in the Andrews family. Some called him Boone. I am looking for the farm that he and his parents and sibling worked. I believe it was Everett farm. Thanks for posting your site.

  19. Wow we have the same grandparents.. My dad was their son Robert Roberson..We need to talk WOW. Please email me.. ThaN k-you

  20. Very interesting article! I have been researching family history off and on for years. I, too, have a connection to Robeson County, NC but I’m not sure exactly how. Alot of my great grandmother’s siblings left the Clarendon County, SC area and moved to Robeson County, NC after her death. I assume that’s where the family may have lived before. They were all Robersons, some of whom married into the Thompson, Humphrey, and Tyndall families. My great grandmother’s parents were named Morgan and Nora/Martha Roberson. I would love to see your family tree to see if I can fill in some more blanks.

  21. I lived in Robersonville NC up to the age of 14. After leaving North Carolina and moving to Queens, NY, I discovered the power and resilience of the people I left behind. Most had a righteous spirit, hard working, family oriented, kind, giving and smart. My saving grace and ultimate salvation came from acknowledging and living out these attributes, I learned from them, being forever grateful. I learned how difficult it is for the academic world or world itself to tell a more balanced view of things. Community encouragement, living out traditional family values, loving and serving God, these are the foundational things I learned and allowed me to thrive. Almost 50 years later I am still healthy and filled with joy. Forever thankful to my Grandmother, Lillian Shivers Bess, who God had Blessed to encouraged me to go about my way changing the world. Having found and discovered my Chosen path, tell the whole world about God and Jesus Christ, my righteous and narrow path.

  22. Hi – I am a 26 year old boy from London trying to find my roots. My grandad was from NC and his name was Eldon Roberson. I know he came to the UK sand met my grandmother because that’s the reason I’m here! Can anyone help me ? I have a picture of that helps!

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