The Waynes and Johnsons: Albemarle County, Virginia, Circa 1862 and Beyond

    In 1840, Claude Wayne exerted his God-given right to his property when he relieved himself inside a slave wench named Norma. The resulting child was his, hazel eyes glinting green in the sun, a mongrel if Wayne had ever seen one. Couldn’t stand to look at him. Sold the mutt to Johnson first chance he got. He sired an heir with his wife the very next night. Twenty-odd years later, those boys stood to shoot one another dead. One black, one white—each a rifle-musket aimed at the other, not knowing they share a daddy. Moist, mudded red clay ran burgundy around their feet, mixing one dead soldier’s blood with the next like that through the veins of brothers. Each man stared into the hazel eyes of the other as if looking inside their own.
It is that hazel shade that will confirm the relation of two women over a century later in 2016, a Wayne and a Johnson, stuffed like creamed French toast inside an IHOP booth. The distant cousins will avoid eye contact, not knowing what to say, if words could even be sufficient. Surprised at the way God’s sense of humor manifests, that theywere matched via DNA from an ancestry website—of all things—they agree to meet, for what reason, neither will know. Will this encounter change their lives? There will be no weddings, no funerals, no cookouts, no showers. No more family than any Wayne or Johnson in this part of the world. But, they will shake hands and sit, exchange stories of growing up in the country, even realize they went to the same high school, their churches only a mile apart. They will watch one another, disguise their curiosity, their mutual examination of shared features, under lowered eyelids and genteel sips of sweetened ice tea with lemon.

Read the rest of the story here: “The Waynes and Johnsons…” by Tyrese L. Coleman

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