Hill Country native Jordan Gass-Poore‘ looked into her family’s Confederate ties in an episode for the Southern Poverty Law Center podcast, “Sounds Like Hate.” She told Texas Standard she investigated one ancestor, in particular, who fought for the Confederacy but whom no one seemed to talk about.
“My family didn’t talk about this,” she said. “We have numerous family members who are really interested in genealogy, and it just really surprised me that nowhere in any of our books on our family history did this Confederate ancestor show up.”
Gass-Poore’ says once she did broach the subject with relatives, she found they had a variety of opinions.
“It runs the gamut between being very proud of the heritage and being very proud of having a Confederate ancestor to, hey, you know what? We had this Confederate ancestor, but it really doesn’t mean anything to me; it happened in the past, you know, let’s move on,” she said.
She fell somewhere else on the spectrum – wanting to acknowledge the ancestor, but also wanting to better understand him and how his legacy might still have influence today.
Gass-Poore’ says one of her biggest fears while working on the episode was that she’d find out her ancestors had owned slaves. She says her hands were shaking when she spoke to the historian helping her investigate. Then it dawned on her that fear wasn’t a productive response. Gass-Poore’ decided confronting the “uncomfortable” truth head on could help her better understand her ancestor and her family, and even society at large, today.
“[Do] not be afraid of what you might find,” she said. “What I’ve really learned throughout this whole process is that because I’ll never be able to meet this person, my Confederate ancestor… what I can do to interpret his actions is to look at his actions, that we all have choices in our lives and that actions have consequences, even leading up to the present day.”
Gass-Poore’ says she’s now focused on helping other people have hard conversations about the Confederacy and slavery with their own families.