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AncestryDNA

In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to the state of Louisiana.

And Jeremy Alexander — an executive assistant at Georgetown University — is a direct descendant of one of them.

[rebelmouse-image 19528648 dam="1" original_size="750x346" caption="All screenshots via Upworthy." expand=1]All screenshots via Upworthy.


Alexander learned of his lineage thanks to an AncestryDNA test that he took in 2014. It was an astonishing discovery and one that gave him a clearer picture of his identity and, more importantly, the history of his family.

"It's a good sense of mind just to be able to call their names," he says. "To identify, to make them human."

What followed is a moving story of self-discovery — for Alexander, for the descendants of the 272, and for Georgetown. Check it out right here:

"He took a DNA test and found out he is a descendant of slaves who were owned and sold by the institution he currently works for."

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

It all started when Alexander wanted to know just how far back his roots go.

Since 2008, Alexander and his wife, Leslie, started building their Ancestry family tree right after their son was born. They wanted to trace their family history back as far as they possibly could in order to learn the names of distant ancestors over multiple generations.

Alexander building his family tree on Ancestry.com.

He'd been curious about where he came from and would even ask his elders to tell him stories about relatives he was never able to meet.

So it was no wonder that Alexander was ecstatic when he was finally able to take the AncestryDNA test to dive deeper into his heritage. And Ancestry made it easy to connect with a family member Alexander had never met, who had some interesting information about her own story — that turned out to be part of his story as well.

"I received an email [through Ancestry] from Melissa Kemp, my third cousin, that I was a descendant of the Georgetown 272 slaves that were sold back in 1838," he remembers. He was the descendant of Anna Mahoney, who later became Anna Mahoney Jones, a woman who, with her son Arnold and her sister Louisa, were transferred from Alexandria down to Louisiana in this sale.

The Katherine Jackson Ship manifest with Anna, Arnold, and Louisa Jones' names on it. Seeing this document, and the age of her son Arnold, had a profound impact on Alexander because his son was the same age Arnold was at that time. Image from National Archives and Records Administration, via Ancestry.com

"I couldn't believe that she just told me this information. I had to tell her, I said, 'You have to understand, Melissa, that I actually work for Georgetown University. That's where you're talking to me right now. I'm sitting here in my office.' She was blown away."

Soon after Alexander learned about his connection to Georgetown, the university also decided to finally make amends for its history of slavery and offered a formal apology.

"We hosted two major events," says Marcia Chatelain, associate professor for the history department at Georgetown. "The first was to offer a formal apology to the descendants of the 272, and then we rededicated two buildings on Georgetown's campus."

It was a truly powerful event for Alexander and one that moved him to tears. No doubt the message that Georgetown delivered was one he'll remember forever.

"As we seek to more deeply understand our story," said Georgetown president John J. DeGioia, "we too deepen our understanding of our shared American story."

"We offer this apology for the sins against your ancestors."

A deeper appreciation of our past can undoubtedly light the way toward a more unified future.

"It was so powerful," Alexander says about the event. "It brought me to tears because I never expected to hear anyone apologize, to say they are sorry to me for their acts of slavery."

"I look at that as a wonderful first step in terms of a healing process," he adds.

"When you really look at the whole event," he continues "and especially even the messages after that, everything was about, 'Let's get through this healing process together.'"

Now, Alexander is looking to the future and hopeful that his son, Jesse, will grow up in a different world.

Unlocking the richness of his past has changed Alexander's approach to fatherhood for the better. Plus, with Georgetown setting a new tone for the future, he is less worried about the challenges Jesse might face.

"My son is really going to have a great sense of pride to know that he came from strong people," Alexander says. "All we can wish is that he will do better in America. And that's what we wish for Jesse, is to have that better opportunity."

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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