A gift

This journey I have been on the last few years discovering Josie, hasn’t JUST introduced me to Josie. I have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. People who have helped me in immeasurable ways. Not just friends and family, but strangers who have become friends. It amazes me how this woman who has been gone for 100 years has been the catalyst to so many new people entering my life. People who have helped and encouraged me to continue searching.

A persons human story tends to break down and spread out into hundreds of little pieces over the years. The pieces are distributed to different friends, family and even institutions. Tiny pieces, by way of memories, photos and documents are not in one persons possession or one single repository. Think of Josie and how many places the pieces to her puzzle could potentially be! Where did she live? Where did she travel? Where did she study? Where did she work? Who did she interact with? Where did her friends live? ALL of these questions hold clues to where a piece of the puzzle may be.

I have been to three universities: Meharry, Fisk and Rust. I’ve been to libraries, court houses, museums and archives in Tennessee and Mississippi. I’ve called libraries, historical societies, museums, court houses and archives from Mississippi to Alaska. I have enthusiastically emailed and harassed people from one end of this country to the other! The names of the people helping me deserve a mention, because I wouldn’t be able to do this without them.

Thank you to:

… Bobby Mitchell for his knowledge of Holly Springs, MS and for introducing me to Mark the court records guy.

… Mark the court records guy for finding deeds in Holly Springs (because in all honesty I didn’t find a single one, he found them all!.)

…Veronica (best name ever) at the Tennessee State Library and Archives for all her help finding resources and her genuine interest!

…Christyne Douglas, of Meharry, sent me my first bundle of information about Josie, it wasn’t much but the value of the materials was immense.

…DeLisa Minor-Harris, of Fisk, looked through the Napier Papers for me, with no success, but I was so appreciative of her time.

…Abigail Focht and Hayley Chambers, from Alaska, for their advice and assistance finding information about Josie’s sister. (not yet mentioned in this blog…but SOON to come.)

…Ben and John Murray, Josie’s great great nephews, who didn’t know her or of her, but helped me figure out some family history AND for their enthusiasm.

…Sandra Martin-Parham, of Meharry, A very special thank you to Sandra, she immediately saw the uniqueness of Josie’s story. She has never failed to assist me in my research and continues to spread Josie’s story. I am forever grateful.

AND last but in no way least, I am thankful to David Wells Givens, Josie’s great grandson. When I came across his name and emailed him asking if he was the grandson of a woman named Dr. Josie E. Wells, he didn’t hesitate to email me back. (…and hesitation wouldn’t have been unusual…lots of people think I’m crazy when I email them!!) He said “yes, I heard she was a pretty big deal in Nashville.” It is to this day one of my favorite lines about Josie. He was right, she WAS a pretty big deal.

Last week out of the blue David sent me a photo of a woman in a cap and gown. He said “I think this is a picture of Josie.” A stunningly confident young Black woman, her eyes focused on the future, filled my screen. I immediately recognized it! Sandra had previously sent me a photo of the entire Meharry graduating class of 1904, but I was unable to decipher which one was Josie. The group photo was too small and unclear. David’s photo helped clarify which one of the graduates was Josie. He had a piece of the puzzle. His genuine enthusiasm and continuing efforts to find Josie and share what he finds with me is a gift. That photo of Josie was a gift.

The measure of my appreciation and gratitude to all of the people who have helped and encouraged me is impossible to articulate. So I will simply say Thank you. :)K

P.S. Isn’t she beautiful?????!!!!!

The images of the Medical school graduates are actually in alphabetical order around the photo. I highlighted Josie.

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