My good friend and inspiration George Sizemore entered eternal rest last week after 101 well-lived years.
Uncle George, as he was universally known to his large extended family, was an indispensable source for my 2018 book Uncle George and Me: Two Southern Families Confront a Shared Legacy of Slavery. He was also a fountain of good humor, kindness and homespun wisdom.
With his passing, there can’t be more than a handful of Americans left who are just one generation removed from slavery. His father and grandfather were among those enslaved by my great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Sizemore on a Mecklenburg County, Va., tobacco farm.
Uncle George and I bonded over an eight-year odyssey of discovery about that history, which had been lost to the collective memory of both our families by a century and a half of historical amnesia. He, like me, believed that we – and all Americans – need to confront and come to grips with that history before we can truly heal from slavery’s dark legacy.
Uncle George had every reason to be bitter about the cruelties of Jim Crow and the persistent racial disparities that plague the nation today. But he somehow managed to rise above it all. He passed peacefully at home, surrounded by family. His great-niece Evella Hutcheson had visited him a day or two before and found him in good spirits as always. “He gave us a little sermon on love and good attitudes,” Evella told me. “He never complained. He was always so inspiring. He was always positive, never negative.”
My life and those of countless others are richer because of him.
Thanks, Uncle George.