The Ancestors Who Greeted Chadwick Aaron Boseman

Disclaimer: Others have likely researched branches of Chadwick’s family. However, this post is based on my personal curiosity and research, and I have deemed it a great slave ancestral research case to add to my blog.

I joined the millions who were deeply saddened when I learned of Chadwick Boseman’s shocking passing on 28 August 2020, from stage IV colon cancer. His role as T’Challa in Marvel’s award-winning superhero movie Black Panther deeply touched the souls of many of African descent. I was soon reminded that this super-talented actor was also born and raised in the deep South – Anderson, South Carolina – a town I have traveled through several times en route to Abbeville, South Carolina.

Over the past several years, I observed that my mother, aunt, and uncle, who I tested with AncestryDNA and 23andMe, share DNA with many who are either from Anderson or had immediate family roots from Anderson. This was not surprising. Their paternal grandfather, William “Bill” Reed of Tate County, Mississippi, was born in nearby Abbeville County, South Carolina in 1846. He, his sister Mary, and others migrated to northern Mississippi around 1866, shortly after gaining their freedom.

While investigating the family trees of some of these DNA cousins with Abbeville or Anderson County roots, I frequently see the surname CLINKSCALES. The oddity of this name makes it stand out. I realized that scores of white and African American Clinkscales families resided in both Anderson and Abbeville County. Several white Clinkscales had owned slaves. I even discovered that Chadwick Boseman’s paternal grandmother was Ilove Clinkscales Boseman (1911-1989), the wife of Aaron Boseman Sr. (1911-2000), both of Anderson County.

I could not help but to probe into his Clinkscales family. I am not trying to prove if Chadwick and his grandmother were my cousins; I presently do not have any concrete clues to make this claim. However, I desired to find out more about his Clinkscales ancestors to see if they were related to some of my family’s genetic cousins. My curiosity got the best of me and a lot was unearthed. I realized that these findings offer a good case of slave ancestral research.

Chadwick’s paternal grandmother bore a unique name, Ilove. Her obituary was published on 17 May 1989, in the Greenville News newspaper, Greenville, South Carolina, in which I found on newspapers.com. Newspaper obits are excellent resources for genealogy research. For example, although Ilove’s newspaper obit does not provide her parents’ names, it gives the names of three sisters, Charlene, Felicia, and Brilliant, and one brother, Zack Clinkscales.

Typically, researchers are instructed to start with the latest census available to the public (1940) and work backwards. However, for this blog post, I start with the 1920 census, armed with the names from Ilove’s newspaper obit. She and her siblings were found in the household of their father, Moses “Mose” Clinkscales. He was reported as being 42 years old (born c. 1878). See image below. Mose, his wife (Julia Adams), and their children were also found in the 1910 and 1930 censuses.

1920 Census, Anderson County, South Carolina, Martin district, page 3B – the household of Mose & Julia Clinkscales: Chadwick’s grandmother, Ilove Clinkscales, was found, along with her surviving siblings, Charlene, Felicia, Brilliant, and Zack, who were named in her newspaper obit.

Mose Clinkscales died in 1931, and his death certificate from Ancestry.com shows that his parents were Gran Clinkscales and Lucinda Martin. Mose was then located in the 1900 census, residing in the household of his widowed mother, Lucinda, and seven siblings. See image below.

1900 Census, Anderson County, South Carolina, Martin district, page 20 – the household of Lucinda Martin Clinkscales: Chadwick’s great-grandfather, Mose Clinkscales, was found living with his widowed mother. Presumably, her husband had died before 1900.

Since the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, the 1880 census was then researched, and it offered some significant findings. First, little Mose Clinkscales, who was reported as being 1 year old, was found in the household of his reported father, Gran Clinkscales, whose name was officially Granville and whose age was reported as being 27. Second, an older couple, Phillip and Clarissa Clinkscales, who were old enough to be Granville’s parents (ages 60 & 51), lived adjacent to him. Third, a white Clinkscales family, headed by a man named Levi N. Clinkscales, 49 years old, lived adjacent to Phillip. See next image below.

This provided one of two great clues to knock down that “1870 Clinkscales Brick Wall.” Even my own 3X-great grandparents, Jack & Flora Davis of Panola County, Mississippi, were just four households away from their last enslaver’s son, Johnson Burnett, in 1880. Many African American families remained in the area where they had been enslaved. Interestingly, the black Clinkscales’s color was noted as “mulatto,” which indicates that the census taker perceived them as being racially mixed.

1880 Census, Anderson County, South Carolina, Martin district, page 296 – the household of Granville & Lucinda Clinkscales: Chadwick’s 2X-great grandfather, Granville Clinkscales, was the head of household with young Mose in the house. The households of Phillip Clinkscales (black) and Levi N. Clinkscales (white) were adjacent.

Fortunately, Phillip & Clarissa Clinkscales were found in the 1870 census. Granville was in the household with a reported age of 18. Although the 1870 census does not provide the relationships to the head of household, one can plausibly assert that Phillip and Clarissa were Granville’s parents. To add, the death certificates of 12-year-old Warren Clinkscales and 2-year-old Eliza Clinkscales, who were also in the household, show that their parents were Phillip & Clarissa Clinkscales. 

1870 Census, Anderson County, South Carolina, Martin district, page 603 – the household of Phillip & Clarissa Clinkscales: Chadwick’s 3X-great grandfather, Phillip Clinkscales (reported age of 48), was the head of household that contained his 3X-great grandmother, Clarissa Thompson Clinkscales (41), his 2X-great grandfather, Granville, and nine other children.

In the 1870 census, I observed that a 58-year-old African American male named Zachariah Clinkscales lived nearby with his wife, children, and a 59-year-old named Robert Clinkscales in the house. See next image below. Robert was still residing with Zachariah in 1880 and noted as being his brother. In 1870, Phillip Clinkscales and his family were enumerated on page 603 of the census, and Zachariah and his family were enumerated on page 601. The census taker likely walked a short distance between the two households. This underscores the significance of studying the neighborhood.

Additionally, Phillip named one of his sons Zachariah, and even Chadwick’s grandmother, Ilove, had a brother named Zack. Naming patterns are often great clues of family relationships. Therefore, one can plausibly assert that Phillip, Zachariah, and Robert were likely brothers.

1870 Census, Anderson County, South Carolina, Martin district, page 601 – the household of Zachariah & Sina Clinkscales: Chadwick’s proposed 4X-great uncle, Zachariah, whose name made it down to his great-uncle, Zack Clinkscales (1914-1998)

Interestingly, a search in the South Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 in FamilySearch.org yielded the second great clue to knocking down the 1870 Brick Wall. Roll 44 of these records contained a Register of Contracts, Dec. 1865 to Dec. 1866, for Anderson Courthouse. These contracts typically “consist of agreements between freedmen laborers and planters stating terms of employment, such as pay, clothing, and medical care due the freedman; the part of the crop to be retained by him; and whether a plot for growing subsistence crops was to be provided.” (Source) Many of these planters had been their enslavers before Emancipation. A register entry revealed that “Phil & his wife, and Henry & Stewart” were to labor for T. L. Clinkscales from January 1 to December 31, 1866 for “1/3 corn and ½ cotton.” Henry and Stewart were two of Phillip Clinkscales’s sons and were in his 1870 household. Was T. L. Clinkscales the last enslaver?

Freedmen’s Bureau Register of Contracts, South Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, Anderson Courthouse, Roll 44 – T.L. Clinkscales and Phil & his wife: In 1866, Chadwick’s 3X-great grandfather, Phillip Clinkscales, entered into a contractual agreement to labor for T.L. Clinkscales for some type of compensation in return.

As stated earlier, I had observed that a white Levi N. Clinkscales lived adjacent to Phillip in 1880. When enslaved people became free, many were able to reveal the surnames they had chosen for themselves. While many chose not to take the surname of their last enslaver, many did. Several Clinkscales researchers have identified Phillip’s 1880 neighbor, Levi Newton Clinkscales Jr., as the son of Levi Newton Clinkscales Sr. who died on 13 August 1843 in Anderson County. Levi Sr. also had a son named Thomas Leftwich Clinkscales (1833-1890), who was undoubtedly T. L. Clinkscales. T. L. was found on page 604 of the 1870 census, and Phillip and his family were recorded on page 603. Therefore, I asked the question, “Had Levi Jr., Thomas L., or their father Levi Sr. been the enslaver of Phillip and his brothers during slavery?” Fortunately, I found the answer to this question.

In 2017, FamilySearch.org discontinued the use of microfilm in favor of digitized records. To date, their digital archivists and scanners have digitized over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Many of these digital images are probate/estate records, including the estate records for Anderson County. Fortunately, the will of Levi Clinkscales Sr. was found. On 31 March 1843, he wrote the following:

“First I give and bequeath unto my well beloved wife Polly Clinkscales the two several plantations known as the Home tract on which I now reside and the tract purchased by me from Bullock granted originally to Johnson also two negro men Bob and Zack all of which is to continue in her possession and enjoyment absolutely and without reserve till her death or marriage on the condition that she shall support, clothe and educate my minor children at her own expense… “ (Source: The will of Levi Newton Clinkscales Sr., Anderson County, South Carolina, 31 March 1843, Will Book B, page 163)

One can plausibly assert that Bob and Zack were likely Robert and Zachariah Clinkscales, Chadwick’s 4X-great uncles, who likely remained legally enslaved by Mary “Polly” Clinkscales, the mother of Levi Jr. and Thomas L., until they gained their freedom in 1865. Polly died four years later in 1869.  

Since Levi Sr. died leaving a will, he died testate, and his estate was distributed according to his will. These distributions are typically recorded in estate records. Enslaved people are often named in inventories and appraisements of the estate. Fortunately, Levi’s estate record contained the following inventory that included Phillip, whom Polly took possession of in 1843, along with “Negro woman, Miley.” Phillip was about 20 years old. The estate record also named at least 15 other enslaved people who were part of Levi’s estate.

Inventory, Estate of Levi Newton Clinkscales Sr., 1843, Anderson County, South Carolina, Box 4, No. 140: Chadwick’s 3X-great grandfather, Phillip Clinkscales, was valued at $603.00.

The old home place of Levi Newton Clinkscales Sr., taken in 1938, located 10.5 miles southeast of Anderson near Ebenezer Methodist Church: Chadwick’s ancestors labored on this plantation during and after slavery. (Caption and photo source: FindAGrave.com for Levi N. Clinkscales Sr., uploaded by “Cookfmhx” on 17 Sep 2017)

Phillip Clinkscales continued to labor on or near the Clinkscales farm, located about 11 miles southeast of Anderson near the Anderson-Abbeville County line, as late as 1880. He died on 22 June 1892, and was buried at Shiloh Baptist Church in Anderson County, according to FindAGrave. He enjoyed about 27 years of freedom. Undoubtedly, he and other ancestors greeted his 43-year-old great great great grandson with pride as Chadwick joined them on 28 August 2020. Their resilience had manifested in him to continue to persevere and make great movies, including Black Panther, while battling colon cancer. His legacy will live on forever; he is an ancestor now. Our great loss is certainly heaven’s gain. R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman (29 Nov. 1976 – 28 Aug. 2020).

The gravestone of Chadwick’s 3X-great grandfather, Phillip Clinkscales (Photo source: FindAGrave.com, uploaded by “L N M W H” on 7 Dec. 2011)

12 thoughts on “The Ancestors Who Greeted Chadwick Aaron Boseman

  1. Marie A Daniely

    Melvin, thank you for sharing this story. The research and documentation are impeccable. I could hear your voice as I read your accounting of Chadwick Boseman’s ancestry. I know you follow genealogy standards, but it is so gratifying to imagine the ease at which you flow from one document or lead to another. I hope to become as efficient one day.
    I, like many others, thought the world of Chadwick and will miss him in this life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Najeeullah Alaji

    Thank You, Melvin for digging up this big History. I was told by my Older Family members that The Black Thompson’s and Burnett’s also worked on the Clinkscales Plantation.
    Found an old book entitled, ON THE OLD PLANTATION By J.G. Clinkscales
    thanks again for keeping us informed.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I remember as if it was a few hours ago. This family jig saw puzzle is coming together as a complete Story. May We all be Strengthen with the Zeal to continue the Study and Research. I believe that this area of South Carolina, like so many other areas of the South is full Untold Stories that are waiting to be found. We should seek out those older ones who can help complete the story.

        Thanks again Melvin.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Melvin. Superb work. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I wonder if Chadwick knew this much of his ancestral legacy? My hope is that our younger generation of African Americans are inspired to research the identities and stories of their ancestors. Doing so can be so transformative. This research (regarding one from our village who is well known) may help to inspire a few! Such work encapsulates the meaning of Sankofa. I will certainly call out and pour libations for Chadwick’ and his ancestors honor at my next opportunity. Ase’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Melvin, that was simply amazing work. Just another sublime example of how to use sources to test the hypothesis’ you make along the way. The way you weave together the relevant bits and pieces as you work teaches us all how the techniques we learn can be applied. I also enjoy how you illustrate that we have to use more than just Ancestry.

    Kudos for another masterful case study. I am thankful you followed your curiosity, and we all know now that Chadwick is in very good hands on the other side.

    Robyn

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jacqui(higherthanthis)Kennedy

    Melvin, I am in ahh at the writings you presented here, the ebb and flow, precision of the documentation; all so seamlessly connected like connecting the dots. Chadwick Boseman is smiling down on you for helping his family find out from whence they come. You deserve an award, thank you so much for sharing so an exquisite literary compilation. Awesome job.

    Liked by 1 person

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