A Documentary Film Project by Magnum Opus Films
Help Us Tell The Story of Discovering Where Our Ancestors Were Enslaved
Where I Got My Name: A Story of Struggle and Self Discovery
My Good People,
I just got back from taking my sons on a life-changing journey to Mississippi and Louisiana where we went to the sites of the plantations on which our family members were enslaved. There we began making a documentary film about our experience—but we need your help to finish the project. The YouTube video above is a 13-minute documentary on our family's history made before we embarked on our journey. While this story is of immeasurable significance to our family, it is also vital for everyone to learn how the history of slavery shapes our society today.
My name is Gerald Darensbourg Lenoir Jr. Lenoir is my family name. Darensbourg is also my family name, my grandmother’s maiden name. For the past 20 years, I have been researching both sides of my lineage. From May 31 to June 6, 2023, I embarked on a journey to discover my roots in Mississippi and Louisiana. My two sons, Jamana Lenoir and Jesse Hagopian (AKA J.D. Lenoir) joined me on the journey, along with my friend John Jernegan. We all played an indispensable role in recreating the story of our ancestors’ lives.
Through our small family-owned company Magnum Opus Films, we are launching a project to tell the story of the enslavement of our people on the Lenoir plantation in Morgantown, Marion County, Mississippi and the Darensbourg plantation in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. We also traveled to Jayess, Walthall County, Mississippi to the gravesite of my great grandparents Thomas H. Lenoir and Laura Ratcliff Lenoir. There, we met with distant Ratcliff/Ratliff relatives who still live on land owned by our ancestors. "Where We Got Our Name: A Story of Struggle and Self Discovery" will be the story of our family and millions of enslaved and emancipated families.
We are launching this campaign on Juneteenth, a national celebration of Black emancipation! We are asking you to support this project in any amount that you can.
Our goal is to raise an initial $8,000 to finance trips to the South to conduct interviews and research and to cover other pre-production costs. Jamana is studying documentary filmmaking at Laney College in Oakland, California and will be enrolled at San Francisco State in the fall of 2023 to continue in that major. He videotaped our journey at every stop. He also produced the initial documentary.
Jesse, Jamana, and Gerald at the Lenoir Plantation
Jesse is a high school teacher and he knows the history of slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow South, and the Civil Rights Movement in detail. He also is a blues musician and vocalist, playing primarily harmonica but also piano and acoustic guitar. Jesse will help with the soundtrack and historical background for our documentary. The music you hear in Jamana’s initial documentary is Jesse on harmonica and vocals, along with Dan Rappaport on guitar, a duo in the band The Blue Tide.
John is a photographer and shot still photos on our Journey. He also has expertise in genealogical research and took the lead in searching through property records in Mississippi and Louisiana for our ancestors. He and I will continue to conduct research in both states and online.
This documentary project is important to our family. But it is also important to the nation at a time when we face increasing erasure of Black history in many states and when the demand for reparations is louder than it has been in decades.
We hope you will support us with donations in any amount. Thank you.
You can read Jesse's article, Celebrating Juneteenth by Emancipating History, about our journey and this project in The Nation magazine.
Dr. Ibrahima Seck, Director of Research, Whitney Plantation, St. John the Baptist Parish, LA
Cheryl Gaudet, Historian/Tour Guide, Whitney Plantation, St. John the Baptist Parish, LA
Louis Morgan, Ph.D., Director of Library Services, Lee University, Cleveland, TN
John, Jesse and Gerald searched property records in Mississippi