At Harlem Reunion, Midwest Rancher Meets His DNA Cousins

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Mar 14, 2007 5:22 PM
Without incident, it would seem, despite the fact that we live in a nation just chock-full of racists, who are just waiting to be baited with drumbeats and the suggestion of interracial dating.

No.

Ms. Higginsen, who runs a school for gospel singers in the brownstone, had organized this special family reunion to welcome to Harlem a newfound cousin she recently discovered through DNA testing.

And in walked the new cousin: a Missouri cattle rancher named Marion West, 76. It was Mr. West’s first visit to New York City, and he stood out partly because of his rancher outfit: black cowboy hat, shiny boots, string tie and a jacket advertising a feed company. But he also stood out because he was a white man greeted by a roomful of black New Yorkers embracing him as a long-lost member of their family.

“Welcome to Harlem,” Ms. Higginsen told Mr. West and his wife, Mack, as the crowd cheered. “Meet your DNA cousins,” Ms. Higginsen yelled to her relatives.

Mr. West’s ancestors owned slaves, and his grandfather fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. But there he was, wiping tears from his eyes and bowing his head in prayer, thanking God for his black cousins.

“Dear God, thank you for this beautiful night and this great family we got here,” he said in his heavy drawl. “My prayers have been answered. We just found the roots. It’s in the DNA.”

Read the whole thing. It's a wonderful story.