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Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith is taking a deeper dive into Black history

Nicka Sewell-Smith is an expert at researching family history
Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith is taking a deeper dive into Black history
Photo courtesy of Erica Dunlap Photography

Nicka Sewell-Smith is a host, consultant and documentarian with more than 20 years of experience as a genealogist. She has extensive experience in researching African American slaves and generations of their children and is an expert in genealogy research in the Mississippi Delta.

What led you to become a genealogist?

My first project that I had was my own family, and pretty much anything that I thought about doing in terms of professionally, I would try that out on my family project. Back in the days of building websites and things like that, I would ask myself “Could I do that? Could I edit videos?” In order to keep those skills I had developed when I was in college and got my degree for, I would do it for my family.

I didn’t really even think about the fact that I may be necessarily good at research until other people started telling me about it and saying, “You can do this so quickly and so easily.” Or “You just know so much about so many different topics with regard to Black history and stories, how did you get all that stuff?”

It wasn’t necessarily things that I learned in school, but it was things that I picked up and learned about as I was tracing my family history, and then I started tracing the family histories of other people. I often say that there is no better way to learn about the history of the country, state, city, or county that you live in or that your ancestors come from, than to learn it from the vantage point of your ancestors.

What is the connection between Black history and genealogy?

I think connecting Black history to what we’re doing now, which is making black history, we don’t often think about it from that vantage point because we’re in the current. But anytime we can connect what we’re doing today with what happened previously, or we can learn from certain things that took place before, that’s even better for us that are living today and those that are coming after us. Folks always say that history repeats itself, but I honestly think it’s just a remix version of a previous song. It still has all the elements, and the words are the same, but it depends on what your definition of remix is. Remixes in the ’90s, the beat changed, the melody changed, but the lyrics were exactly the same.

Where can people find you?

My website is I also have a web series called BlackProGen Live. We have over 130 episodes specifically geared towards people of color, genealogy research, and everything from how to get started to how to research in specific states. We’ve talked to all kinds of folks, and we’ve even done research on lynching victims or people who were victims of racial violence.

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