In celebration of Black History Month with MICDS’ Passport Series, Pamela D. Williams, mother of Eleanor Cheers ’26, discussed how genealogy has inspired her as an educator, student, and mother. Researching family history started as a hobby and has led to some fascinating discoveries. Williams primarily works on genealogy on her father’s side since she has been able to trace ancestors back to slavery. One of her ancestors, Mark Hughee “M.H.” Gassaway, was born into enslavement and went on to become the Inaugural President of the Anderson County, South Carolina NAACP chapter. He and his wife, Carrie, were instrumental in educating and advocating for Black students and residents of Anderson County starting in the late 1800s. Pamela also shared that her grandmother (who was M.H. Gassaway’s niece), Nadine Garrison Williams, also of Anderson County, continued his work by becoming the first Black teacher to integrate Palmetto High School. Her grandmother also made history by becoming the first Black member of the Anderson County School District One in 1978. A new documentary, Williamston’s Black History, features her grandmother’s accomplishments in episode 7, “Mother Nadine Williams.” Williams draws a sense of pride to keep the family legacy alive through her career in adult and higher education.
Williams maintains a busy schedule as an instructional designer at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri St. Louis, and a mother to a rising ninth-grader. She is also a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Incorporated – Metropolitan St Louis Chapter. Expressing gratitude for the opportunity to share her family’s history, Williams closed her remarks conveying optimism for pursuing new family research projects. She also thanked the Passport Series, the African-American Support Committee, and the MICDS community for organizing the event.
A big thank you to Pamela Williams for sharing her family’s important history and story with fellow MICDS parents and guardians!