About Ebenezer Ray

During a trip to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem in 2010,  I found my father.  After more than four decades of  searching, it turned out he had long been within reach. No, my dad  – Ebenezer Ray – was not an absent parent. He lived in the house on Shawnee Street in Pittsburgh with my mother, Mary,  sisters Ellen-Marie and Marian (now Malaya),  and me until his death in 1967,  a week after my 13th birthday.

What I knew was that  my father had been a newspaper man. He had worked in the composing room of the Pittsburgh Courier before he was disabled  by Parkinson’s disease. I also knew that he had dabbled in photography: There was an abandoned darkroom in our basement, and there were  lots of photos around our house, including my baby picture, which earned Honorable Mention in the Carnation Healthy Baby contest in 1955. The photo credit from my christening announcement in the Courier says “ERay Photo.”

I knew he was born in 1897, immigrated to the United States from Barbados, and had lived in New York  for many years before settling in Pittsburgh, where he met and married my mother, a much younger woman.

My most vivid memories are of my father sitting on the sofa in our living room,  four females twirling, chirping, bickering around him. He was largely housebound and unhappy. I was young and oblivious. He and I rarely talked.

As I got older and it was clear I was destined to be a writer, my mother and my father’s friends would tell me how proud “Ebbie” would be that I was following in his footsteps. For decades, I lamented the fact that I had not had the foresight to talk to him about journalism, that I’d never read anything he’d written and probably never would. But  thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, I stumbled upon an honors thesis that quoted a column he’d written in 1940 for The New York Age, a black weekly founded by T. Thomas Fortune. I found another, an academic article that quoted a column my father had written for the same paper in 1939.

I headed for the Schomburg with the intention of finding those two articles – I still assumed my father was a printer who wrote an occasional article  – but as I rolled the microfilm reel, it was clear I had hit upon a treasure trove. My father was a reporter and a weekly columnist for the Age for about 20 years, from 1925 – 1945.

In the early years he covered the courts.  His first column appeared February 18, 1933 under the  title “Xcuse Me.”  Later columns were dubbed “As We See It,” “You and I” (only one)  and later as “Dottings of a Paragrapher” and “A Paragrapher’s Dottings.”

I now know the name of his mother, Malvina Alkins, whom he mourned in print when she died in 1936, and his first wife — I assume she was his first — Lucille Manning, whom he married in 1939.

How ironic that as my ink-stained colleagues and I lament the demise of print, the most exciting development in my life as a journalist involves learning how to use a microfilm machine to decipher very old hot type.

I have created this blog to preserve my father’s legacy as a newspaper man and most of all to explore the history that is so much a part of me.

Elaine C. Ray

18 Responses to “About Ebenezer Ray”

  1. Janet Basu August 28, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Elaine, stumbled upon your blog and looking forward to savoring it. What a discovery!
    JB

    • Elaine Ray September 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

      Thank you, Janet. It has been quite a gift. Great to hear from you. How is life? How is Basab?

  2. Otto Williams August 2, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I am so proud of you.

    • Elaine Ray August 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      Hey, Otto. How are you? Thank you for the sweet note. I hope to see you next time I’m in Atlanta. I’ll let you know ahead of time.

      Elaine

  3. queenpoetri876 May 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    First of all, this website and/or blog is one of my personal favorites. I admire your family history, your tenacity to keep it rich and going for the world to see, and I find it all absolutely fascinating. Second of all, your sister, Nana Malayaa, has an addictive personality that shines through in all she does. Finally, your nephew, Lamman Rucker is one of my favorite actors and his work speaks well for itself but I feel such a connection to your family that it’s eerie. But keep doing what you’re doing and more power to you!

  4. AroundHarlem June 5, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    I stumbled upon your blog from a comment you made about Blacks in media and clicked the about page for more info.

    The Harlem connection was a great surprise :-)

    Great website !!!

    • Elaine Ray June 5, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      Thank you for your kind words. I hope you will keep reading. Suggestions welcome.
      Best,
      Elaine Ray

  5. Styln April 28, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    What an interesting and wonderful blog you’ve created here! I love your father’s wit! I share your awe and excitment in finding the gems and tidbits about your family history, as I’m on the same journey.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Elaine Ray April 29, 2011 at 7:13 am #

      Thank you for your encouragement.
      Elaine

  6. Henrietta April 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    This is great, Elaine. What a gift it is to be able to connect this way with one’s past and find that, in your own way, you are continuing an important legacy that is a part of history.

    • Elaine Ray April 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      Thank you, Henrietta! I hope you are well.

  7. Rebel with a Cause February 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I am so inspired by you! I am proud to see your passion for your family. Thank you for sharing!

    • Elaine Ray February 6, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

      And thank you for sharing your blog. I look forward to reading more.

  8. bitchinainteasy January 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    This is so intriguing, I am enthralled by your journey as well as your father’s writings. What an awesome experience…thanks for sharing!

  9. Yvonne December 28, 2010 at 6:02 am #

    Elaine, this is beautiful. I look forward to reading more.

  10. CraftHappy June 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    I am very interested by this and I hope that you’ll continue to research your father’s writings and his past. I can sense a fascinating story here that will also shed great light on your own story.

    I feel the same way about my father’s family. His parents died very young and I didn’t get much of a sense of most of his family memories before he, too, passed.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. WORKING IN PARADISE: Lamman Rucker, Trevor Pretty and Dre The King in Barbados :: CaribbeanCelebs.com - February 26, 2012

    [...] American actor and philanthropist, who is the grandson of Ebenezer Ray from St Michael, Barbados, arrived at the Grantley Adams International Airport Friday for a [...]

  2. Black valedictorians: the sound of history repeating? « My Father's Posts - July 30, 2011

    [...] About Ebenezer Ray [...]

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