How One Family Bible Became a Part of National History
The family historian, Richard Allen Collins-Diggs held the flame of his heritage in his hands. In extremely detailed notes were the migration and growth, well preserved in a bible that belonged to his great grandfather, Richard G. Collins.
Denise Diggs is Collins-Diggs’s sister. Currently, she is unearthing a new narrative around this story of her family’s discovery in her new book with the working title of, “When We Pass.” The Los Angeles Sentinel had an exclusive interview and they shared the inspiration that the family Bible has brought them.
As a pillar in their research, Richard G. Collins recorded his lineage amid the pages close to the New Testament. This holy relic traveled nationally through the years, from West Virginia and beyond.
Resting in a box, this hidden archive was ready to be donated, but before it was shipped off, the Bible was saved. Now it sits on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Richard G. Collins worked meticulously to record his family history. His work was described by his descendent, Richard Allen Collins-Diggs, as extremely detailed. It maps out the growth and migration of his family.
In the early 1980s, Collins-Diggs and his wife, Carlotta Yvonne Diggs, were visiting family during a season of purging. Many things that only held up space were on their way out.
Carlotta decided to look through some of the boxes before the upheaval. She came across some books, and a Bible with aged leather designs grabbed her attention. The chapters of the bible revealed a well-preserved history of the Collins family record; sketched in the “family record” section in the word of God.
Richard Collins is the family historian and a 21st-century “griot,” he shares the oral history of the Collins family from Africa to the Americas; using the family bible as the platform to tell the narrative in confidence.
This historical gem went on display in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016, according to Denise Diggs.
“It took time for me to settle into the thought of the magnitude of someone who has survived slavery and built a family and connected his family roots. Just the idea that it was possible,” Collins-Diggs said.
There is an underling feeling that the present events unraveled within this family, started as a prayer with that Bible in hand. In a time of suppression and visible hate for the Black community, the Bible may have worked as place of escape for Richard G. Collins.
“The Bible had been in my home for a year after my mother had passed, but when I actually saw it this year in the museum, it brought tears to my eyes. I did not expect to have that reaction because it wasn’t like I never seen it before,” Ms. Diggs said.
She continued, “But seeing It in that space gave it a different feel.”
Collins-Diggs stated, “Thinking about the trials and tribulations that he [Richard G. Collins] probably experienced and comparing it to my life—how I live, and how I function in the world versus how he had to function, and the huge gap in difference in that experience.”
The family historian continued, “I think he felt that this was his legacy, and it was important to maintain something that would be beyond reach of the society. So, putting that information in that Bible was a way of determining the future of the family.”
The modern-day griot added tips, start documenting one’s family history today, because it’s a never-ending story.
The Collins-Diggs family is continuing the search and welcomes you to connect them with any information in strengthening the family tree. If one is familiar with the name Virginia “Ginny,” Collins who married a man named Morgan White, Collins-Diggs stated to reach out.
Connect with Richard Collins-Diggs at [email protected].