“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”
–Alex Haley, Author of “Roots”
Through family papers, wills, oral traditions and published material, a detailed and truly American story emerges about a family whose first generation arrived on these shores in the 18th century as Sephardic Jewish merchants and religious scholars fleeing the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition and European bigotries. In succeeding generations, members of this family evolve into a free family of color that would come into its own during the Antebellum and Civil War era of the American South, and continues on today in Newport, Rhode Island.
The first generation, led by family patriarchs Moses Michael Hays and Isaac Touro, came to Newport during the years leading up to the American Revolution. Their deeds and those of their children and grandchildren have been carried on and remembered by all the generations since. Today, direct descendants of the Touro, Hays and Forresters live on in Newport representing the 8th, 9th and 10th generations. These descendants (Keith Stokes Family) retain a large collection of photographs, books, written documents, and other rare artifacts that date back to the eighteenth century. Their story is one of people of distinctly different cultures and circumstances coming together and persevering as Americans through the most turbulent times of our country’s history. Most importantly, their story is one of belief in the strength of the family as the most important factor in the successful pursuit of the American Dream.
On this site American history unfolds through the eyes of a multi-racial, religious and ethnic American family who were active participants during the most historic events, places and times of our country’s history. From Revolutionary War New England, through Civil War Era Richmond, Virginia, and the Gilded Age of New York and Newport, through World War II, viewers will see and learn a generally untold perspective of American history. The intent of this story is to inspire the viewer to seek out and learn more about not only the history of our great country, but also of the many men, women and families who helped build early America that did not necessarily look like and worship like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.
For information on earlier generations of the Touro/Hays/Myers family and other Jewish families in early America, visit the companion site: Touro’s Journey.
For information on Newport’s rich Black History, visit the companion site: God’s Little Acre (Colonial Cemetery).