Inspirational speaker, author, and storyteller Regina Mason shared her story in Savannah, Georgia for the first time Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at Savannah State University. Savannah is important to her story because that’s where her great-great-great-grandfather William Grimes, runaway slave, escaped from.
William Grimes was the product of a rape. His father was one of the most wealthy planters in Virginia. He had four sons; two by his wife, one, Grimes, by a slave and another by his own maid servant. As a result of being fathered by a white man, Grimes skin tone was extremely light and he was able to pass as white. This played a key role in his journey as a runaway slave.
Mason dedicated 15 years of her life trying to connect William Grimes to her bloodline. The seed of her research was planted early on with a fifth grade class assignment about origin and ancestry. She desperately wanted to know her heritage and where she came from. At that time she didn’t think she had a history worth proclaiming. As a young girl, she learned about slavery and declared all things related to the topic as negative and demeaning. It wasn’t until her adult life, Memorial Day of 1993, that she was able to connect her family’s heritage to something positive and powerful. On that day, her Aunt Katherine presented her with a family bible that listed William Grimes as her relative.
“I was so overcome with emotion,” said Mason, “That was easily one of the best days of my life.”
Mason is the direct descendent of the first runaway slave to write a narrative. Grimes’ story predates all of the other slave narratives, from Fredrick Douglass to Nat Turner and so on but yet for years it has been the least popular. Mason has set out to publicize her great-great-greatgrand father’s story like he wished. In addition to performing The Raw Truth: A Slave Descendant’s Soliloquy as narration and film she acted as Executive Producer of the film documentary Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes. Mason premiered the film on Savannah State’s campus where the event was opened to the public. The emotion-filled screening received a plethora of applause from the audience. Mason plans to continue spreading the story of William Grimes through the nation. She says she will share her legacy with whoever will listen.