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Rediscovered Ancestry: a Family Learns the Story of Their Remarkable Ancestor, Senator Lawrence Cain

Detail from photo montage of the some members of the first S.C.  legislature after the American Civil War, with Lawrence Cain, center
Library of Congress
"Radical members of the first legislature after the war, South Carolina" - Photomontage of members of the first South Carolina legislature following the Civil War, mounted on card with each member identified. (Lawrence Cain, center, third from left)

In his book, The Virtue of Cain: From Slave to Senator (2021, Rocky Pond Press), Kevin Cherry focuses on the short but extraordinary life of Reconstruction era Senator Lawrence Cain of Edgefield, South Carolina. Cherry, Cain's great great-grandson, also tells the contemporaty story of a family with Southern roots, long identified as having some American indian ancestry, re-discovering their true heritage. —

Please note: due to a technical error, this episode was not broadcast on Friday, April 16. It will air on our News & Music Stations on Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and on our News & Talk Stations on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

Kevin Cherry's book, The Virtue of Cain: From Slave to Senator (2021, Rocky Pond Press) focuses on the short but extraordinary life of Reconstruction era Senator Lawrence Cain of Edgefield, South Carolina. He was considered an honorable and virtuous man and helped shape South Carolina politics between 1865 and 1877 as one of the leaders of the Radical Republican movement. He rose above numerous obstacles to go from slave to state senator

The facts of his life had been forgotten by his descendants, like much of African American history during Reconstruction. But they were re-discovered Lawrence Cain's great great-grandson, Kevin M. Cherry, with the help of family, genealogy research, archived papers and genetic DNA results. Cherry is joined in conversation with Walter Edgar and Dr. Vernon Burton, professor emeritus of history at Clemson University, recounting Lawrence Cain’s remarkable life and the social and political upheaval of Reconstruction in South Carolina.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.