Brandon Mosley took the question posed by television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” seriously and set out to discover how he came to be in White Plains. His mother told him stories about his great-aunt's successful cosmetic company in Harlem, his grandfather's influential role in White Plains public schools, and his great-grandfather's life as a preacher in North Carolina–and he discovered many more. He wrote a history of his mother's (Marcia's) side of the family in The Tree That Shades Me, which he self-published. In their oral history, Brandon talks about the process of discovering his family's history and Marcia recounts episodes from her life in White Plains.
Marcia was born to Samuel L. and Erma Parham and grew up in White Plains. Erma was a librarian at the White Plains Public Library, and Samuel was the first African-American member (and eventually president) of the school board. Samuel also worked with his sister, Bettie Parham, at the National Beauty Supply Company in Harlem. Bettie founded the business and was one of the most successful African-American businesswomen of her day, exerting an international influence through dealings with African and Central American countries. Marcia continued her family's contributions to White Plains through a career at the Mamaroneck Avenue School.
Brandon says that discovering his families' past launched him confidently into the future. He saw how his ancestors' emphasis on education and determination to succeed paid off and created the conditions for his life. The Mosley's oral history is well worth a listen, and you can supplement it by listening to Samuel L. Parham, Jr. speaking with Elaine London on School House 79 in 1979.
Brandon and Marcia Mosley's Oral History:
Samuel L. Parham, Jr. on School House 79: