LAURINBURG — While the Dixie Softball Tournament brought in hundreds of people to Laurinburg, another weekend event brought in plenty of people to the area as well.
The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe, also known as DOMAP, come from two newlyweds who were abducted from the current Gambia/Senegal area of Africa and forced into slavery. They entered the United States through the Port of Charleston, S.C., and were separated. Mike stayed in Charleston to design and build as an ironworker, while Phoebe was “sold down the river.”
Mike worked for several years before managing to buy his freedom and searched the Deep South for his bride — until he found Phoebe and bought her freedom as well.
The descendants now come together for a biennial reunion, traveling to different parts of the country for each reunion. Some well-known descendants include Malcolm Lee and Spike Lee, Paul Nunn, and Clifford Lee. Locally descendants include former Principle I. Ellis Johnson, and Emmanuel and Tinny McDuffie ,who founded the Laurinburg Institute.
Around 74 descendants came to Laurinburg for the first DOMAP reunion in Scotland County. The event was hosted by Laurinburg Institute Headmaster Frank “Bishop” McDuffie.
On Saturday DOMAP was given a proclamation and the key to the city from Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block. Block talked about how important it was for the city to recognize the descendants and how honored he was to do so, because he has seen firsthand some of the great students who have come from the Laurinburg Institute.
“I know a lot of us in the city feel the importance of the Laurinburg Institute,” Block said, “and of all the people that have been involved over the years to make it what it is. So to commemorate the extra special feelings we have for the Laurinburg Institute and the Descendants of Mike and Phoebe, on behalf of city council we wanted to bestow the key to the city.”
DOMAP treasurer Pamela Powell was ecstatic about the key to the city, saying that while they have been given proclamations before since beginning the reunions in the 1980s, they’ve only been given one other key to the city for Tuskegee, Alabama.
“This was really huge for us — we’ve never had the mayor come and speak in such a respectful way,” Powell said. “I think people had tears in their eyes this has been one of the best reunions we’ve ever had. Everyone has been so welcoming and receptive we feel so appreciated.”
The descendants who came to Laurinburg arrived from all over the country, including California, Texas, Utah, and New York. Powell stressed how important the reunions are to those involved and for the children who come “because they’ll be the next generation to continue to share the story of Mike and Phoebe.”
The reunion included a tour of the Laurinburg Institute and a banquet to commemorate the event, as well as to give out awards to family members for the work they do.