Spotlight on Eric Hackley: Student of genealogy, history

| March 6, 2013


Eric Hackley (Photo: Jeanie Summerville)

Eric Hackley (Photo: Jeanie Summerville)

By Jeanie Summerville

Whatz up, babies?

I have a question for you. Whenever you’re in your kitchen preparing dinner for yourself and/or for a loved one(s), do you listen to some songs that you enjoy so that you can bring yourself some beauty, fun, happiness and peace of mind? Well, I do and I love it! Because it makes me feel so gooood. I especially love listening, singing and solo dancing to a CD that my brother Michael made for me that has all the best of The Isley Brothers songs on it. Once my meal is complete, I turn the music off because now it’s time for the other part of the fun, eating. And, some of you already now of this joy that I’m talking about but to those of you that don’t, please try it, so that you too can enjoy.

On that note, we’re going to bring to you this week’s spotlight and I hope that you’ll read it with an open mind because he wants you to know his perspective of why he does what he does and says what he says in hope, of giving you a better understanding of himself. Because to me, according to the information that he shared, his life can’t be easy. He says that he’s constantly being ridiculed by others and now, he’s being ridiculed even more because of a History Reform Calendar that he created about African Americans that also includes some Indians. He also shared with me, that when he would try to talk with some black people about this calendar to give them a understanding, this is what they’ve said: “Why are you talking to me about some Indians, I’m black? What are the Indians doing for you, are they financing you?”

So in turn, this is what he had to say:

“Hello Frost Illustrated readers. My name is Eric D. Hackley and I think that for some reason this community thinks that all that black people do, is whine and complain about things and they don’t ever have any solutions to any problems, well I want to change that perspective. And, the answer to the question above is, ‘No, the Indians are not financing me because they’re extinct!’ So now, I’m going to let you know why I became a student of genealogy and history:

Eric Hackley (Photo: Jeanie Summerville)

Eric Hackley (Photo: Jeanie Summerville)

“I always knew that on the Hackley side of my family, all of the men before me, since slavery have been self employed and that peeked my curiosity and interest. So when the movie series ‘Roots’ came out, that helped me a lot and I gradually started becoming more interested and started searching for my ancestors. 

“So, I learned more about my ancestors that went way back to the early 1700s but I just hadn’t made any connections to them until I was able to tie it all together. Then I was fascinated when I tied it all together because I learned that Chief Little Turtle’s granddaughter married Captain Hackley and he was a white dude. But, Captain Hackley’s dad’s brother was my great, great, great, great grandfather. Then when I found out that a Hackley from Fort Wayne was directly related to my black Hackley’s and that made a puzzle that I’d been working on for years become clear.

“Then, I found a book that shared that the name Hackley evolved from the name Hacklett and he was an historian writer, the first astrologist and he was also the first professor of that field in Oxford. I also found a cousin who was the first black to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School in 1883. He was also the first black to past the bar exam and later he and his wife moved to Denver where he practiced law. He was also a playwright and editor of a newspaper. The books that I read about him taught that, he was the Jesse Jackson of his time. 

“The purpose of my Fort Wayne His-Story Reform Calendar is to show how the legacy of African Americans and Indians have been equally distorted. The blacks that were enslaved in the 1700s as the freedom fighters were basically just like the Indian warriors. The blacks were fighting either to have uprisings and things like that but they knew that the whites knew where they were and that they would find them. But, the Indians weren’t captured yet and they kept fighting but yet they were saying the same things that the blacks were saying. I’ve read passages about the Indian Tecumseh and you’d think that Malcolm X wrote it. 

“I need the black people to understand that, as far as, my passion to include the Indians on this calendar is because I want you to know about history and how divide and conquer works. It works so well, that we do it instinctively. When it comes to history reform you’ve got to change it by bringing something else to the table that will have a solution to whatever you’re trying to reform. The solution that I’m using is I’m interviewing all of the African Americans that are on this calendar so they can tell their story. Then, we’ll find out that anytime an ethnic group is conquered or divided it’s the same story and that we have a lot in common with each other and the Indians.

“Chief Little Turtle is still in the news today but not as much as he should be and it boggles my mind as to why the Indiana educators leave out the Indians in Indiana history. Even though Indiana is the land of the Indian, no one even questions the fact that there’s no Indians around here and why. So, that’s why I salute the three great Indian’s Ottawa Chief Pontiac, Chief Little Turtle and Tecumseh because of what they did for Fort Wayne’s history since it’s never discussed and I just want everyone to be aware. 

“I also want you to be aware of this: From my experience when I’m focused on a black issue with black people I can’t ever be right. Because there’s always someone that’s going to disagree with me and I can’t get any cooperation. But, I’ve found out that when I have something else over here and we focus on that, that gives all of those folks a common point of interest and with that common point of interest, we can maneuver it and do more things as opposed to being divided. But, no matter what, a lot of blacks are on my case about me being curious about the Indians. So the more they ridiculed me, the deeper I got into it because I am part Indian and I‘m not one to limit myself. 

“To take it a step further, as far as some people ridiculing me, I was at a meeting the other day…and a lady stood up and said‘You know, what we need is more members that love history.’ Then a man stood up and said, ‘black history!’ I knew that was a shot at me because he doesn’t like the way that I bring out the Indians, but that’s not going to stop me. I recently had a birthday and I came to the realization that all my life here in Fort Wayne, I haven’t seen much unity here and I think that’s because of the people that has been leading the communities with organizations obviously have been doing certain things wrong, since there’s nothing impressive to show for it today. I also think that young people has never seen black folks stand up together for anything. So, in the present and in the future I’d like to see that happening and I’m doing my share but I’d also like to see more people having an interest in history because it’s interesting and don’t let anyone deter you from finding out the facts about who you are and where you came from.” 

Now in closing I’d like to say, in this thing called life, it’s about different strokes for different folks and just because someone is different doesn’t mean that it’s okay to be mean to them or try to change them, for your own personal reasons—especially when they’re not trying to change you. Just imagine, if we lived in a world where all of us were the same how bored we would be. So until next week you’ve been Up Close with Jeanie. Bye, bye babies.

P.S. If you would like The Spotlight shined upon you or someone that you know, all in the name of love, just send me an e-mail to I’d love to hear from ya.

P.P.S. I’d also like to thank all of you who have been sending me e-mails to give me some feed back on our journey. Keep up the good work and to those who haven’t please feel free to do so because I’d love to hear from you too.

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