Our American Family – Episode 4: The Clarks

Genealogy author and expert Thomas MacEntee reviews Episode 4: The Clarks of the series entitled Our American Family and interviews producer Steve Young

Our American Family – Episode 4: The Clarks

NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of articles about a new documentary series entitled Our American Family available via Amazon Prime. Our American Family seeks to document our American family heritage, one family at a time, and inspire viewers to capture their own family stories – before those voices are gone. Click HERE to view any or all of the episodes and to get a FREE TRIAL of Amazon Prime.

Overview of Our American Family: The Clarks

Our American Family: The Clarks traces the lives of this African-American family with seven children as they employ humor, resourcefulness and respect for all to move through the Great Depression, WWII, and racial tension.

Commentary on Our American Family: The Clarks

After watching Our American Family: The Clarks , I was struck by this observation: a life simply lived can be an extraordinary life. The story of the Clarks centers around Albert Clark, born in 1891 and his wife Emma, both in 1895. After spending time working in Pennsylvania, Albert moved the family to Delaware where he and Emma raised seven children.

Albert began work as a truck driver for a poultry company and remained there for over 40 years. As recounted by his children: Abe, Howard and Horace, Albert was a big man with a gentle soul whose main goal was providing for his family. Their mother Emma ran a household filled with children and there was likely never a moment’s rest.

Despite Albert and Emma’s efforts to raise their children in a color blind society, the children had to deal with the realities of segregation when it was time to attend school. The family also had to scrape by and supplement Albert’s income with berry picking and wreath making.

As one of the grandchildren stated in the episode “This is just our life” and the Clarks endured through many challenges just as other American families had. The Clark family is still going strong with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Albert and Emma Clark who attribute their success to family and faith.

Genealogy author and expert Thomas MacEntee interviews Steve Young, producer of Our American Family

Interview with Steve Young, Producer of Our American Family

Note: I had the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview recently with Steve Young who produces the Our American Family series. Here are the questions and answers related to The Clarks episode and the series in general.

In Our American Family: The Clarks, we encounter an African-American family that encountered prejudice and segregation during the 20th century. However, this was not the main focus of the episode. Did the children of Albert and Emma not want to discuss these incidents or did they feel that in the overall family history, other defining moments were more important?

I think it is important to first acknowledge that prejudice and segregation was experienced by all African-American families in this era. That being said, what the children of Albert and Emma Clark chose to focus on were the friendships that they had in their community with both white and black neighbors and co-workers. The Clarks had the ability to rise above the systemic injustice around them and focus on relationships. And it is clear that principle has been passed down from generation to generation within their family.

After viewing The Clarks, the first things that came to mind were “endurance” and “longevity.” One of the Clark sons interviewed was 98 years old. Albert Clark worked for the poultry company for over 40 years. Do you think that families who plan for the “long haul” tend to succeed better than those who see “quick fixes?”

I do think the Clark family embodies the idea that life is a journey and indeed, a marathon over generations. There is a great comfort in that, particularly in trying circumstances, because one knows that the sun will come up again tomorrow and that what matters most is supporting those we love and with whom we are traveling. There are so many layers to these family stories that we have been privileged to share, and one aspect that could be missed and that I would lift up is how Abe Clark, age 98, still exhibits such a zest for life and commitment to helping others.

The camp revival meeting each year where the Clarks have their own meeting house is amazing! Does this event act as a family reunion for the Clarks and have you encountered other families who attend this type of event?

Summer camp meeting is absolutely a time of reunion for the Clarks and other families tied to their church. It is one of the most interesting aspects of this family’s story and we are so glad that we were invited to film there when producing their story. This is the first time that I have encountered this particular tradition, which figures prominently among many African-American families.  This clip will give your readers a feel for this cherished tradition:

Our American Family: The Clarks — camp meeting clip from Our American Family on Vimeo.

Want to be a part of Our American Family? Submit Your Application

If you are interested in having your family’s story considered for the Our American Family project, please review their requirements and submit an online application HERE.

Help Support Our American Family

Our American Family is a project of Legacy Filmworks, a non-profit organization, and your tax-deductible contributions are greatly appreciated to help the project continue – thank you for your support! Click HERE to donate.


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About the Author

Thomas MacEntee
Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee has been researching his family history for more than 40 years and is the creator of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy Bargains, DNA Bargains, The Genealogy Do-Over and numerous other web-based genealogy and family history properties.