Three black siblings from Harlem discovered their heritage by seeking out clues about their long-lost Chinese grandfather. One of the three, Paula Williams Madison '74, created a documentary about their search, which culminated with a trip to China for an unforgettable family reunion.
The resulting film, Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China, will be screened at Vassar College on Wednesday, October 29, 5:00 pm, in the Rosenwald Screening Room of the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. Madison, a former journalist and NBC Universal executive, will take questions from the audience following the screening.
Throughout her childhood, Madison recalled her mother, Nell Vera Lowe Williams, saying she had been separated from her Chinese father, Samuel Lowe, at age three in 1920. When her mother died in 2006, bereft at never having known her father’s family, Madison vowed to find her Chinese grandfather’s descendants as a way to honor Nell’s life.
Finding Samuel Lowe draws from intimate interviews with Madison, her brothers Elrick and Howard Williams, and other family members. The 90-minute documentary uses original footage, family photos, and archival footage and documents to chronicle the journey of a celebratory meeting with 20 family members meeting 300 Chinese descendants of Samuel Lowe.
“At its heart, this is a story about familial love and devotion that transcends race, space, and time,” says Madison.
Madison was born in Harlem and educated at Vassar and Syracuse University. She was a founding member of the African-American Alumnae/i of Vassar College. Her early career was spent as a newspaper reporter and television news manager. She had a long and successful career with NBC in New York, serving as news director of NBC4, and in Los Angeles as president and general manager of KNBC. Later she was appointed executive vice president and senior diversity officer of NBC Universal. She left NBC Universal in 2011 to devote herself to finding out about her family’s ancestry.
This event is sponsored by the ALANA Center, the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development, the African American Alumnae/i of Vassar, the Black Student Union, Caribbean Student Alliance, Asian Student Alliance, Council of Black Seniors and the Film Department.
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