According to Fox 47 news, a Lansing man has discovered the 70-year-old love letter that led his mother to move from the south to Michigan.
Kenny Turner was born and raised in Lansing. He recently discovered a love letter from more than 70 years ago. That letter was written by his father, William Turner, to his mother, Vellmerie Turner, and it was wrapped in lamination to protect it from damage. It gave her step-by-step instructions on how to leave her small hometown in Alabama and meet him in Lansing, Michigan.
Turner read the letter aloud on the steps of what was originally Lansing’s downtown railway station.
“Dearest Darling, I received your sweet letter today and was more than thrilled to hear from you. I’m doing fine, and hope you all are likewise.”
Turner took down the letter’s address and date, as well as his father’s cursive handwriting, which is no longer taught in schools.
“He was living at the time at 910 William St. in Lansing, and this was April 11, 1951. Yeah, you can see it. My dad had excellent penmanship,” said Turner.
“I want you now, I didn’t want to leave you. Those two nights and days with you taught me more than the whole three years I spent courting you. Had I known married life would be that sweet, you would have been my wife before even that,” Turner’s father wrote.
Turner said the letter revealed a side of his father that children rarely see. The letter then went on to give specific directions.
“Its name is The Georgian. Catch it. It leaves about 10 minutes after The Hummingbird gets there. It will bring you to Chicago, then you catch the Grand Trunk Western, get a Red Cap to carry your bags, and tell them which train you want to catch. That train will bring you to Lansing,” William Turner wrote.
Vellmerie’s travel north was motivated by this letter, and she left her family behind in search of love and a new life.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I never knew that letter existed. My mom never said anything about it, and I really wish I had a chance to sit down with them to discuss that whole migration,” said Turner.
The Great Migration occurred during the early and mid-nineteenth centuries, when many Black families moved north in search of a better living. The love letter is historically significant and provides a glimpse into what that journey would have been like.
“That was something that happened all over the United States in the big cities, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, as part of the Great Migration, which occurred from about 1913 till about 1970, and that was the influx of Southern African Americans coming to the North for good jobs and actually to escape Jim Crow,” explained Bill Castanier, president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing.
According to the United States Department of State, According to the 1950 census, Lansing had little over 3,200 Black inhabitants. By 1970, there were around 12,000 of them.
“We got so many families here. The Culpeppers, Byers, Looneys, Wills and Davis. I mean, all those families moved up here,” said Turner.
Turner felt his mother’s presence as he traveled the same railroad lines where she arrived seven decades ago.
Beginning September 24th, the Turner family letter will be enlarged and shown as part of a display commemorating the Great Migration at The Knapp’s Center in Lansing.