From Harlem to China: Author Traces Family Tree

Mystery of grandfather’s life revealed in “Finding Samuel Lowe”

ByJUJU CHANG and KELLY HAROLD
April 20, 2015, 5:46 PM

— -- Retired journalist and NBC Universal executive Paula Williams Madison had spent her whole life longing for her extended family. As a child she grew up asking her half Chinese, half Jamaican mother questions about their family’s mysterious past.

PHOTO: Paula Williams Madison with her cousin Kim Yuet Lau.
Paula Williams Madison with her cousin Kim Yuet Lau.
Madison Media Management

“I was like if family is so important, where is our family?” Madison said. Her mother, Nell Vera Lowe, was a descendant of the Hakka tribe from China. She hadn't seen her father Samuel Lowe since she was 3 years old. She told Madison he left Jamaica and returned to China and died there.

“I used to talk to my grandfather,” Madison said. “What I would hear was keep looking for me. You’ll find me.”

PHOTO: Paula Williams Madison's grandfather Samuel Lowe sits with his family.
Paula Williams Madison's grandfather Samuel Lowe sits with his family.
Madison Media Management

“Finding Samuel Lowe”, Madison’s book and documentary film by the same name captured her search. Her research led her to a Hakka Conference in Toronto, Canada. And as luck had it the co-chair of the conference was Dr. Keith Lowe.

“I said ‘Oh my god you are the only Chinese Jamaican I have ever met. And you have the same last name as my mother,” Madison recalled.

Dr. Lowe had not heard of Madison’s mother but agreed to email his family. He received a reply the following day and shared it with Madison. “My uncle says Samuel Lowe was his father.”

PHOTO: Paula Williams Madison's mother Nell Vera Lowe was half Jamaican, half Chinese.
Paula Williams Madison's mother Nell Vera Lowe was half Jamaican, half Chinese.
Madison Media Management

After a lifetime of longing for her family Madison had no idea the lineage would date back over 3000 years. In 2012, Madison along with 19 Black Chinese family members flew to China where they were greeted by over 300 of Samuel Lowe’s descendants.

During the trip a visit to her grandfather’s grave left Madison in tears. “What hit me was that I am physically in the presence for the first time in my life of the remains of my grandfather and it just hit me hard.”

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