The story

It's often said that a real Southerner can "claim kin" with anyone.

Tony Rand realized the same could be true for him. Rand, whose family can trace its roots back to the 1700s, is a Democratic state senator in North Carolina. Until he watched the 2008 CNN documentary "Black in America," he had no idea that some of his relatives were black. Although firmly anchored in the South, the Rands are spread across the country. What connects them is their link to a common ancestor -- the family patriarch William Harrison Rand.

"Hal" Rand, as he was known to most, was a white farmer and slave owner. In 1842, Hal married Sarah Ann Mullens and they had seven children. Hal also fathered seven children with his mistress, Ann Albrooks Rand, a black woman.

Every other year, hundreds of African-American descendants of Hal Rand get together at a different location for a massive family reunion. It's a time to catch up and share stories, eat barbecue and have a good time. The 2007 Rand family reunion, held in Atlanta, Georgia, was featured in "Black in America." After the program aired, dozens of viewers across the country had the same revelation -- they, too, were related to the Rands. "I was sitting there, that Saturday night, just up reading the week's papers and watching the program," says Rand with a hearty Southern accent. The Rand family's missing link

"Then I hear, 'We are the Rands. The mighty, mighty Rands," he recalls, referring to the words sung by family members as they embarked on their bi-annual pilgrimage. Read full article »

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'Black in America 2'
This July, Soledad O'Brien investigates what African Americans are doing to confront the most challenging issues facing their communities. You'll meet people who are using ground-breaking solutions in innovative ways to transform the black experience.
July 22 & 23, 8 p.m. ET

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