There are some names in Knoxville history that seem rarer than others. Cansler is one. In Mechanicsville, there’s a Cansler Street, and on University Avenue, a Cansler Building. Off Western is the old Laura Cansler School, a former “colored” elementary school, now home to Wesley House. And in East Knoxville, there’s the Cansler Family YMCA.
The Cansler family had a big impact on Knoxville in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th. And that name wouldn’t be here if not for a love story. Maybe a couple of love stories.
Most love stories never get written down, at least not in places where historians can find them. Love stories often die with the lovers. But we’re grateful to Charles W. Cansler for writing down his family story, and having it published in his 1939 book Three Generations: The Story of a Colored Family in East Tennessee. That book, narrating the story of Cansler’s unusual family, preceded Alex Haley’s Roots by 37 years. Indeed, Cansler could be called a pioneer of the African American genealogical narrative. Join us in this podcast for a look at his fascinating story.
Written by Jack Neely and read by Don Thress. Sound design and editing by Pete Carty. Theme song composed by Mike Stallings.
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