This project has been my dream since 1967.

I was nine years old and a student at Piedmont Elementary School in Piedmont, West Virginia. We were learning about slavery. In the textbook, there was a picture of Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky. I was curious about him because we shared the same surname. I asked my teacher if she thought that I could be related to him, and she said no.

It was at that very moment in time that I knew that I had to find my Clay family.  My lifelong journey in finding and connecting with my long-lost family has been an awesome and rewarding one! I want to share this story with others so that they too will be inspired to find their ancestors.  During the past seventeen years, I have connected with both Black and White family members. The connections made me feel complete. Family and the truth about family have always been important to me.

My teacher was wrong about my connection to Senator Henry Clay. I discovered many years later that I am the biological cousin, of not only, Senator Henry Clay but also of the boxer and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, poet Langston Hughes, and abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay. We all descend from John Clay who arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1613. His descendants were Black, White, free, enslaved, rich, poor, known, and unknown.

The journey of finding a director and the finances was a struggle but through hard work, dedication, and support of those who believed in the project we were able to tell our story. I want to share the challenges of creating a film about one of America’s most prominent families—The Clays.

A question and answer session with Leontyne follows the film.

Session Number: T152
Title: Clay 1613: An American Family in Black & White
By Leontyne Clay Peck

Leontyne is an educator, author, and family historian. She received her education from The American University, The American University of Rome, and West Virginia University.

Registration is now open at