‘Invented Before You Were Born’ to premiere in Elgin


CHICAGO — “Invented Before You Were Born” is a documentary bringing together the descendants of a former slave owner in Kentucky and the descendants of some people he enslaved and later freed.

Filmmaker Jonathan Knight, historian and journalist Le Datta Grimes and Traci Ellis, who is one of the descendants, joined WGN Weekend Morning News to talk about the documentary.

“A letter came to me and I read it and it was an invitation to come to Kentucky,” Traci Ellis, the Elgin resident said.

In 2019, Ellis traveled to Russellville, Kentucky to meet the descendants of Major Richard Bibb who her ancestors were enslaved by. While she was hesitant and curious, she says the journey turned out to be a gift.

“It was an amazing and powerful experience and the most powerful thing to me was this realization that we are all cousin,” Knight said.

Bibb freed people he enslaved decades before the civil war and efforts are underway to turn the former plantation into a museum.

Grimes says what Bibb did at the end of his life empowered people he enslaved to create three free Black communities in Western Kentucky prior to the Civil War.

“It’s the story about responsibility what is our responsibility to this legacy to repair the legacy of slavery in this country?” Grimes said.

Ellis hopes people seeing their story will understand why history should not be hidden.

“There’s a path forward, we shouldn’t walk away from it we shouldn’t hide it it’s not divisive. I would say its unifying,” Ellis said.

For mor information on the documentary: INVENTED Before You Were Born (

The documentary is having its premiere in Illinois at 4 p.m. Sunday at Larkin High School in Elgin.

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