This monumental history traces the rise of a resolute African American family (the author's own) from privation to the middle class. In doing so, it explodes the stereotypes that have shaped and distorted our thinking about African Americans--both in slavery and in freedom. Beginning with John Robert Bond, who emigrated from England to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War and married a recently freed slave, Alexander shows three generations of Bonds as they take chances and break new ground. From Victorian England to antebellum Virginia, from Herman Melville's New England to the Jim Crow South, from urban race riots to the battlefields of World War I, this fascinating chronicle sheds new light on eighty crucial years in our nation's troubled history. The Bond family's rise from slavery, their interaction with prominent figures such as W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, and their eventual, uneasy realization of the American dream shed a great deal of light on our nation's troubled heritage.
An emblematic account of the evolution of an African-American clan over three generations, this meticulously researched but stiffly written family history by a history professor at George Washington University reveals the role of black Americans in the evolution and definition of middle-class life in the U.S. Alexander's story begins with her maternal great-grandfather, John Robert Bond, an English-born seaman ("a black Anglo-Saxon Protestant") who, in a vivid contrast to the majority of blacks brought to the U.S. as slaves, arrived in Massachusetts in 1862 and joined the Union navy. Wounded in battle, Bond ended up in a hospital in Norfolk, Va., where he met Emma Thomas, a newly freed slave he married shortly after the Civil War. To set their story in context, Alexander explores the lives and mores of free blacks in 19th-century Virginia and New England (the couple returned to Massachusetts in 1870). In Boston, the Bonds' political beliefs developed amid suffrage and anti-lynching campaigns, the Spanish-American War and the surge of Southern blacks northward in the Great Migration. John Robert's first son, Percy, joined the staff of Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, his success supported in part by his marriage to a woman fair-skinned enough to "pass" for white. Alexander's careful examination of the lives of the subsequent generation of literate black women, who were involved in politically active Colored Women's Clubs in Washington, D.C., and who read widely about the artistic innovations of the Harlem Renaissance, illuminates both the family's color-consciousness and its spiritual and cultural advancement. 16 pages of b&w photos. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 17, 2000
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Excerpt from Homelands and Waterways by Adele Logan Alexander
Homelands and Waterways is a monumental history that traces the rise of a resolute African American family (the author's own) from privation to the middle class. In so doing, it explodes the stereotypes that have shaped and distorted our thinking about African Americans--both as slaves and in freedom. Adele Logan Alexander's account is the result of extensive interviews and exhaustive research in government, church, and academic archives, as well as in private papers and photographic collections.
The story follows three generations of the Bond family from Victorian England to antebellum Virginia plantations, from Herman Melville's New Bedford and suburban Boston to the Jim Crow South and the nation's capital, from black college campuses to Harvard University, from naval skirmishes during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars to the Argonne Forest's World War I battlefields to scenes of the country's urban race riots. In addition to family members, notable figures such as Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Nicola Sacco, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti traverse these pages as well. Alexander guides the reader through eighty crucial years in American history, as the Bonds both willfully and unwittingly interacted with major political, technological, and cultural issues of their time, while established beliefs about race, class, and gender both limited and inspirited their lives.
This compelling narrative and analysis of the Bonds' journeys through disparate adversities to an uneasy realization of the American dream is an achievement of both rich personal specificity and epic historical scope.