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My Confederate Kinfolk : A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots
Beloved novelist and playwright Thulani Davis takes a journey through her ancestral history-and finds tartan plaid, unlikely lovers, and Confederate soldiers
Starting with a photograph and some writings left by her grandmother, Thulani Davis goes looking for the "white folk" in her family-a Scots-Irish family of cotton planters unknown to her-and uncovers a history far richer and stranger than she had ever imagined.
When Davis's grandmother died in 1971, she was writing a novel about her parents, Mississippi cotton farmers who met after the Civil War: Chloe Curry, a former slave from Alabama, married with several children, and Will Campbell, a white planter from Missouri who had never married.
In this compelling intersection of genealogy, memoir, and Reconstruction history, Davis picks up where her grandmother left off. Her journey takes her from Missouri to Mississippi to Alabama, back to her home town in Virginia, and even to Sierra Leone. The Campbells lead her to locate not only their pioneer history but to find the previously unknown roots of her mother's family; to Civil War archives, where she discovers the records of the Campbells who fought with Confederate troops; to the Silver Creek plantation in Yazoo, Mississippi, where the two branches of her family history became one; and to a county near her Virginia hometown where both families started their American journey, completely unknown to each other.
My Confederate Kinfolk examines the origins of some of our most deeply ingrained notions about what makes a family black or white and offers an immensely compelling, intellectually challenging alternative.
Soon after former slave Chloe Curry began working as a cook in the Mississippi home of Will Campbell, a former slave-owner, she became pregnant with his child. "She stayed with Will Campbell the rest of his life. And he kept her in his home the rest of his life. With this fact in mind, I can only assume a genuine affection of some depth developed between these two people." In this family history, Chloe and Will's great-granddaughter tries to make sense of their relationship in the context of Reconstruction and its failures. Unfortunately, however, Chloe and Will's 19th-century story, with all of its insights into a larger American history, does not fully emerge until the middle of the book. Descriptions of the author's writer's block, her research difficulties and her anger about the neglect of African-American history bog down the early chapters. Yet Davis (Maker of Saints) succeeds in conveying the precarious position of blacks in the South after the Civil War and her final chapter on the great Mississippi flood of 1927, in which "the lives of blacks were harder hit than others," has eerie parallels with the post-hurricane flooding of New Orleans--just one example of how important it is to understand this period in our common past. (Jan)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Basic Civitas Books
December 31, 2006
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