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My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots Hardcover – January 9, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books; First Edition edition (January 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465015557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465015559
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Starting with photographs and writings left by her grandmother, novelist and playwright Davis traces the "white folks" in her ancestry, finding Scots-Irish cotton planters and Confederate soldiers. Davis' grandmother had been working on a novel about her parents--Chloe Curry, a former slave from Alabama, and Will Campbell, a white planter from Missouri. Davis was able to trace her family through the South to Sierra Leone, uncovering influences of Scots-Irish, African Temne, and American Choctaw. Guided by her own idiosyncratic notions of culture and family, she learned of a long lineage of writers and people longing for self-expression. Davis takes the reader on a genealogical search that is particular for her family but common for African Americans, exploring the myths of kindness and beneficence on the part of slave masters and the tangle of incomplete records that cloud the ability to research slave genealogy. This book will intrigue readers interested in genealogy and a personal view of slavery. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. N. Carter on December 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Just as it says, this book is mostly about the author's Confederate kinfolk. As she says, it's easier to find out information about them. A lot of them left diaries and letters. I kept waiting to learn more about her tremendous great-grandmother, but by the end of the book, I realized that it truly was about her white kinfolk. She'll have to write another book to detail the story of her black kinfolk. I was fascinated by this book because I have relatives of that same era that I am trying to find out about, but there is so little documentation. Only one of my great grandparents could read and write. He was a Union soldier, but since his future wife could not read or write, there would have been no point in him writing to her, and so there are no existing letters from him to her from which we could learn about their experiences at the time.

This book goes into great detail about the comings and goings of her white ancestors, at least some of whom tried to write "family" histories. Of course, they made little direct acknowledgement, or at least written acknowledgement, of their non-white kin, namely the author's grandmother.

I love family pictures. Unfortunately, we don't have pictures of some of the people in our family that I would most like to see. There are pictures of the author's white kin, and of her great grandmother, and oblique references to her by the white kin, but it is difficult to document the story of people who were prevented and penalized from reading and writing. The oral history died with the participants, and some stories that were passed down sometimes went no further than a hearer who declined to pass those stories on. This, for me, is one of the saddest legacies of American slavery.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shannon E. Gibney on July 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When most of us think about Black liberation struggles, the first thing that comes to mind is the American Civil Rights Movement of the `50s and `60s. Numerous women and men used their creativity and ingenuity to challenge nefarious Jim Crow laws and the de facto segregation that permeated every aspect of life in this country. In doing so, they often endangered their lives, and the lives of those who loved them - a risk they deemed ultimately worth the reward of social, political and economic equality they were fighting for.

Although this is a period of history which certainly deserves our attention, writer Thulani Davis suggests that the history of American Reconstruction is just as, or even more deserving of study, because of the world that the newly freedmen and freedwoman tried to form, against opposition that was many times more formidable and vicious than that of their descendants a century later.

In her new book, My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-first Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots, Davis writes, "The first women and men to walk away from bondage reinvented the race, redefined the terms of American citizenship, and spread the blend of African and EuroAmerican culture created in bondage in the American South. Never has one group of people acted on such a large scale in so many regions of the country at once to push the society to honor its foundational principles. They taught the rest of us how to do it and yet there is no cultural memory of those millions," (pg. 6).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When author Thulani Davis' grandmother died in 1971, she was writing a novel about her Mississippi cotton farmer parents. Her grandmother left a photo and writings, prompting Davis to look for the 'white folk' in her family: a genealogical odyssey which was to uncover many riches. MY CONFEDERATE KINFOLK is at once a memoir and a history: it tells of a journey across the South to uncover truths, connections, and a rich set of roots, and reveals many political insights as well.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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