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Sugar of the Crop: My Journey to Find the Children of Slaves Hardcover – January 23, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (January 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599213753
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599213750
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Sugar of the Crop tells the story of an unprecedented quest to find the last surviving children of slaves. In a revealing journey that takes her from Los Angeles to Louisiana, from a Harlem church to a Virginia nursing home, Sana Butler paints a fascinating picture of freed slaves as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and tells the story of how they raised children after the Civil War.

Drawing on a decade of interviews with centenarians whose parents were slaves, Butler reveals how African Americans emerged from slavery with a powerful drive to put the past behind and a deep commitment to make the most of their opportunities, large and small. Like immigrants, freed slaves faced a new America with hopes and dreams for their children and the nation’s future. Impelled by a generation that exercised political power at a rate never again seen in this country, the sons and daughters were raised to be independent and often fearless thinkers, laying the groundwork for what would later become the Civil Rights Movement.

Through one of the most important new explorations of African American history in recent memory, Butler tells a profound story of our past and present from a perspective never seen before. Not since the Works Progress Administration gathered slave narratives during the Great Depression has a journalist conducted such in-depth primary interviews into this epic period in America’s history. Underlying the story of her bittersweet devotion to finding a generation everyone told her was long dead is Butler’s even more personal story—that of her father struggling with a rare cancer, holding on just long enough to watch his daughters grow up. Collecting priceless oral histories and seeking answers to questions about her own family tree, Butler offers a penetrating and controversial new perspective on the seemingly well known and documented story of slavery and its slaves. In so doing, she turns history as we know it upside down.

From the Back Cover

From Lexington, Kentucky, to Los Angeles, a Personal Journey Across America to Find and Interview the Children of Former Slaves
 
Sugar of the Crop reveals the human stories never told before of how slaves emerged from the Civil War to become selfless parents, and how they faced a new America with a powerful energy that helped lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement a century later. Opening up a new perspective on African American history, this book—based on the author’s interviews with sons and daughters of slaves—will enlighten, haunt, and inspire.

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Customer Reviews

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This book is an easy read about a sensitive topic.
gerri
This is a rare book because of it's appeal to such a wide audience of readers.
J. Karl
Each family whom shared their story were vivid and bittersweet to read.
Marisa Zuniga

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Marisa Zuniga on February 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Once, I started reading this book on the oral history of children of slaves, it was hard to stop. Each family whom shared their story were vivid and bittersweet to read. Sentiments left over from the Slavery era and segregation in the South are explored in way which can be compared to contemporary experiences through the Author's personal history with her family. Her journey to find herself is beautifully woven into the fabric of the stories she experiences. I really enjoyed this book and its content lead me to be intrigued to further wonder about this American transitioning period. Check it out!

M.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By slb on August 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book would have benefited greatly from a strong editor. Sadly, the lack of one means that what could have been a good is merely OK.

I read the book because I was interested in the stories of the people Butler interviewed. There is far too little about them in this story and far, far too much about Butler's lost wanderings. She comes off as a little inept, which I suspect is a bit of a put on. I have seen her read from the book and she appeared very capable. I don't know why she wanted to present herself as fumbling and bumbling, but it weakens the book and makes it much less interesting. The tangents about her travels make little sense and provide no context. For example, the first paragraph about an interview with one of her subjects who lives in Las Vegas is entirely about a college friend who lives in California. It is a very strange inclusion in the text and only one of many.

There are at least two chapters in this book where entire sentences are repeated word for word, moved from one part of the chapter, but not removed from their previous position. A close reading before printing would have avoided this error. There are a few other errors and missteps like this throughout the text, like the casual and offhanded use of the word Nazi [a strange attempt at humor in a book with origins in injustice] or poor sentence structure. Again, I blame the editor. Did anyone proofread the book before it was printed?

The small parts that do contain the stories and recollections from the children of slaves are very interesting. The author's original impulse that there was much to be learned from their families was a good one. I would recommend the book for this information. I simply suggest that you skip through the rest of the story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By RYCJ VINE VOICE on August 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At first inspection this one seemed a little too heavy on the "huge wake-up" calls, and what "didn't make any sense." I thought educated people in 2009 had all this information.

But as I read on, (there was something in the voice so compelling I couldn't stop reading), I found many golden nuggets in Sugar of the Crop.

The title is great, and the cover most alluring. The research effort, the journalism, the storytelling, and particularly the tidbits of new information emerging through each interview were well worth the read. I happen to like more movement in a voice, however Ms. Butler's journalistic voice works well in delivering what reads like a story of stories. I think this is what I found compelling.

My own brows raised by the Appomaltox Nat'l Park visit...umm, took the slave quarters off the visitor's guide, turning them into restrooms! And the chapter on the Hayden's I really loved. (Incidentally where things picked up for me.) Just the way the visit is spelled out; the wife, and then Mr. Hayden, and Ms. Butler's growing disillusion, and whaala! She gets real, and then so does Mr. Hayden. Loved it.

Very, very good. Excellent book. I certainly have one place to carry Sugar of the Crops... to `my' family reunions!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By F. Burke on July 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A surprising page turner, Sugar of the Crop was far more than I expected. By giving us her own story, both of the research process and her father's cancer, Sana Butler puts these interviews into a context both absorbing and heartfelt. And the tales of these slave descendants kept hitting me in the face with facts almost purposefully kept from American history. If you're a believer in Post Traumatic Slave Disorder, prepare to be disappointed. If you're a believer in the dignity and honor of the Confederacy, ditto. All you'll get here are real people and their stories -- no mythology or overarching theories. Several glaring editorial errors keep Sugar of the Crop from being five stars, but hopefully these will be corrected in a future edition. Informative, entertaining, and rewarding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Holly Adiele on August 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
How can a professional journalist with a BA from Georgetown and an MA from Columbia write so badly? My daughter bought "Sugar of the Crop" for me because she knew I'd be interested in the stories of the chldren of freed slaves, and a small part of the text does include some fascinating tales. The rest of is devoted to Sana Butler's extended road trip (mostly all boring), her own family relationships (sometimes interesting), and platitudes in the form of "astonishing conclusions" she reached during her decade-long research project (so shallow that she ends up sounding like an adolescent impressed with her own brilliance).
Before publishing your next book, Ms. Butler, please take my advice! (1) Proofread your manuscript. Better still, take a freshman English comp class where you might learn the difference between a comma & a semicolon, how to use perfect tense verbs, when to use "whom" if you feel you must, and other basic skills. (2) Give your manuscript to someone else to read. Even those of us who know how to write correct English miss errors at times, just because we're familiar with our own work. (3) Take an introduction to creative nonfiction class. Learn how to structure a narrative, how to create lively anecdotes, how to write the story of an interesting road trip, and how to cut the dead wood out of your story.
I find it hard to believe that this sad product is all you have to show for ten years of effort!
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