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 storythat 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.