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The Fiddler on Pantico Run: An African Warrior, His White Descendants, A Search for Family Hardcover – October 2, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“An incredible story that, through the journey of one man trying to solve the mystery of his name, blows away widespread delusions about race in American history and shows our deeply intertwined humanity.” (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)

“[T]he best American family histories” (Maud Newton Harper’s)

“[The Fiddler on Pantico Run] unfolds like an adventure novel... [a] captivating debut... [Joe Mozingo] carves out gems of wisdom in narrating his discoveries.” (J. C. Gabel Los Angeles Times)

“Vividly fascinating… [Mozingo] unpacks our mixed-race colonial history and its heartbreaking consequences… Mozingo’s most revelatory finding—the fundamental arbitrariness of racial designations—implicitly raises another question: What, if anything, does our genealogy really say about us?” (Elle)

The Fiddler on Pantico Run is brilliantly researched, eloquently written, and a deeply thoughtful examination of race, identity and ancestry.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Wide-ranging… [Mozingo] makes his personal history come alive. He successfully places his family’s tale in the larger context of the tortuous history of race in America, connecting his personal genealogy to the tides of American history during the era of slavery.” (Kirkus)

“Mozingo's thorough scouring of his genealogy from Africa to Jamestown, VA, is a quirky… and finally satisfying account… With irony and wit displayed in encounters with unprepossessing relatives, the author challenges received notions of race and class.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Joe Mozingo has unearthed an extraordinary story and tells it powerfully. Beautifully composed, his narrative weaves together the past and present as he plunges deeply into his family’s history. It is a brave journey, yielding one illumination after another.” (Henry Wiencek, author of Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves)

"[The Fiddler on Pantico Run] is a fascinating, highly detailed book, which raises difficult questions about ancestry, identity and race...When you read this amazing book, it will stagger you." (Laurie Hertzel Star Tribune)

“The book is suspenseful. The book is thoughtful. The book is interesting… Mozingo never has regretted his journey to the African continent. Neither will his readers.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“A powerful book. . . endearing and honest . . .profound. . . I was moved by this book and Mozingo’s thoughtful prose" (Peter Orner, author of Love and Shame and Love The Rumpus)

"A fascinating family story” and book-of-the-month selection (Buffalo News)

About the Author

Joe Mozingo is a projects reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of the earthquake in Haiti and helped lead a Miami Herald reporting team whose investigation into the crash of the space shuttle Columbia was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The Fiddler on Pantico Run was named a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, administered by Columbia University and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451627483
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451627480
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joe Mozingo is an award-winning journalist. I am familiar with his work for the Los Angeles Times, especially his riveting 2010 three-part series reporting on his journey to uncover the mysteries of his family's past. So, naturally, once I read the Los Angeles Times review (11-4-2012) of his book "The Fiddler on Pantico Run," I immediately bought the book. The book was developed on the basis of the series he wrote for the newspaper. I stayed up very late for the next couple of nights, devouring this amazing first-person account of an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime journey. The research is meticulously documented. The writing is vivid and totally engrossing. You cannot help but cheer on the writer as he is drawn ever more deeply into piecing together the mysteries of his family's past. Recommendation in a nutshell: If one must choose to purchase just one new book - this is the book to choose.

The writing sparkles with brilliance on many different levels. First, of course, there is the content, and the subject matter - a riveting story of an adventure of a lifetime, tracking down answers to puzzling questions of identity and unraveling mysteries begun with an African ancestor (Edward Mozingo, born sometime before 1644, died 1711 or 1712). Then there is the tone and the style. Whereas many autobiographies and memoirs appear to be overwrought with a near hysterical tone and populated with hyper-emotional exclamation marks, as if the reader requires glaring neon-signs to illuminate the way toward some perspective or conclusion desired by the writer, here Mozingo demonstrates his considerable writing-chops by never falling into this lamentable trap.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been intrigued by the Mozingo name for several years and stumbled upon the African ancestry information years ago. No one in my immediate family had ever heard of such a notion at all. The African history had long been buried and forgotten. Reading this book took me on a journey of discovery that I have only dreamed of being able to do myself. My great-grandmother on my dad's side was a Mozingo. Edward Mozingo of Africa would be my 9th great-grandfather.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an intriguing story of the author's relentless quest to discover the origins of his family name Mozingo. A prize-winning Los Angeles reporter, Joe Mozingo had the research skills to attempt this despite his father's lack of interest in their name. Most relatives believed the name was Italian, but others said Basque and a variety of other guesses without defining evidence.

Joe's search led him to discover what was apparently the single origin of the name in America -- although misspelled in a variety of ways by official clerks over the yars -- in an 1672 court record officially granting Edward Mozingo, a Negro, his freedom. He even finds a record of land Edward owned and an inventory of his estate -- most unusual for a black man in colonial Virginia, and the source of the book's title.

Trying to make the connections across many generations Joe discovers that Edward married a white woman and through time many generations of descendants appear in official records some as white, others as mulatto. As they migrated west, more and more crossed the color line in their new communities. By now, all known descendants consider themselves white. Some find Joe's research intriguing but most still living in the south violently reject the idea that they descend from a black man.

Joe eventually travels to the area of Cameroon where the name Mozingo -- in many forms -- is quite common and where his own ancestor, who may have been of the ruling class, was quite probably captured and enslaved. It is a well researched and intriguing story with one of its strengths being Joe's willingness to explore not only his ancestry but the emotions that race still engenders in America. It is far more diligently researched and should not be compared to Alex Haley's widely known but more fictional "Roots." But African-Americans should not be deceived into believing every ancestral search will prove this rewarding. Joe Mozingo had luck as well as skill.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book, even for the the general reader, who has a reason to be interested in the mixed ancestry of many Americans, or who just likes a good genealogical "detective" story. It is far better written than most books of that kind. For a person well grounded in his own genealogy it is even better, because one can relate people and places to his own history, noting contrasts and similarities. It is an inspiration to me as I look into the history of my own free people of color, a Dutton family, who for all I know may include some Mozingos way back. But whether that turns out to be the case or not, I am really glad I found this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author has written a fascinating account of his journey to learn the origin of his unusual family name. In the course of that journey he gives us a glimpse into little known aspects of American history and the relationships between the races. The story is gripping and keeps your interest even if you are neither a genealogist nor a historian. It is almost as if his family story encapsulates the divisions between white and black, slave and free. I would suspect that other Americans - if they dug deep into their own family history would discover that divide also. Worth reading - well written by an accomplished journalist - clear and compelling.
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