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The Hairstons: An American Family in Black…

The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White (1999)

by Henry Wiencek

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A grim and fascinating book. The amazing cruelty and self deception involved in slavery and in the post civil war era. the book raises and cannot answer the question of how a slave owner could own and treat a just a slave their half sisters and brothers.

Unfortunately it is not very well written, wonderfully researched but the information is not as organized as it could be. For example, Wiencek writes about interviewing a person or going to a source of information and does not give the date. ( )
  Janientrelac | Jan 7, 2013 |
This is a remarkable account of a slaves and masters and the history after emanicipation. The orignial Hairstons were Scots who came to the United States and built an empire of plantations, worked by slaves, becoming some of the wealthiest people and greatest slave-holders in the South.

Henry Wiencek was researching historic houses, when he met Judge Peter Hairston, of Coouleemee plantation, who made available his enormous archive, and introduced Wiencek to Squire Hairston, a descendent of the slaves who worked the plantation. For the next seven years, Wiencek would travel around the country digging up old documents and winning the confidence of various Hairstons, mostly the Black families, tracing the history of all the Hairstons. He gives us the history of various representatives Hairstons: plantation owners, soldiers, educators, actors, and their struggle to overcome adversity and deal with the wounds of the past.

I occasionally found this rather heavy going, but it is wonderful to have read it and to ponder the Hairistons as a microcosm of American history.
An amazing piece of research and writing. ( )
  juglicerr | Nov 8, 2008 |
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For Donna and Henry the Next, with love.
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This is a story of the legacy of slavery, and how that legacy has been passed into our own time.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312253931, Paperback)

The Hairstons traces the complex lineage and fascinating legacy of one of America's largest families. Henry Wiencek explores the lives of black and white members of the Hairston clan, as they have accepted each other as one family, easing the historical divide between the races, and reveals how Southern families have been affected by slavery's legacy and by the burden it continues to carry. Visiting family reunions, interviewing family members, and exploring old plantations, Wiencek combs the far-reaching branches of the Hairston family tree to gather anecdotes from members about their ancestors and piece together a family history that involves the experiences of both plantation owners and their slaves. He expertly weaves the Hairstons' stories from all sides of historical events like slave emancipation, Reconstruction, school segregation, and lynching. For example, from a black Hairston, Wiencek learns of a slave who burned rail fences to cook a hog for his starving comrades; white Hairstons record the incident as an act of slave indolence, a way to hinder the next day's work.

As Wiencek tells the stories of individual Hairstons, he uncovers the layers of a shared history at times painful, shameful, extraordinary, and joyful. Beautifully describing the land of the South and faithfully recounting what he has been told, Wiencek testifies that he "heard history not as a historian would write it but as a novelist would imagine it." The dynamic stories in The Hairstons are not solely one family's legacy but a record that reflects America's complicated process of healing and understanding the mark of slavery. --Amy Wan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:30 -0400)

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