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