My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots

Thulani Davis, Author . Basic Civitas $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-465-01555-9

Soon after former slave Chloe Curry began working as a cook in the Mississippi home of Will Campbell, a former slave-owner, she became pregnant with his child. "She stayed with Will Campbell the rest of his life. And he kept her in his home the rest of his life. With this fact in mind, I can only assume a genuine affection of some depth developed between these two people." In this family history, Chloe and Will's great-granddaughter tries to make sense of their relationship in the context of Reconstruction and its failures. Unfortunately, however, Chloe and Will's 19th-century story, with all of its insights into a larger American history, does not fully emerge until the middle of the book. Descriptions of the author's writer's block, her research difficulties and her anger about the neglect of African-American history bog down the early chapters. Yet Davis (Maker of Saints ) succeeds in conveying the precarious position of blacks in the South after the Civil War and her final chapter on the great Mississippi flood of 1927, in which "the lives of blacks were harder hit than others," has eerie parallels with the post-hurricane flooding of New Orleans—just one example of how important it is to understand this period in our common past. (Jan)

Reviewed on: 11/21/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-465-01574-0
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