Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race, and Nation After the Civil War

Kendra Taira Field. Yale Univ., $38 (256p) ISBN 978-0-300-18052-7
Field, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, debuts with an important work of American history drawn from her personal family history. In the second half of the 19th century, three of Field’s ancestors—Thomas Jefferson Brown, Monroe Coleman, and Alexander “Elic” Davis—left the postemancipation South for Indian Territory (Oklahoma) searching for freedom. Field cogently argues that the lives of her relatives and the tens of thousands of freed people who moved west between 1865 and 1915 expose the “deeply transnational and multiracial dimensions of freedom’s first generation.” She skillfully portrays the interaction of freed people with Native Americans in Oklahoma to reveal the links among national identification, racial constructions, and class divisions. Some freed people used marriage to Native Americans to distance themselves from an oppressive history and to gain access to land, a source of stability and independence. Some pushed Congress to create a “black state” within the Oklahoma territory. The story that Field relates regarding the 1913–1915 Chief Sam back-to-Africa movement is exceptionally fascinating. Readers looking for an innovative hybrid of history and memoir won’t find that here; rather, Field’s family history further enriches her fine scholarly work. Maps & Illus. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/27/2017
Release date: 01/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-300-24839-5
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