cover image The Abolitionist’s Journal: Memories of an American Antislavery Family

The Abolitionist’s Journal: Memories of an American Antislavery Family

James D. Richardson. Univ. of New Mexico, $29.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-8263-6403-6

Retired priest Richardson compares his abolitionist great-great-grandfather’s story with his own in this uneven debut. The author reflects on “why my ancestor’s memory has a hook in me” by unpacking the journal of his forebear George Richardson (1824–1911), an itinerant Methodist preacher who rode circuit across the country and served as chaplain to a Black regiment during the American Civil War. Richardson highlights George’s commitment to racial equality, which included serving as a “station master” on the Underground Railroad and founding a college for formerly enslaved people in 1876. Richardson alternates between George’s story and his as he draws parallels between George’s work for the Methodist church and his circuitous path to becoming an Episcopal priest, which included growing disenchanted with Christianity as a young man in the 1960s and quitting his job as a reporter to join the priesthood in his mid-40s. Richardson’s consideration of how his relatives buried the memory of George’s abolitionism in a “graveyard of white Christianity” speaks to how white supremacy shapes histories even at the familial level. However, the author’s autobiographical material drags in comparison to the more exciting sections about George. Though more family memoir than history, this chronicle persuasively speaks to how the past ripples through generations. (Oct.)