[Press]: My Father’s Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War

“Lawrence P. Jackson’s matter-of-fact prose is accessible and is strangely and beautifully evocative of the Civil War era. We not only learn about the deprivations, inhumanity, and constant humiliations perpetrated on black people in the nineteenth century, but we gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes American culture and society today. It is amazing that Jackson’s family survived to produce such a splendid writer able to share their story with us.”
Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World 
 
 
My Father’s Name
A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War
by Lawrence P. Jackson
 

Publication Date: May 15, 2012 Cloth $25.00 • £16.00 
UK Publication Date: May 22, 2012 978-0-226-38949-3

 

 

How does one begin to piece together a generational family history using only memories and the tattered, incomplete archives of slavery? My Father’s Name is such a quest. When it begins, Lawrence P. Jackson is himself about to have a son and realizes he knows very little about his own family history. He sets out from his home in Baltimore for Pittsylvania County, Virginia, to try to find his late grandfather’s old home by the railroad tracks in Blairs. The resulting narrative is at once a detective story and a moving memoir confronting the mixture of anguish and fulfillment that accompanies a venture into an ancestral past tied to the history of slavery.
 
After asking around in Pittsylvania County and carefully putting these pieces together, Jackson finds himself in the house of distant relations, and ultimately, his dogged research in libraries, census records, and courthouse registries enables him to trace his family to his grandfather’s grandfather, a man who was born or sold into slavery but who, when Federal troops abandoned the South in 1877, was able to buy forty acres of land. In this intimate study of a black Virginia family and neighborhood, Jackson vividly reconstructs moments in the lives of his father’s grandfather, Edward Jackson, and great-grandfather, Granville Hundley, and gives life to revealing narratives of Pittsylvania County, recalling both the horror of slavery and the later struggles of postbellum freedom.
My Father’s Name is a family story full of twists and turns—and one of haunting familiarity to many Americans, who may question whether the promises of emancipation have ever truly been fulfilled.
 
Lawrence P. Jackson is professor of English and African American Studies at Emory University. He is the author of The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934–1960 and Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius.
 
He is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at 773-702-4216 or cadams@press.uchicago.edu for more information.

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