After the Civil War, African Americans placed poignant “information wanted” advertisements in newspapers, searching for missing family members. Inspired by the power of these ads, Heather Andrea Williams uses slave narratives, letters, interviews, public records, and diaries to guide listeners back to devastating moments of family separation during slavery when people were sold away from parents, siblings, spouses, and children. Williams explores these heartbreaking stories and the long, usually unsuccessful journeys toward reunification. Examining the interior lives of the enslaved and freed people as they tried to come to terms with great loss, Williams grounds their grief, fear, anger, longing, frustration, and hope in the history of American slavery and the domestic slave trade.
Williams follows those who were separated, chronicles their searches, and documents the rare experience of reunion. She also explores the empathy, sympathy, indifference, and hostility expressed by whites about sundered black families. Williams shows how searches for family members in the post - Civil War era continue to reverberate in African American culture in the ongoing search for family history and connection across generations.
About the author: Heather Andrea Williams is associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom.
©2012 the University of North Carolina Press (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Williams examines the historical fact of family separation and renders its emotional truth. She is the rare scholar who writes history with such tenderness that her words can bring a reader to tears…[The book] has a propulsive narrative flow, and with each successive chapter the suppleness of Williams’ prose grows.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Inspired by ‘information wanted’ advertisements that African Americans placed in newspapers to find loved ones after the Civil War, Williams examines the emotional and psychological effects of separation and reunion on both free and enslaved African Americans…An important addition to African American history collections.” (Library Journal)
“Drawing on interviews with former slaves, journals, letters, and documents, including advertisements searching for information on long-lost relatives, Williams allows the enslaved and formerly enslaved to speak for themselves on loss and the physical and emotional tribulations of slavery…Williams’ source materials and her own narrative evoke the longing, fear, grief, and hope that have endured as black families continue to search genealogies to reconnect to family members lost to the cruelty of slavery.” (Booklist)
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
Beautifully written by Heather Andrea Williams, flawlessly narrated by Robin Miles, this audiobook should be required reading for all Americans. It is a part of our collective history, and I certainly do not remember it being presented in this way back when I was in school learning American History. Heartbreaking and utterly sad, it is the history of the African-American family during the slavery era and the attempts to reclaim long-lost family members after emancipation.
For me, it is just impossible to imagine what it must have been like to be separated from loved ones--children, spouses, parents--often for the rest of one's life . . . to be paraded around and sold at an auction like lowly cattle . . . to be no more than property.
But yes, we all know this, right? But how much do we really know? And how much do we want to know? And maybe it's just too painful to listen to? And it was a long time ago and we just need to let it go, right? Things are so much better today, why dredge up the past?
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Help Me to Find My People was a great book which surpassed my expectations. I got to make new realizations, cry, and be grateful for the sacrifices made for me. I am sure my great great great grandmother born in the shadow of slavery would smile looking on all her progeny succeeding in this country.
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