A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War
University Of Chicago Press
On Sale: May 15, 2012
Hardcover / e-Book
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Non-Fiction History | Non-Fiction Biography
Armed with only early boyhood memories, Lawrence P. Jackson
begins his quest by setting 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. My
Father’s Name tells the tale of the ensuing journey, at once
a detective story and a moving historical memoir, uncovering
the mixture of anguish and fulfillment that accompanies a
venture into the ancestral past, specifically one tied to
the history of slavery.
After asking around in Pittsylvania County and carefully
putting the pieces together, Jackson finds himself in the
house of distant relations. In the pages that follow, he
becomes increasingly absorbed by the search for his
ancestors and increasingly aware of how few generations an
African American needs to map back in order to arrive at
slavery, “a door of no return.” Ultimately, Jackson’s 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. It is also a resolute look at the
duties that come with reclaiming and honoring Americans who
survived slavery and a thoughtful meditation on its painful
and enduring history.
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