Category Archives: Genealogy

My Favorite Books on American Slavery III

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup: No I haven’t watched the movie. But this book will leave you breathless. A free man is lured into slavery in the deep south. Northrup’s struggle along with those who met in slavery will leave you angry and proud at how American slaves and their ancestors have NEVER fled America. Off topic if you go the Van Cortlandt House Museum in the Bronx for a tour ask to see the slave quarters behind the nurser. This is not on the regular tour so you must request a viewing. The room looks exactly like the sleeping quarters Northrup describes living in Louisiana.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe: this is the first book I read about slavery and I recommend the book. Yes it is fiction, but Stowe clearly did her research. I now understand why this book caused so much controversy at the time it was published. It is a brutal psychological novel that delves deep into slavery. So for those who like to throw around the term “Uncle Tom” please stop. If you read the book you will understand the psychological impact of why Tom is the way he is and that calling someone an Uncle Tom shows you know little about history. NOTE: this book is in the public domain. You can download it for free using Kindle.

Check out my TED Talk “Discovering My American Ethnicity and Identity”

My Favorite Books on American Slavery Part II

Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World by David Brion Davis: This book changed my life! Davis documents the origins of anti-Black racism and the difference between slavery in ancient times and chattel slavery which began with the birth of modern capitalism. You will never look at history the same way again after reading this book.

Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington: this is the first slave narrative I read and it solidified why I am proud to be American. The strength and fortitude to survive such oppression is why I became inspired to research my ancestry.

Narrative of the Life of Slave by Frederick Douglass: After reading this book I never used the nigger in casual conservation. Reading how Douglass’ master Auld referred to how reading would spoil a Nigger made me realize the vileness of the word and its power.

Check out my TED Talk “Discovering My American Ethnicity and Identity”

My Favorite Books on American Slavery Part I

One of the most rewarding experiences of researching my American ancestry is learning about United States history. The United States, like all nations in this hemisphere, are NEW cultures. The nations of the Western Hemisphere have extensive documentation of the origin of our cultures beginning in 1492. This is a unique situation in human history! A situation unfortunately the millions of people in this hemisphere whether they be of an indigenous culture or of one of the new cultures (Latino or American for example) fail to appreciate. Never before in human history are is there such extensive evidence of how cultures form. We are blessed in this hemisphere, despite the legacy of racism and genocide, to be able to know our ancestries in such detail.

The following books I feel are essential to understanding the experiences of American slaves and descendants:

New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan by Jill Lepore: This book is based on true events and reads like a CSI television show. The way Lepore lays out the case of who was responsible for conspiring to burn down New York will keep you on the edge of your seat! Was the conspiracy true. Who was involved in the plot to burn the city: slaves, Catholics, freeman, or was it white hysteria?

The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor: After reading this book I understand why history books glaze over the War of 1812. It was a hot mess on the Atlantic front! Slaves were escaping and going with the British and American newspapers were telling the British about proposed American military action. This book also gave a glimpse into how slavery destroyed families, resulting in Black women and men having multiple fathers and mothers for children. I finally understood why this state of being is acceptable because it dates back to families being torn apart and people having to go on and start new lives. I also now understand why many cultures that evolved from slavery in this hemisphere love to be out at night. Nighttime was the slaves day time. They were able to hunt, meet with family and friends, and enjoy life before daybreak. By the way the term “Internal Enemy” was used to refer to American slaves. Again you can get a glimpse into white fear over slaves rebelling. This is one of my favorite books on American history.

Check out my TED Talk “Discovering My American Ethnicity and Identity”

Researching Your American Ancestors: A Quick Guide for $3.00 via Amazon

Most genealogy books are long and provide little guidance on how to start quickly and affordably. My quick guide is based on my experience uncovering my American slave ancestors. Since 2003 I have traced my ancestry to the American Colonial period and beyond. With this guide you too will discover how your ancestors played a vital role in the creation of the United States.

Amazon Researching Your American Ancestors: A Quick Guide $3.00

Check out my TED Talk “Discovering My American Ethnicity and Identity”