An introduction seems in order. Labels can be a rather blunt instrument for summing someone up, but they’re a start, and I’m all about transparency. So here goes: I am a humanist, a pacifist, an antimilitarist, an antiracist, a defender of human equality in all spheres – ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation – and a citizen of the world who tries to be a brother to all humankind.
You are likely to find most if not all of those themes interwoven through this website. For me, it will require breaking some long-ingrained habits. Over 43 years as a journalist, I struck the pose of a neutral observer, reporting the facts and leaving their interpretation to my readers. But I’m retired now and ready to drop the pose. Indeed, in the era of Donald Trump it feels almost like a civic duty to wear my values on my sleeve.
For almost a decade now I’ve been engaged in an odyssey of discovery about my family roots. That history includes an inconvenient fact: I am descended from slaveowners. Once I discovered it, I felt an obligation to seek out descendants of those my ancestors enslaved and to break through the invisible wall of American apartheid that kept their families and mine living in different worlds for a century. It has been an illuminating and gratifying journey.
The result is my latest book, Uncle George and Me: Two Southern Families Confront a Shared Legacy of Slavery, due out from Brandylane Publishers in mid-2018. In it, readers will meet members of a wonderful extended African-American family that descended from two generations of my ancestors’ slaves. Theirs is a common yet seldom told story of perseverance across decades of bondage, emancipation, disfranchisement, racist treatment, northward migration, and nourishment of precious family ties.
By telling that story, I hope to contribute in some small way to a much-needed dialogue between black and white Americans about our nation’s original sin and its lingering legacy. Such discussions are beginning to pop up in pockets around the country as people of good will and all hues come to see that we must confront slavery and racism head-on if we hope to ever reach a place of healing, reconciliation and recompense.
One of the groups working toward that goal is Coming to the Table, a national nonprofit that aims to take America beyond the legacy of slavery by bringing together descendants of enslavers and the enslaved for open, honest, cathartic conversation. Among the group’s initiatives is Shared Legacies: Narratives of Race and Reconciliation by Descendants of Slaveholders and the Enslaved, an anthology of stories like mine, coming from Rutgers University Press at the end of 2018. Among its stories will be an excerpt from Uncle George and Me.
Elsewhere on this website you’ll find a blurb about my first book, from a totally different genre: A Far, Far Better Thing: Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction? co-written with Jens Soering and published by Lantern Books in 2017. It’s a true-crime account of a notorious double murder that raises disturbing questions pointing to a tragic miscarriage of justice.
Care to comment on anything you see here? Any and all input is welcome. Just click the “Comments” button on this blog. Or to send a private note, go to the “Contact” page of the website.
Finally, a note of thanks: None of this would be possible without the love, forbearance and help of Mary Kay, my wife of 46 years; my three adult children, Justin, Jennie and Julie; and my growing gaggle of grandchildren, now at five and counting.
Oh, and Happy New Year. Eternal optimist that I am, I’m convinced 2018 will be an improvement over the annus horribilis we’ve just lived through.