Books

Uncle George and Me: Two Southern Families Confront a Shared Legacy of Slavery

uncle george and me book cover

Brandylane Publishers, 2018

Journalist and author Bill Sizemore spent eight years researching and writing the story of his slaveowning Virginia ancestors, their slaves, and the descendants of those slaves.

The author’s great-great-great-grandfather was a small-time tobacco farmer in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. In contrast to large planters with hundreds of slaves, he was far more typical: He owned fewer than 20. The book traces the lives of generations of African-Americans who descended from his slaves, up to the present day. In microcosm, it is the story of Virginia and the South from the slavery era through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, the civil rights era, and the continued racial disparities of our time. Thousands if not millions of American families on both sides of the color line spring from similar roots, but theirs is a seldom told story – perhaps due to a sort of self-induced amnesia, a defense mechanism to avoid confronting a painful past.

This book is an attempt to overcome that amnesia and thereby stimulate a biracial dialogue about slavery and its crippling legacy, which continues to bedevil the nation today.

 

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Slavery’s Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation

Coming from Rutgers University Press in 2019

An anthology addressing the shared legacy of racism and slavery in the United States told through the collected stories of descendants of enslaved people and enslavers. The stories were gathered by Coming to the Table, a nonprofit group dedicated to racial healing and reconciliation. One of them is an excerpt from Uncle George and Me.

 


A Far, Far Better Thing: Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction?

Far Far Better Thing book coverBy Jens Soering and Bill Sizemore

With a foreword by Martin Sheen

Lantern Books, 2017

In 1985, socialites Derek and Nancy Haysom were found brutally stabbed to death in their home in Boonsboro, Virginia. When suspicion turned to the Haysoms’ beautiful but troubled daughter, Elizabeth, and her German boyfriend, Jens Soering, their case became one of the most notorious in Virginia history. After fleeing with Elizabeth to Europe, Jens ultimately confessed to the crime, under the illusion that as the son of a German consular official he’d be granted diplomatic immunity. He believed he was nobly sacrificing his life for love—just as Sydney Carton does for Lucie Manette in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Now published for the first time in English, Jens tells his side of the story—of how a naïve and reckless scholar fell into a world of deception, drugs, and ultimately murder. His compelling, revelatory account is accompanied by the painstaking analysis of Bill Sizemore, a journalist who’s followed the Soering case for more than a decade. In parallel with the 2016 documentary film about the murders, called The Promise, this book not only points to a miscarriage of justice, but also showcases the tragedy of misplaced love and a catastrophically foolish declaration.

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