We went to hear authors Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf speak about their new book, Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade. They were amazing! I read not long ago that white parents often "don't talk about race". I think one thing that makes it feel especially awkward to me is that I can't really define for my son what race is. We think we know what it is, but it's a social construct, not a scientific one. But with this issue, as with many others, when we don't talk to our children about our values, then we don't know where they will get them from. I tell him that slavery didn't happen in the distant past, and its effects never went away. Jasper's dad remembers Jim Crow laws. I thought this book talk might be a good starting point for conversation.
Sharon talked about her efforts to research her genealogy, and how terribly difficult that was as a descendant of slaves, because records of the members of her family that were enslaved were recorded as records of property if they were recorded at all. She started a website, http://www.ourblackancestry.com/ to help others with their research. Tom talked about confronting his ancestry as a descendant of a family that was "the largest slave trading dynasty in US history". And they talked about how they decided to embark on a deliberate journey together, to travel to places where slavery left its mark on American history and their personal family histories, engaging each other in conversation. The idea was that they could create a reconciliation, and that it would have to start with two people. Their book is honest and unflinching, but full of humor, warmth, and hope- just like its authors. Now that their book is complete, they are sharing the conversation with people all over the country. I think the book is an excellent introduction to American history from a completely different point of view than I have ever explored before, and reveals clear connections to the everyday lives of all Americans today. Most of what I have learned about slavery was simply in the context of the Civil War, and never in much detail. I was really glad I took Jasper to see them. They both spoke kindly to him, and their stories were much more meaningful to him having met them.