A Professor Comes to Terms With His Family's Enslaved Past

May 30, 2012

lawrence jacksonA recent story broadcast on National Public Radio covers how Lawrence Jackson, Emory professor of English and African American Studies, came to terms with fact of slavery in his family’s past.

He told NPR, “If you said to me that my father’s grandfather grew up in slavery and actually spent maybe the first ten to fifteen years of his life as human chattel, I wouldn’t have been able to take that idea so seriously. I didn't imagine that those times—the antebellum heritage of the United States—were so close to me.”

Jackson said also that his lack of knowledge about his ancestry didn’t trouble him until he had a child and wanted to share stories about his past. He began his search with the 1900 census, where he located the names of his great-grandparents, Edward Jackson and Celestia Hundley Jackson, and was able to track down their marriage certificate, and subsequently his great-great grandparents’ names.

“I found that my great-great grandfather Granville Hundley, he bought his forty acres and a mule… the same year that the federal troops left the South.” It was hard to imagine, he continued, how his great-great grandfather, then in his early 60s, could come up with the money for the land and “grasp the dream of yeoman farmer. He put in his tobacco and his wheat and his corn, but soon enough he was parceling out the land to his children,” Jackson said.

Jackson describes his journey of discovery in a recently published books, My Father's Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War.

To listen to the entire story, click here.

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