Cover image for My Confederate kinfolk : a twenty-first century freedwoman confronts her roots
My Confederate kinfolk : a twenty-first century freedwoman confronts her roots
Davis, Thulani.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Civitas Books, [2006]

Physical Description:
vii, 324 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Twenty-first century freedwoman -- Silver Creek, Mississippi, ca. 1875 -- Clay pots and a tiger's tooth (1850-1861) -- Horses at the door (1852-1861) -- Behind Confederate lines (1861-1863) -- War from on the road (1863-1865) -- "They still shoot Negroes" (1865-1867) -- Silver Creek (1867-1878) -- Colonel Campbell's constituents -- High water (1880-1932).


Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.96 .D285 2006 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E185.96 .D285 2006 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Starting with a photograph and some writings left by her grandmother, Thulani Davis goes looking for the "white folk" in her family-a Scots-Irish family of cotton planters unknown to her-and uncovers a history far richer and stranger than she had ever imagined. When Davis's grandmother died in 1971, she was writing a novel about her parents, Mississippi cotton farmers who met after the Civil War: Chloe Curry, a former slave from Alabama, married with several children, and Will Campbell, a white planter from Missouri who had never marriedIn this compelling intersection of genealogy, memoir, and Reconstruction history, Davis picks up where her grandmother left off. Her journey takes her from Missouri to Mississippi to Alabama, back to her home town in Virginia, and even to Sierra Leone. The Campbells lead her to locate not only their pioneer history but to find the previously unknown roots of her mother's family; to Civil War archives, where she discovers the records of the Campbells who fought with Confederate troops; to the Silver Creek plantation in Yazoo, Mississippi, where the two branches of her family history became one; and to a county near her Virginia hometown where both families started their American journey, completely unknown to each other. My Confederate Kinfolk examines the origins of some of our most deeply ingrained notions about what makes a family black or white and offers an immensely compelling, intellectually challenging alternative.

Author Notes

Thulani Davis is a poet, novelist, journalist, playwright, and librettist. Among her work are two novels, 1959 and Maker of Saints ; several plays, including Everybody's Ruby , which premiered at the NY Shakespeare Public Festival, and the librettos for Amistad and Malcolm X . She is also the author of two collections of poetry and two PBS documentaries, and has published in numerous magazines and journals. She lives in New York City.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Starting with photographs and writings left by her grandmother, novelist and playwright Davis traces the white folks in her ancestry, finding Scots-Irish cotton planters and Confederate soldiers. Davis' grandmother had been working on a novel about her parents--Chloe Curry, a former slave from Alabama, and Will Campbell, a white planter from Missouri. Davis was able to trace her family through the South to Sierra Leone, uncovering influences of Scots-Irish, African Temne, and American Choctaw. Guided by her own idiosyncratic notions of culture and family, she learned of a long lineage of writers and people longing for self-expression. Davis takes the reader on a genealogical search that is particular for her family but common for African Americans, exploring the myths of kindness and beneficence on the part of slave masters and the tangle of incomplete records that cloud the ability to research slave genealogy. This book will intrigue readers interested in genealogy and a personal view of slavery. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2006 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Soon after former slave Chloe Curry began working as a cook in the Mississippi home of Will Campbell, a former slave-owner, she became pregnant with his child. "She stayed with Will Campbell the rest of his life. And he kept her in his home the rest of his life. With this fact in mind, I can only assume a genuine affection of some depth developed between these two people." In this family history, Chloe and Will's great-granddaughter tries to make sense of their relationship in the context of Reconstruction and its failures. Unfortunately, however, Chloe and Will's 19th-century story, with all of its insights into a larger American history, does not fully emerge until the middle of the book. Descriptions of the author's writer's block, her research difficulties and her anger about the neglect of African-American history bog down the early chapters. Yet Davis (Maker of Saints) succeeds in conveying the precarious position of blacks in the South after the Civil War and her final chapter on the great Mississippi flood of 1927, in which "the lives of blacks were harder hit than others," has eerie parallels with the post-hurricane flooding of New Orleans-just one example of how important it is to understand this period in our common past. (Jan) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In 1971, pursuing the story of her dying grandmother's black mother and white father who came together in post-Civil War Mississippi, the poet, playwright, novelist, and journalist Davis entered on a journey to her own identity. This book traces her travels along a family tree that branched into places she feared to look or never imagined. She discovered not only her black roots in muddy Mississippi's cotton slave hands but also in whites riding to war to save slavery. She discovered sometimes imperceptible lines between black and white, friend and foe, slaveholder and slave. She reached kinfolk in the Caribbean and in Africa itself, locating tribal Temne forebears in Sierra Leone. Retracing the steps of her people with anecdotal particulars, Davis details an epic that moves from African Middle Passage in the 1700s to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Her very personal story opens poignant perspectives on an American past where identity was both more and less than black-and-white. Recommended for collections on autobiography and African American, Southern, and U.S. history.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.