Friday, January 30, 2009

'Slaves in the Family'

Slavery did not end in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 or even with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Through its powerful legacy it has persisted into our own time... In ''Slaves in the Family,'' Edward Ball, a descendant of South Carolinians who owned thousands of slaves over a period of more than 150 years, makes a personal effort to come to terms with his history. ''To contemplate slavery,'' he observes, ''was a bit like doing psychoanalysis on myself.''

But Ball insists that it was not guilt that motivated his search into the past. ''A person cannot be culpable for the acts of others, long dead, that he or she could not have influenced,'' he writes. ''Rather than responsible, I felt accountable for what had happened, called on to try to explain it.'' ''Slaves in the Family'' is thus an account and an accounting, a chronicle of Ball owners and Ball slaves that is designed to break the silences surrounding the author's troubling heritage. (New York Times, "Skeletons in the Family Closet" by Drew Faust)
EDWARD BALL: Well, I thought that the black story and the white story should be told side by side. You know, we hear a lot about the plantation owners, but we don't hear enough about the people with whom they lived and who made their lives possible. And I thought that I should try to write a shared history - black with whites side by side. But more important than that was my attempt to find black families today whose ancestors were enslaved by my family and to meet with them and try to reckon with this shared legacy. (PBS News Hour).

Read an excerpt from Edward Ball's Chapter One here.

Watch author Edward Ball here:


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