Every family has secrets–shameful episodes in our past that we try to keep buried. Heaven forbid anyone should find out. What would people say? This book is about one family’s secret: my family’s. It is also about an American secret of which too few are fully aware.
. . . I learned new truths about myself, my ancestors, and the founding of the United States, and that it’s impossible to think constructively, and honestly, about race without simultaneously examining issues involving gender, class, and privilege. I learned that slavery wasn’t limited to the South: black people were enslaved in the North for over two hundred years, the vast majority of all U.S. slave trading was done by northerners, and, astonishingly, half of all those voyages originated in Rhode Island. Compromises made by my childhood heroes ensured that slavery would continue as the driving force in our nation’s economy. Throughout this country’s history, white people have benefited as a direct result of the riches in land, money, and prestige that were gained because of slavery.
A question that white people sometimes ask each other about black people in regard to slavery is “Why can’t they just get over it?” During our journey, several African Americans provided a terse and accurate response: “Because it’s not over.”