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date: 01 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Inspired by Alex Haley’s Roots (1976) but writing out of a different context, African American writers Carrie McCray, Neil Henry, and Thulani Davis went in search of white ancestors. Each uncovers a more complex portrait of southern Reconstruction and race-mixing than a simple story of white resistance and black victimization. As a result, these family histories morph into autobiographies, as the writers are compelled to come to terms with a shifting sense of self. To varying degrees, they examine not just the lingering social barriers to seeking and revealing the racially mixed truths of their family histories, but their own psychic barriers as well. Although McCray, Henry, and Davis arrive at different points in their thinking about family and identify, they share the same goal of demonstrating that Americans are far more interracially related than we realize.

Keywords: autobiography, interracial family history, miscegenation, mixed ancestry, racial identity, received history, social construction of race, southern Reconstruction

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