Suggested readings of the month November ’12: Gather At The Table, The Lost German Slave Girl

Hello family, it’s that time of the month again. This month’s suggested readings are:

  1. Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade by Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Morgan
  2. The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans by John Bailey

Gather at the table“We embarked on this journey because we believe America must overcome the racial barriers that divide us, the barriers that drive us to strike out at one another out of ignorance and fear. To do nothing is unacceptable.”

Sharon Leslie Morgan, a black woman from Chicago’s South Side avoids white people; they scare her. Despite her trepidation, Morgan, a descendent of slaves on both sides of her family, began a journey toward racial reconciliation with Thomas Norman DeWolf, a white man from rural Oregon who descends from the largest slave-trading dynasty in US history.

Over a three-year period, the pair traveled thousands of miles, both overseas and through twenty-seven states, visiting ancestral towns, courthouses, cemeteries, plantations, antebellum mansions, and historic sites. They spent time with one another’s families and friends and engaged in deep conversations about how the lingering trauma of slavery shaped their lives.

Gather at the Table is the chronicle of DeWolf and Morgan’s journey. Arduous and at times uncomfortable, it lays bare the unhealed wounds of slavery. As DeWolf and Morgan demonstrate, before we can overcome racism we must first acknowledge and understand the damage inherited from the past—which invariably involves confronting painful truths.

The result is a revelatory testament to the possibilities that open up when people commit to truth, justice, and reconciliation. DeWolf and Morgan offer readers an inspiring vision and a powerful model for healing individuals and communities.

The following are the Editorial Reviews the book has received:

“I could not put this book down. Gather at the Table is an extraordinary story of an honest, meaningful conversation across the racial divide. At times it hurts to read. And well it should. Centuries of injustice and trauma that face us every day in this country have no place for half-truths. Sharon and Tom took the harder road—searching for healing, they literally walked together into painful histories and found authentic friendship.”John Paul Lederach, co-author of When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys through the Soundscape of Healing and Reconciliation

“Sharon and Tom take us on a heart-opening journey of awakening. As a nation, we owe them a deep bow of gratitude as they help us navigate the deep divides of race and otherness.”—Belvie Rooks, Co-Founder, Growing A Global Heart

“Gather at the Table is an honest exploration into the deep social wounds left by racism, violence and injustice, as the authors work through their own prejudices in search of reconciliation—and ultimately find friendship.”Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate

“What a courageous journey – communicated in an engaging, readable style, with candor, humor, and deep feeling. This book shed light on the thoughts, questions, and feelings I have about race, society, culture, historical, generational and structurally-induced trauma–and the human ability to transcend. In reading it, I realized there are questions I’m still afraid to ask about race, things I’m afraid to say, and yet I realized anew the power of acknowledgment, mercy, justice, and conflict transformation. I’m grateful to DeWolf and Morgan for not just taking the journey, but for sharing their story with us.”—Carolyn Yoder, Founding Director of STAR: Strategies for Trauma Awareness & Resilience and author of The Little Book of Trauma Healing: When Violence Strikes and Community is Threatened

“The authors’ accomplishment stands on its own, but their book also serves as a great introduction to a shared past that ought to be better known.”Kirkus Reviews

the lost german slave girlIt is a spring morning in New Orleans, 1843. In the Spanish Quarter, on a street lined with flophouses and gambling dens, Madame Carl recognizes a face from her past. It is the face of a German girl, Sally Miller, who disappeared twenty-five years earlier. But the young woman is property, the slave of a nearby cabaret owner. She has no memory of a “white” past.

Yet her resemblance to her mother is striking, and she bears two telltale birthmarks. In brilliant novelistic detail, award-winning historian John Bailey reconstructs the exotic sights, sounds, and smells of mid-nineteenth-century New Orleans, as well as the incredible twists and turns of Sally Miller’s celebrated and sensational case.

Did Miller, as her relatives sought to prove, arrive from Germany under perilous circumstances as an indentured servant or was she, as her master claimed, part African, and a slave for life? A tour de force of investigative history that reads like a suspense novel, The Lost German Slave Girl is a fascinating exploration of slavery and its laws, a brilliant reconstruction of mid-nineteenth-century New Orleans, and a riveting courtroom drama.

It is also an unforgettable portrait of a young woman in pursuit of freedom.

 The following are the Editorial Reviews the book has received:

Who was Sally Miller: was she Salomé Müller, a long-lost German immigrant girl enslaved by a Southern planter? Or was she really a light-skinned black woman, shrewd enough to exploit her only opportunity for freedom? Bailey (The White Diver of Broome) keeps us guessing until the end in this page-turning true courtroom drama of 19th-century New Orleans.

Bailey opens the story in 1843, when a friend of the Schubers—a local family of German immigrants—discovered Miller outside her owner Louis Belmonti’s house. Struck by her remarkable resemblance to their late cousin Dorothea Müller, and unusual birthmarks exactly like he daughter Salomé’s, the Schubers claimed Sally as kin and set about trying to prove her identity as Salomé and obtain her freedom.

Bailey brings to life the fierce legal proceedings with vivid strokes. The case was controversial because it wasn’t Belmonti but her previous owner, the perfect Southern gentleman John Fitz Miller, who faced disgrace if proved to have forced a white German girl into slavery. Bailey elucidates the bewildering array of possible identities turned up for Sally by numerous witnesses as well as the complexities of 19th-century Louisiana slave law and the status of black women.

Sally herself remains an enigma at the center of this highly engrossing tale. – Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. 

My daughter is 8 years old and she loved this! Our children absolutely need to be taught about acceptance these days. What’s been done with Amy Hodgepodge that makes it extra special, is that they also learn other lessons on top of acceptance. Good job! – S.A. Johnson

This is a fascinating story in its own right, and a horrifying account of what slavery was like on a day-to-day basis for the people who lived with it in the Mississippi area. It’s the little details the author gives that bring home how degrading the institution was for slaves and slave owners alike.

Surprisingly the author is an Australian lawyer, I bought and read the book in paperback in Australia, but his research in the US has been meticulous. He has had to use fiction to fill in parts of the slave girl’s story but this enhances rather than detracts from the overall narrative. I highly recommend it, very suitable for the thinking person’s Christmas stocking! – Jona Pavlova

This book should be on the reading list of students of American history, for advanced placement high school or college students.

What are the legal ramifications when one race of people is allowed to own another? What appalling decisions will judges be called upon to make regarding who can own who? This book presents fascinating insight into the cruel legal history of slavery in the the Old South prior to civil war, especially the laws in Louisiana.

Although this book is written in a scholarly fashion, complete with footnotes, the drama and issues it presents would make a great episode of “Law and Order: Antebellum South” (cue music: “dunh-dunh”). – cln724

Let me know what you think of the books after you’ve read them. Although both books represent different ends of the slavery/racism topic, these books provide an insight on how people have dealt with slavery and how slavery is perceived. You may have read a plethora books on racism/slavery or watched countless movies about that era that forever changed America, but these two books will provide a different insight into what shaped our great nation.

It is said that reading stimulates the mind. The more you read, the more you open your mind up to new ways of thinking and thus the more creative you will become. Happy reading as always!

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5 thoughts on “Suggested readings of the month November ’12: Gather At The Table, The Lost German Slave Girl

  1. As a biracial woman whose ancestors were both slaves and slave-masters I’m extremely curious about Gather At The Table. I will order during my break.

  2. I have heard wonderful things about Gather At The Table. I’m not sure why I never ordered it to read on my Kindle. I will order it today however. Thanks for recommending.

  3. Pingback: Suggested readings of the month January ’13: The Nanny, Her Perfect Gift | KolorBlind Mag

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