After the Civil War, African Americans placed poignant “information
wanted” advertisements in newspapers, searching for missing family members.
Inspired by the power of these ads, Heather Andrea Williams uses slave
narratives, letters, interviews, public records, and diaries to guide listeners
back to devastating moments of family separation during slavery when people
were sold away from parents, siblings, spouses, and children. Williams explores
these heartbreaking stories and the long, usually unsuccessful
journeys toward reunification. Examining the interior lives of the enslaved and
freed people as they tried to come to terms with great loss, Williams grounds
their grief, fear, anger, longing, frustration, and hope in the history of
American slavery and the domestic slave trade.
Williams follows those who were separated, chronicles their
searches, and documents the rare experience of reunion. She also explores the empathy, sympathy, indifference, and hostility expressed by whites about
sundered black families. Williams shows how searches for family members in the
post–Civil War era continue to reverberate in African American culture in the
ongoing search for family history and connection across generations.
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