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Marilee J. Layman

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06:13 pm: Pearl's Secret by Neil Henry
Full title: Pearl's Secret: A Black Man's Search For His White Family

The most important thing about this book is that Henry considers himself black even though he has white ancestors. Not close to him, but still there. His family has some papers and pictures from the dividing point and his book is framed by his search for his white family in the few years before the book. Between those bits, we hear about racial situations from slavery times, segregation, riots after MLK, Jr. died, and so forth. We also hear about his family and how they managed.

When he finds his white relatives, it turns out that his family is in a better situation, primarily because they moved to Seattle in the early 1950's. The white relatives stayed in Louisianna and when the boll weevil took their crop, became poverty-stricken. When he goes to meet them, they accept him and share other information that they have of his side of the family. He finds out that the first two generations of the white family were in favor of slavery, and someone who is rather old and used to be in the Klan comes to dinner.

Henry thought he might get in a rage or crying when he met them, but instead he became sort of numb. It took him several weeks to realize that:

What counted most through the generations, far more than any other factor, regardless of our race, was how we treated those we loved and how well we loved. That seemed the transcendent lesson or moral that my search had revealed.

I didn't like the frame of the book very much, even though he implies in the Acknowledgements that someone else helped him with it, and thought that there was a lot of information I already knew in some of the parts between the frame. Nevertheless, if you'd like to see how segregation and integration have progressed via a personal history, it's a good book to read.



[User Picture]
Date:June 10th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
Interesting. There was a TV series (Americanized version of a BBC show) called "Who do you think you are" and they took 5 celebrities and helped them trace family histories. Brooke Shields discovered that her Mom's family suffered horrible tragedies and was basically dirt poor, while her father was a direct descendant of King Louis the 14th. Matthew Broderick, who starred in a movie about the Civil War discovered that he was a descendant of a "lost soldier" and helped to identify an unknown soldier.
Lisa Kudrow (Friends star) discovered that family they thought had died during the Soviet invasion of Eastern Europe was still alive.
Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that she was descended from an accused Salem witch.
But the two I found most interesting was the football player (I can't remember his name) and the director Spike Lee. Both used DNA to help determine how much "black or white" blood they had. The football player ended up going back to Africa, but Spike Lee found his white cousin (several times removed). He's reaction was similar to Henry Pearl's. He wanted to meet his relative but they didn't know how to act towards each other.
You might find the show interesting if you can get a copy of it. I'm hoping that they do a second season. Even if the celebrity isn't one I'm interested in, how they research their family history is educational.
[User Picture]
Date:June 10th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
The WashPost had a scientific rebuttal of how they looked for their ancestors. I wish I'd kept it! But I'm not interested in my history very much. I know the first Layman in our line came to the US from Prussia to be on the British side of the Revolutionary War (and stayed, which was common). Then we had two ancestors that were in the Civil War, each on a different side.
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