Among the panels on the busy main day of Succeed2gether’s Montclair Literary Festival on Saturday, March 23, is one titled “Slavery’s Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation.” The panel is a consideration of an anthology of the same name, edited by Jill Strauss and Dionne Ford, from Rutgers University Press.
The anthology, according to the literary festival, confronts the legacy of slavery, as contributors relate how they deal with America’s racial past through experience or family history. Montclair writer Dionne Ford, author of “Finding Josephine,” and contributor Karen Branan, author of “The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth,” will talk with Montclair’s Rachel Swarns, author of “American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama.” Swarns, along with Darcy Eveleigh, is also one of the authors of “Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives.”
Ford, Branan, and all of the contributors to “Slavery’s Descendants,” are all members of the racial reconciliation group Coming to the Table (comingtothetable.org).
A description of the book states that of the writers, “Some are descendants of slaveholders, some are descendants of the enslaved, and many are descendants of both slaveholders and slaves. What they all have in common is a commitment toward collective introspection, and a willingness to think critically about how the nation’s histories of oppression continue to ripple into the present, affecting us all.”
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Montclair Local spoke to Ford in 2017 when she won an NEA Fellowship for “Finding Josephine,” the true story of the author’s search to learn the history of her great-great-grandmother, Tempy, a slave, and her great-great-grandfather, who owned her.
“When dealing with enslaved people, you have to find out about the people who enslaved them,” she told us. “There were two families who enslaved her family members. I’m trying to get to the origin point where other people may have taken her family, help pin down how they got separated.”
The panel will take place at 10 a.m. in the Guild Room, First Congregational Church, 40 South Fullerton Ave.