The Reach of History

I’ve been meaning to post about the book Roots ever since I finished, and that will come soon when I have a bit more time to put all of my thoughts to paper. But today I was reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog at The Atlantic (as I do every day) and he has a post talking about digging into his family genealogy. The post goes into discussion of how close the past really is – that slavery, and the story that unfolds in Roots, really isn’t that far removed from where we are today, despite how far away it seems.

To that end, one of the commenters posted something that still has my mind reeling:John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States (from 1841-1845) still has two living grandchildren. This man was the President before the Civil War, and some of his grandchildren are still living; there are still people alive today who personally knew slaves. We’ve accelerated so quickly with technological advancements; our world seems so foreign compared to the mid 18th century that we forget how very recent that past is.

One thing I know that I will take away from this: my grandmother (age 76) and grandfather (late 80’s) will be visiting from Florida over the holidays and I want to hear their stories. They will likely be very different stories, since my family is largely made up of late 19th and early 20th century immigrants who lived in Canada and then Michigan, but they must have some good ones. I will report back.

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