In new book, two Kentucky families discover surprising racial histories

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2013-05-14 04:39Z by Steven

In new book, two Kentucky families discover surprising racial histories

Lexington Herald-Leader
Lexington, Kentucky

Linda B. Blackford

Freda Spencer Goble of Paintsville knew that she hailed from a proud and hardworking clan that carved a life out of the hills and hollows of frontier Johnson County. What she didn’t know was that one of those frontiersmen, her great-great grandfather, was partly black.

William LaBach is a Georgetown lawyer and genealogist who has long studied his Gibson relatives, a clan of Louisiana sugar planters who made a second home in Lexington before the Civil War. He’d heard that a colonial forebear was part African, but could never confirm it.

These two Kentucky families are now the subject of a new book by Vanderbilt University law professor Daniel Sharfstein. The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey From Black to White reveals the complex and shifting history of race in America, a history about people’s most basic — and yet most unreliable — assumptions about their own identity…

…Thanks to books like Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball and revelations about President Thomas Jefferson’s black descendants, people have become more used to the idea that family trees branch with different ethnicities. However, the idea they might be a different ethnicity themselves is a new idea that is only recently emerging in genealogy and other historical studies.

“This is a more unsettling story. … The story really changes the way people approach race,” Sharfstein said. “For a lot of the descendants I spoke with, being white meant they really didn’t have to think about race for most of their lives. But now they’re really paying attention.”…

Read the entire article here.

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