Book explores racial identification

Book explores racial identification

The Post and Courier
Charleston, South Carolina

Karen Spain, legal writer based in Nashville

The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey From Black to White. By Daniel J. Sharfstein. Penguin. 416 pages.

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, “The Invisible Line” is a fascinating history of how three mixed-race families migrated across the color line and changed their racial identification from black to white.

The Gibsons, wealthy mulatto landowners in Colonial South Carolina, were white Southern aristocrats by the time of the Civil War.

The Walls, slave children freed by their white father, became respected members of the black middle class before giving up their prominence to “become” white.

The Spencers, hardworking Appalachian farmers in eastern Kentucky, spent almost a century straddling the color line.

The three intricately woven genealogies reveal an America where race has never been as simple as black or white. In rugged environments where survival meant relying on neighbors for security, commerce and marriage, it was easier to assume everyone was the same than to draw impenetrable distinctions between the races…

Read the entire review here.

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