Gotham: A Family History of African-Americans in 19th Century New York City
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by Carla L. Peterson
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press (February 22, 2011)
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
Book Reviewed by Kam Williams
"This book is… not exactly a family memoir, but neither is
it traditional social history. It is a narrative that lies somewhere in
between. It records my search to find my father's New York family; my
success in uncovering many documents [which] serve as a pathway to a larger
public history: the history of social movements, political events, and
I've written Black Gotham out of a sense of obligation to the dead, to give a face to those left faceless by acts of trauma and erasure. I also feel I owe something to my family and my community… Black Gotham is meant to be an act of reparation, an act to repair the tears of memory—tears in the sense of both sorrow and rupture."
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. 6, 30 & 31)
Before undertaking this daunting project, Carla Peterson was aware of precious little about her roots. In fact, although she's African-American, the only 19th Century ancestor she really knew anything about was a Caucasian great-grandfather from Haiti named Philip Augustus White (1823-1891).
But despite that lack of genealogical information, Peterson, a Professor
of English at the University of Maryland, embarked on a fruitful quest which
began in the manuscript room at the famed Schomburg Center for Research. And
the upshot of her tireless efforts is Black Gotham: A Family History
of African-Americans in 19th Century New York City.