“The Sons of Former Slaves & The Sons of Former Slave Owners” – Tomlinson Hill, a Book to Read Fully!

Let’s start with some brief excerpts from the book.   Read them carefully.  (I’ve bolded a portion).

I have borne witness to enough injustice, hatred, violence, and bigotry to know that the accident of one’s gender, race, nationality, and wealth determines one’s future more than one’s personal intelligence or motivation.

I always knew when white men were talking about black men, because it was the only time they referred to an adult as a “boy.” Unless they were talking about a “good ol’ boy,” which meant the man was white and “dependable.” A “boy” could never be forgiven, while a “good ol’ boy” could do no wrong.

There had been no great animosities engendered between the whites and blacks, because slave-owners and slaves understood each other. Frequently there was a deep affection between them. As far as known, there were no cruel and unfair slave-owners here. They realized their responsibilities to the slaves and treated them accordingly. This so-called history has little basis in truth, but it was the predominant perspective held by the dominant race at the time. I have included it to demonstrate how a bigoted history can survive for generations.

In my research, I found that people love to embrace their heritage until they’re asked to talk about America’s racist history. Few people are ready to publicly acknowledge that their ancestors murdered, raped, and maimed others to maintain a racist regime that guaranteed their and their offspring’s prosperity.

The book is the remarkable story by Chris Tomlinson. Chris Tomlinson grew up in Dallas – the Lake Highlands area. He has been a fearless war correspondent, and he is also the descendent of slave owners from Tomlinson Hill, a small community in/near Marlin, TX. The slaves they owned also ended up with the name Tomlinson, the most famous of whom is LaDainian Tomlinson, the great NFL running back. That Mr. Tomlinson wrote the foreword to the book.

Dr. King’s great line provides the context:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Small-Tomlinson-Hill-CoverThe book is: Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name – One White, One Black. I really can’t write a summary. It is not a book I can read and tell you enough about. If you care about a deeper understanding of our racist history, this is the book to read.

I have read, and presented synopses of a number of books dealing with racial issues in our past and our present. This book, so personal, but so well-documented, is a sobering read. And, a genuine treasure of a book.

I speak, of course, as a white man – a privileged white man, as all white men are. You cannot read this book and think anything else.

I will make a presentation on this book at tomorrow’s lunch-time Urban Engagement Book Club (sponsored by CitySquare). Here are A few stories and observations I will highlight:

  1. The fires of 1860 (in Dallas, and other places) – and the “Vigilance Committees” — slaves executed for the fires (3 in Dallas)… (history has settled on the fact that the fires were set by “Prairie Matches” and combustible materials – not by black people.
  2. The countless “legal” maneuverings to keep African Americans “disadvantaged” (and, to keep white people “advantaged”).
  3. The lies we (white Americans) tell ourselves about our past keep us ignorant of who we were, and what we are…
  4. The very real, deep, community endorsed and accepted racist heritage right here in Dallas.
  5. Maybe, simply – learn and know the story/stories – the true story/stories. Don’t believe the false story/stories. Don’t accept the false; don’t remain silent in the presence of the false.

I do not often say this quite as directly – but I say it now. Do read this book! You will understand so many things so much more fully if you do.


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