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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important account of slavery, 3 April 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Slaves in the Family (Paperback)
I read this book shortly after reading Roots. It interested me primarily because it was coming from the 'other side' - that of the slave owners themselves. Edward Ball has written an excellent and important book which is vital reading to anyone interested in slavery. He never shirks from his responsibility to tell the truth, however unpalatable it may be and however much some of his own family did not want him to write this book. He deserves credit for this. His accounts of meeting the descendants of his family's slaves (some of whom were related to him) make compelling reading. For the most part the families welcomed him, but for those who felt unable to welcome, there is nothing but understanding from the author.
Vital reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional,important and factual work of art., 6 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Slaves in the Family (Paperback)
being able to trace his ancestry, was important enough for mr ball to write this book. Whilst doing so he focused equally on the shamefull parts of the Ball family history. This is admirable on its own, but to give such an account of life as a slave on a plantation as inspired me to look at the pride and strength of my ancestors in much greater depth. well done Mr Ball
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An honest book, and a brave one..., 27 May 2010
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C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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I found this book very interesting and quite moving. In it the author, a member of an old plantation-owning family established in South Carolina since before the Revolution, sets out to trace the descendants of slaves owned by his family and uncover their stories. It's his attempt to come to terms with his family's history, and it's a remarkably honest and unflinching book, all the more so considering many members of his family were quite reluctant for him to write it, and he faced some hostility from many of the people he contacted regarding their slave ancestors.

He doesn't shy away from dealing with issues about beatings, violence and even executions on the plantation, about the masters' sexual relations with their slaves, about the 'mulatto' children that often resulted, about the frequent separations of families. You can really feel the internal struggle throughout this book - on the one hand he is deeply ashamed and guilty about his family's history and on the other he is understandably proud of his family's position in South Carolina and its long history. He repeatedly mentions how a person today cannot be held responsible for their actions of his forebears, but at the same time that doesn't mean that he isn't accountable for them.

It's a a brave book, all things considered, but I can't quite get past the fact that yet again it's a white man telling a black man's story. I wonder just how honest this book really is, just how selective he has been with his stories of his meetings with descendants of Ball slaves. I suppose, for all its talk of telling the slaves' stories, it's really more about Edward Ball himself and his own complicated feelings towards his family's history, both the black and white sides of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Personal, anecdotal history for the common reader., 16 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Slaves in the Family (Hardcover)
Mr. Ball knows his family history well. But what happened to the slaves owned by his family and freed by the Civil War? A mixture of guilt and curiosity drives him to seek the descendants of the Ball slaves. I love the way his tales of Antebellum days give a real sense of the smell and sound and feel of the old world gone and well gone at that. I know a black woman who claims that her people have no history. This book belies that statement. What a recond of endurence and a stubborn clinging to human dignity against all odds.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and honest, 21 Mar 2003
This review is from: Slaves in the Family (Paperback)
Having read Roots, this book interested me because it was from the other point of view - that of the slave owners. Mr Ball doesn't gloss over his family's past, and that is to his credit. Whilst he faced some hostility from family members during the writing of the book, this didn't stop him from seeking the truth and he should be congratulated for that.
His meetings with the descendants of slaves (some of whom are his relatives) were very moving and I believe he really did, for the most part, connect with them in a way which will benefit both. For those who were not welcoming, Mr Ball shows sympathy and understanding.
I found the passages detailing the civil war quite difficult to read, as I am not a fan of military history, but still they were well written and researched.
An essential read to anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge of slavery.
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Slaves in the Family
Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (Paperback - 26 Aug 1999)
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