Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: "150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended" by Melvin Collier

          I recently had the pleasure to read the second genealogical work written by genealogist and African American historian  Melvin Collier titled "150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended".  This book takes you through Melvin's personal journey of tracing and chronicling his mother's family, the Reeds of northern Mississippi. This book covers from his ancestor William "Bill" Reed to his oldest known documented ancestors, Fanny and Lewis Barr of South Carolina. Melvin masterfully through his detailed and determined research is able to reconnect Bill Reed with his formerly enslaved family connection to the Barrs and Beckleys nearly a century after the family left South Carolina for Mississippi when the estate of his last known slave owner was divided among his children.
          This book is a must read for African Americans who are working on their own family genealogy. What I really enjoyed about the book is how it in many ways is an every man's story for African-Americans. I could relate to the family structure of having a 'brother' and 'sister' among the siblings. Among my Alabama father's siblings there was a 'brother' my Uncle Thurman and a 'sister' my Aunt Julia. I also could relate to the warmth of kinship between the extended family members Melvin met through his research. I feel the book put the traditional extended family and cultural norms of African-Americans upfront and in a positive spotlight.
         The highlight of the book  for this reader was the 2009 family reunion of the descendants of Fanny and Lewis Barr in Abbeville, South Carolina. Personally, I found that to be the most touching part of the book; the connections broken by the inhumane system of American slavery being mended by reuniting the descendants.
         In closing, I am grateful that Melvin wrote this second book from a personal perspective which serves to inspire researchers as myself to keep digging into their own genealogy and tell the stories missing from the historical narrative of this country.

Thanks Melvin!