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Finding Francis

One Family's Journey from Slavery to Freedom

Elizabeth J. West

Published: Dec 8 2022


Published: Dec 8 2022


Published: Dec 8 2022

OA Ebook
Published: Dec 8 2022


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

Winner of the 2023 College Language Association Book Award

Finding Francis, finding family, freeing history

Francis is found. Beyond Francis, a family is found—in archival material that barely deigned to notice their existence. This is the story of Francis Sistrunk and her children, from enslavement into forced migration across South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. It spans decades before the Civil War and continues into post-emancipation America. A family story full of twists and turns, Finding Francis reclaims and honors those women who played an essential role in the historical survival and triumph of Black people during and after American slavery.

Elizabeth West has created a remarkable "biohistoriography" of everyday Black resistance, grounded in a determination to maintain enduring connections of family, kinship, and community despite the inhumanity and rapacity of slavery. There is inevitable heartbreak in these histories, but there is also an empowering strength and inspiration—the truth of these lives will indeed set us all free.

Available in audiobook from Recorded Books

Elizabeth J. West is the John B. and Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters and the Co-Director of Academics of the Center for Studies on Africa and Its Diaspora at Georgia State University. She is the author of African Spirituality in Black Women's Fiction and coeditor of Literary Expressions of African Spirituality.

"West deftly mines the archives of our lives in this moving tribute to her mother's paternal lineage six generations removed. In discovering Frances Sistrunk, West not only recovers the remnants of a resilient and familial legacy, she unearths the inextricable linkages between a living and buried past that refuses to stay silent. In this sojourn, West poetically discovers herself, and reveals to us all the ways oral histories, archives, legal and journalistic documents become a beautiful and painful tapestry of self-discovery, and a cultural map to a fuller view of American, African American, and human history that one must "find" and honor."—Dr. Carol E. Henderson, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Emory University

"Finding Francis is an interdisciplinary, multimedia study that demonstrates the innovation of the African Diaspora to preserve and verify its histories. It adds to the growing body of scholarship that recenters the interiority of Black lives from enslavement to freedom. . .This book bears witness to a movement among black scholars to hold space for the voices who could not tell their own stories and those that the written word has neglected. A valuable contribution to Africana Studies, undoubtedly."—Kameela Martin, Dean, Graduate School of the University of Charleston, director of African American Studies and professor of African American Studies and English, College of Charleston

Winner of the 2023 College Language Association Book Award

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