The story below is an excerpt from our September/October 2016 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
Writer Randy Johnson’s name first showed up in this magazine’s publisher’s box in 1989, when we were one year into existence.
Ditto the name of photographer/writer Tim Barnwell.
And while it’s Blue Ridge Country’s loss that we’ve never gotten to include the name Beth Macy in said pub box, she is a long-time neighbor and friend here in BRC’s hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, where she was for many years the star reporter for the local daily, and is now two books into her career as a best-selling author.
We’re pleased to present excerpts from the fine new books from Mssrs. Johnson and Barnwell in this issue, and equally pleased to talk a little about the fine new book from Ms. Macy, which begins by doing a very good job at that requirement for non-fiction works these days—explicitly and thoroughly telling you in the title what the book is about: “TRUEVINE. Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South.”
The tale is set primarily in the county just south of here—Franklin—famous for its moonshine and its tobacco, and equally infamous, as are so many Southern counties, for pervasive and institutionalized racial discrimination and brutality during the 1890s-1970s era of the book’s content.
The focal points of that ugly reality are two brothers born in the 1890s in the tiny Franklin County community of Truevine, where “[f]rom slavery to segregation, from integration to globalization—the economic history of the American South is written. Truevine is a speck of land where slaves and their descendants became sharecroppers, then sewing-machine operators, then unemployed workers before, finally—those who could afford to anyway—they fled.”
Macy’s story is of the two albino African American brothers from that speck of land, and their own “fleeing”—the uncertain circumstances of their becoming indentured, freak-show stars of “the predominant form of American entertainment between 1840 and 1940,” the traveling circus and sideshow industry, “where children and disabled people were bartered like horses,” where pickpocketing and short-changing were part of the business model, and where the likes of two odd-looking young men were so deeply and pervasively exploited as to have been virtual slaves to their circus masters.
The path of the book is Macy’s relentless journey to find out not only how the brothers became property of various circus and traveling show owners, but also to learn the impacts of the circumstances on them and their mother, who spent much of her life both trying to find out where they were and seeking to put the best public face on what had befallen them.
It is due out in October, and is compelling, if occasionally downright painful reading.
... The story above is an excerpt from our September/October 2016 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!