PULLMAN—Sharon Morgan is an African American woman living in Chicago’s South Side whose ancestors were slaves. Tom DeWolf is a white man living in rural Oregon with family roots in the largest slave-trading dynasty in U.S. history. They explored their common legacy of slavery over a three-year period, became friends, and wrote a book, “Gather at the Table.” On Jan. 10, they will visit Washington State University to share their story at a 7 p.m. presentation in the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE), room 203.
The public is invited to this free event which will include videos, readings, and audience participation. It is sponsored by the WSU Global Campus, which provides campus-style events to more than 3,000 WSU Online students around the world through its Global Connections program. [http://connections.wsu.edu/]
The topics of the lecture tie to this year’s Common Reading book in use by WSU freshmen system wide, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Students in Pullman are invited to attend the presentation in person.
The Gather at the Table project details experiences when the authors pursued “using genealogy as an undercurrent to come to terms with the history out of which racism evolved.” Morgan and DeWolf traveled through 27 states and abroad visiting ancestral towns, courthouses, cemeteries, plantations, sites of racial terror, antebellum mansions, and historic sites. They visited with each other’s families and engaged in deep conversations about how the lingering trauma of slavery and racism has shaped their lives.
Their shared “healing journey” is documented in their book which was published by Beacon Press in October 2012.
In 2001, DeWolf discovered that he was related to the most successful slave-trading family in U.S. history, responsible for transporting at least 10,000 Africans. His book, “Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History,” was published in 2008 by Beacon Press. It is his “memoir of the journey in which 10 family members retraced their ancestors’ steps” from their home in Bristol, Rhode Island, to slave forts on the coast of Ghana where DeWolf’s traded rum for African men, women, and children; and then to the ruins of a family plantation in Cuba where ships often left the slaves for sale and returned to Rhode Island carrying sugar and molasses to make rum. The family journey was filmed in the Emmy-nominated documentary “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North.” It premiered nationally on the PBS series P.O.V. and was an “Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival.”
Morgan is a marketing communications consultant, a nationally recognized pioneer in multicultural marketing, and a founder of the National Black Public Relations Society. She has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa, and for more than 25 years has researched her family history in Alabama’s Lowndes County and Mississippi’s Noxubee County. An avid genealogist, she blogs extensively, leads workshops on African American family history, and founded the website OurBlackAncestry.com, devoted to helping “people appreciate and explore African American family history and culture.”
Her first book, “My Daddy is a Cool Dude,” was published in 1975 by The Dial Press and nominated for the Caldecott Medal for children’s literature. She also co-authored “Real Women Cook: Building Healthy Communities with Recipes that Stir the Soul.”
Both Morgan and DeWolf are members of Coming to the Table, an associate organization of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University; DeWolf serves on the board of Coming to the Table. It “provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery,” according to the website at http://www.comingtothetable.org.
Two additional guest events follow on the heels of the authors’ visit. At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23, David “Sonny” Lacks and Jeri Lacks-Whye, the son and granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks, will be special guests for a moderated discussion on this year’s Common Reading book in Beasley Coliseum, followed by a book signing. It is hosted by the University College at WSU, in which the Common Reading is a program. More information is available online at http://CommonReading.wsu.edu.
At 7 p.m. Feb. 6, Kevin Bales, co-founder of Free the Slaves and a consultant to the United Nations, will speak in the CUB Auditorium. His visit is sponsored by the WSU Global Campus.
All of the events are free and open to the public.
CONTACT: Charlie Snyder, Program Specialist, WSU Global Campus, 509-335-2433, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Weathermon, Co-Director of the Common Reading Program in the University College at WSU, 509-335-5488, email@example.com
MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Director of Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu