Sapelo's People

Overview

"A searing metaphorical X-ray of a people battling to find space where they can become themselves. . . . I am deeply grateful for McFeely's magnificent effort of thought, empathy, scholarship and imagination." —Roger Wilkins, Los Angeles Times Book Review (front-page review)
In this moving and original work, William S. McFeely, one of this country's most distinguished historians, retells the history—and enters into the current-day lives—of the people who inhabit Sapelo's Island off the coast of Georgia, ...

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Overview

"A searing metaphorical X-ray of a people battling to find space where they can become themselves. . . . I am deeply grateful for McFeely's magnificent effort of thought, empathy, scholarship and imagination." —Roger Wilkins, Los Angeles Times Book Review (front-page review)
In this moving and original work, William S. McFeely, one of this country's most distinguished historians, retells the history—and enters into the current-day lives—of the people who inhabit Sapelo's Island off the coast of Georgia, descendants of slaves who once worked its huge cotton plantations. It is at once a richly detailed work of historical reconstruction, a sensitive portrait of the lives of black Americans in this particular place and in our own time, and a moving meditation on race by a writer who has made its painful dilemmas his life's work as a historian.

McFeely retells the history--and enters the current-day lives--of the people who inhabit Sapelo's Island off the coast of Georgia, descendants of slaves who once worked its plantations. It is a richly detailed work of historical reconstruction, a sensitive portrait of black Americans in this place and in our own time, and a moving meditation on race.

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Editorial Reviews

Roger Wilkins - Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A searing metaphorical X-ray of a people battling to find space where they can become themselves. . . . I am deeply grateful for McFeely's magnificent effort of thought, empathy, scholarship and imagination.”
Benjamin Griffith - Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Raising historical writing to the level of art, McFeely tells with genuine respect an urgent and important story.”
Bill Holm - Hungry Mind Review
“The story of Sapelo's past is both a wonderful and a terrible one and McFeely tells it splendidly. . . . It is a noble story. It warms the heart. We learn from it another possibility of being human.”
Melissa Fay Greene - Boston Globe
“As an idiosyncratic attempt to capture something of what it has been like to be an American, and to be human, over the last two centuries, Sapelo's People is a marvelous text.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
At the start of the Civil War, several thousand slaves worked the vast plantation on the barrier island of Sapelo, which lies off the southern coast of Georgia. When the island became part of the plan to blockade Savannah, some slaves escaped to join the Union army; hundreds more were moved inland by their owner. Freed in 1863, many returned to the only home they knew and, with government land grants, resettled Sapelo. By 1865 they had a school; in 1866, a church; in 1867 the men voted. Today, 67 of their remaining descendants still own the land. War historian McFeeley ( Grant and Frederick Douglass ) uses scraps of oral history from these offspring and his own research to trace their origin back to Africa. He reconstructs their forebears' capture, delivery to the Bahamas and sale to the Sapelo plantation owner, and re-creates the character of their male progenitor, a powerful, literate African Muslim who became virtual manager of the plantation. McFeely identifies some puzzling language patterns with Arabic and retells Sherman's March to the sea by tracing its impact on the lives of Sapelo's slaves and present-day descendants. An enthralling account. (June)
Library Journal
Civil War historian McFeely has long been drawn to Sapelo Island, Georgia, whose residents are descended from slaves brought there in the 19th century. Though he has written acclaimed works on great men (e.g., the Pulitzer Prize-winning Grant, LJ 2/15/81; Frederick Douglass, LJ 2/1/91), he yearned ``to know the slaves and freed people-and their descendants-with whom I share an American history.'' McFeely blends creative writing, oral tradition, and historiography to do more than narrate a saga of residents on a sea island. He offers a meditation on race as he looks at the lives of an island's people. With McFeely's introduction, we come to know the people and the ancestors of this distinct community. Recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/94.]-Kathleen E. Bethel, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, Ill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393313772
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 473,685
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

William S. McFeely, the Abraham Baldwin Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus, at the University of Georgia, is the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning biography Grant. He lives in Wellfleet and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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