The Hairstons by Henry Wiencek

The Hairstons

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle AwardThe Hairstons is the extraordinary story of the largest family in America, the Hairston clan. With several thousand black and white members, the Hairstons share a complex and compelling history: divided in the time of slavery, they have come to embrace their past as one family.The black family's story is most exceptional. It is the account of the rise of a remarkable people—the children, grandchil...

Details The Hairstons

TitleThe Hairstons
Release DateFeb 19th, 2000
PublisherSt. Martin's Griffin
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Biography, Cultural, African American

Reviews The Hairstons

  • Sarah
    This is a really wonderful book and a truly important story. I was a bit nervous when I picked it up from the library--I knew the author's main area of research was old Southern mansions and plantation architecture, which had me a little apprehensive that he might be one of those Northerners who just love the "romance" of the antebellum South. And then I was also worried, based on the subject matter, that this might be one of those annoying, naiv...
  • Cheri
    I saw this book on display at the library during Black History month and just had to check it out as my husband's uncle is a HAIRSTON and I'm a genealogist. It was fascinating. Only then did I learn from his uncle that they had heard stories all their lives about this! At one point in history, the daughter of one of the slave holders and the forbidden love between his mistress at the height of the Civil War threatens to leave her the heiress to t...
  • Sarah Beth
    4.5 StarsThis book is about the history of a white slaveholding family in the American South, and their slaves. The white family, pronounced (Harston), share their history and their name with many of the descendents of their black slaves, who pronounce the name as written. The Hairstons owned plantations from Virginia to South Carolina and held as many as ten thousand slaves. Samuel Hairston of Oak Hill plantation, was probably the richest man in...
  • Joe Keefhaver
    It took me awhile to warm to this book, but it became more interesting when the author established the biological link between at least some of the white and black Hairstons. The stories from the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction, as well as World War II, were intriguing. Although Reconstruction failed on most fronts, it was rewarding to read about how many well-meaning individuals sought to lift the lot of the recently freed African-Amer...
  • Colleen
    The Hairston family is one of the largest clans in America. The family was once one of the wealthiest in the States, with numerous plantations covering huge swaths of the South up until the end of the Civil War. Needless to say, this wealth was built on the backs of the thousands of slaves that the family owned.Part of what makes this family history so interesting is that that Hairston clan consists of both black and white families, many of whom ...
  • Dale
    "I did not want to like this book." Each of us in my book group said this. Each of us loved it. For various reasons, we all loved it. I loved the genealogical aspect and stories that came up about these families. I loved the exquisite sense of history the author gave in analyzing the data he found through exhaustive search of records and interviews. Growing upin California in the 60s, I was caught up in the civil rights movement, if only vicariou...
  • Rebecca
    This is a book I revisit frequently, as I continue on my meandering, sidetracked route to understanding human motivation. Where better to try to understand the history of your country then in the history of a dynasty that tried to hide and/or profit from half of its family members?Wiencek does a hell of a job in getting people to talk to him--his persistence pays off in filling out the family history of the entire Hairston family. Don't just take...
  • Niknesha Q. Hairston
    My grandma had given me this book and asked me to read it because she wanted to know about our family. I was so busy that I never had time to read it. I just found the book in my grandma's things (she passed away 4 years ago) and decided I should read it. The book was so good. It delve deep into a family that practically built the south. Before I read this book I would always think that I was the black sheep of my family. No one thought like me o...
  • Bap
    A family descended from slave owners in the south side of Virginia and the piedmont of North Carolina both whites and blacks, It was a common name in Danville Virginia where I handled a death penalty case and one of the jurors on the case, a black man, was a Hairston. The black Hairstons appear to be on the ascendancy now but then again it is likely that there were many more of them than the slave masters in their half dozen plantations.
  • Michel
    One American family, as they have accepted each other, the blacks and the whites, through slavery, emancipation, segregation, discrimination, lynchings, reconciliation.A book to reread this year, when a Black man is running for President of the United States.Respectful, painful and joyful, and beautifully written.
  • Leslie
    I found out about this book because another member of a Facebook genealogy group mentioned it. One of my favorite subjects is local and family history, so I grabbed a copy when I saw one for sale. I was not disappointed; I think this is the best book I've read so far this year. The author covers the story of the Hairston family, black and white, through the years from slavery to the 1990s. I found his viewpoint to be compassionate and sometimes s...
  • Mary
    I am reading The Hairstons for the second time. The first time must pre-date Goodreads because it is not recorded. It is worth reading a second time.A few personal observations. We moved to Raleigh, NC in 1976. Our children attended public schools just a short time after the city schools were combined with the county schools to promote integration. We sent our kids to inner city schools that were magnet schools and they were wonderful. They were ...
  • Kara
    Phenomenal and fascinating book.
  • Candy
    You have to love history to get through this one! I really enjoyed it!
  • Cara Varnell
    I could not put this book down! It reads like a novel but explores the history of slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movements through a family that lived on a plantation.
  • Graceann
    Henry Wiencek was perhaps the perfect person to take on the frankly daunting task of telling this family's story, and telling it well. He has written on the American South numerous times and came to the project with the appropriate credentials. However, I suspect that even he was surprised by the amount of work involved in getting to the heart of the Hairstons. He was presented with family trees and stacks of documents that would give the most in...
  • Joann Eaton
    This book is a family history of the Hairston clan, both the black and white branch, tracing them from the white clan's establishment as one of the richest slave holder family's in the South through to present times. It addressed the struggles and triumphs of the family and how the two groups deal with their intertwined relationships. I highly recommend this book, not for the writing which is slightly above average, but for the illumination of th...
  • Noreen Mccann
    What a thoroughly researched book into the Hairston familiy- black, white and everything in between. Wiencek takes us with him on his journey off the beaten track through Virginia and North Carolina to talk to family, visit cemeteries, plantaions, ruins and to conduct research. He never shies from discussing race or the effects of slavery with us or the Hairstons. I learned a lot from this story. My eyes were especially opened to the plight of th...
  • Christine Hoover
    I read this book because I saw Jonathan Yardley, upon retirement, put this on his top 30 list of best reads of his career as a book critic. Interesting nonfiction read about a family tree involving both whites and blacks from slavery days into the present. Some chapters were really compelling and made me want to read more. Others had me questioning whether I even wanted to finish the book. Overall, I'm glad I read it.
  • Pat Carson
    Terrific read and I'd recommend this to anyone. Get another look at the past and current results of slavery through the eyes of one family that faces both sides of the issue. The stories of black Hairstons and how they were treated in the segregated military, even after 1948, are worth the read alone.
  • Rosie
    A good friend loaned me a book to read based on his family, the Hairstons. I was captivated by the history of his family who owned several plantations during the Civil War and owned slaves. An excellent read--I learned so much that I didn't already know about the Civil War, slavery, and his descendants.
  • Karen
    This book was interesting to me because I love genealogy and also it happens not too far from my home. It gave insight to what it was like to be a slave Hairston vs landowner Hairston and how the families were related.
  • Pat (AZ Realtor) 480-840-7166
    Just when you thought you knew everthing about slavery comes this book about the Hairstons. A white family that owned slaves. This is their story and the black Hairston story too. I highly recommend this book. Not only for the history that it reveals, but for how it turns out.
  • Lee
    This book made me think of highly controversial news stories such as the OJ Simpson trial and the Trayvon Martin case in a whole new light. And it reminded me that no matter how sympathetic, no white person can ever know how it feels to be black.
  • Selvi
    This was really fascinating. I learned so much about the history that never came through it school. I liked the way the story moved between the author and his investigations and reflections and stories of family. I did get a bit confused about who everybody was, but it's difficult not to.
  • Pamela
    Non-fiction. Family of former slaves and slave-holders. Very interesting.
  • Cristina
    Fantastic true story. By far my favorite book from all of my Southern Plantation classes. Fun fact: a few months after I read this story, turns out one of my friends is a Hairston!