The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights with One African American Family
by Gail Lumet Buckley. Edition Date:: 02/02/2016
In The Black Calhouns, Gail Lumet Buckley—daughter of actress Lena Horne—delves deep into her family history, detailing the experiences of an extraordinary African-American family from Civil War to Civil Rights.

Beginning with her great-great grandfather Moses Calhoun, a house slave who used the rare advantage of his education to become a successful businessman in post-war Atlanta, Buckley follows her family’s two branches: one that stayed in the South, and the other that settled in Brooklyn. Through the lens of her relatives’ momentous lives, Buckley examines major events throughout American history. From Atlanta during Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow, to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, and then from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement, this ambitious, brilliant family witnessed and participated in the most crucial events of the 19th and 20th centuries. Combining personal and national history, The Black Calhouns is a unique and vibrant portrait of six generations during dynamic times of struggle and triumph.
About the Author

That racism runs deep in American culture is not, perhaps, news--but while this compelling memoir/history of several generations of one African American family makes that clear, it also chronicles the way periods of possibility for black Americans have been interspersed with the ascendance of such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan and even, some of the attitudes that persist today. But while Buckley’s book is a fascinating history, it is no textbook; it’s also the very personal story of several generations of her own family. Among Buckley’s ancestors: Moses Calhoun, who became a well-to-do Atlanta businessman after emancipation--he’d been taught to read by his master who wanted a “sophisticated” butler. And, more famously, Buckley’s mother, the actress Lena Horne, who grew up to be a singer and movie star but began life at a Jewish lying-in hospital in Brooklyn because her mother was passing as white. Buckley’s tales are fascinating and her straightforward style winning. This is not just an important book. It’s also an enthralling one. --Sara Nelson

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