The Akee Tree
Black Book Talks interviews Stephen Hanks, author of The Akee Tree.
What would compel an African-American man to spend ten years of his life tracing his family tree from the Pacific Northwest back to slavery times in Mississippi, and ultimately to its African roots? For Portland author Stephen Hanks his quest begins with mere curiosity when he reads the obituary of his uncle, and soon blossoms into a full-blown genealogical investigation. Using standard genealogical tools—interviews, census records, and other sources—he delves into the past, soon finding that he must follow two families, his own and that of those who held his ancestors in bondage.
The search takes on a life of its own when Hanks discovers some of the present-day descendants of plantation owner and slaveholder Richard Eskridge. With their help he is able to follow the trail back to Colonel George Eskridge of Virginia, whose namesake was none other than George Washington, the Father of Our Country. Hanks continues to probe, and eventually identifies and visits the homeland of his ancestors in Africa.