Summary

Homelands and Waterwaysis a monumental history that traces the rise of a resolute African American family (the author's own) from privation to the middle class. In so doing, it explodes the stereotypes that have shaped and distorted our thinking about African Americans--both as slaves and in freedom. Adele Logan Alexander's account is the result of extensive interviews and exhaustive research in government, church, and academic archives, as well as in private papers and photographic collections. The story follows three generations of the Bond family from Victorian England to antebellum Virginia plantations, from Herman Melville's New Bedford and suburban Boston to the Jim Crow South and the nation's capital, from black college campuses to Harvard University, from naval skirmishes during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars to the Argonne Forest's World War I battlefields to scenes of the country's urban race riots. In addition to family members, notable figures such as Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Nicola Sacco, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti traverse these pages as well. Alexander guides the reader through eighty crucial years in American history, as the Bonds both willfully and unwittingly interacted with major political, technological, and cultural issues of their time, while established beliefs about race, class, and gender both limited and inspirited their lives. This compelling narrative and analysis of the Bonds' journeys through disparate adversities to an uneasy realization of the American dream is an achievement of both rich personal specificity and epic historical scope.