The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name - One White, One Black
By Chris Tomlinson
(Thomas Dunne Books, Hardcover, 9781250005472, 448pp.)
Publication Date: July 22, 2014
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A New York Times Best Seller!
Tomlinson Hill is the stunning story of two families—one white, one black—who trace their roots to a slave plantation that bears their name.
Internationally recognized for his work as a fearless war correspondent, award-winning journalist Chris Tomlinson grew up hearing stories about his family’s abandoned cotton plantation in Falls County, Texas. Most of the tales lionized his white ancestors for pioneering along the Brazos River. His grandfather often said the family’s slaves loved them so much that they also took Tomlinson as their last name.
LaDainian Tomlinson, football great and former running back for the San Diego Chargers, spent part of his childhood playing on the same land that his black ancestors had worked as slaves. As a child, LaDainian believed the Hill was named after his family. Not until he was old enough to read an historical plaque did he realize that the Hill was named for his ancestor’s slaveholders.
A masterpiece of authentic American history, Tomlinson Hill traces the true and very revealing story of these two families. From the beginning in 1854— when the first Tomlinson, a white woman, arrived—to 2007, when the last Tomlinson, LaDainian’s father, left, the book unflinchingly explores the history of race and bigotry in Texas. Along the way it also manages to disclose a great many untruths that are latent in the unsettling and complex story of America.
Tomlinson Hill is also the basis for a film and an interactive web project. The award-winning film, which airs on PBS, concentrates on present-day Marlin, Texas and how the community struggles with poverty and the legacy of race today, and is accompanied by an interactive web site called Voice of Marlin, which stores the oral histories collected along the way.
Chris Tomlinson has used the reporting skills he honed as a highly respected reporter covering ethnic violence in Africa and the Middle East to fashion a perfect microcosm of America’s own ethnic strife. The economic inequality, political shenanigans, cruelty and racism—both subtle and overt—that informs the history of Tomlinson Hill also live on in many ways to this very day in our country as a whole. The author has used his impressive credentials and honest humanity to create a classic work of American history that will take its place alongside the timeless work of our finest historians
CHRIS TOMLINSON grew up in Dallas and became a reporter in 1994 covering the end of Apartheid in South Africa. He has reported from 50 countries and nine war zones, including Rwanda, Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. He now lives in Austin with his wife Shalini Ramanathan and writes for The Houston Chronicle.
Chris Tomlinson covered conflict, including apartheid in Africa, for 11 years. Then the great-great-grandson of Texas slaveholders realized he needed to write a book about his family's history. More at NPR.org
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“From the Hemingses of Monticello to the Tomlinsons of Tomlinson Hill, family in America has never been as easily defined as the color line of slavery and Jim Crow pretended. Sometimes it takes a reporter to sort out the truth. In the case of Tomlinson Hill, that reporter is one of the best of his generation, and in unraveling the poignant, often painful mystery of his family and those they once owned, Chris Tomlinson applies the same journalistic standards he once brought to the battlefields of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The resulting reconciliation is as moving as it is inspiring.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“A personal, unvarnished look at race in America.”—Mark K. Updegrove, presidential historian and author of Baptism By Fire
“A complex story, at times stark but with moments of hope, that offers insights into American race relations.”—Alwyn Barr, author of Black Texans
“A remarkable and essential book of personal and national history, a profound reckoning with the infinite tangles of race and identity along the roots and branches of the American family tree. It is a quietly epic story—spanning centuries—masterfully reconstructed, and memorably told...” —Philip Gourevitch, author of The Ballad of Abu Ghraib
“This book is a rewarding reminder of how a seemingly unremarkable place can be a laboratory for understanding the conflicts at the heart of our national identity. Chris Tomlinson has drilled deep into Tomlinson Hill, and released a gusher of history.” —Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo
“The author offers not only a detailed history of two families brought together by circumstances greater than themselves; he also opens an honest conversation necessary to begin healing the centuries-old racial rifts that have marred American history…Cleareyed and courageously revealing.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Fast-paced…spellbinding…Tomlinson not only offers an engaging and poignant look into his own past but also a riveting glimpse of the history of race relations in Texas.” —Publishers Weekly
“…an unflinching look at the racial history of one small Texas community…through his meticulous research into not only his ancestors’ but also America’s past, Tomlinson sets his and LaDainian’s very personal narratives within the larger scope of national events…” —Booklist