Book Reviews

Praise for Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name—One White, One Black

“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

“As much for the many fascinating individual stories it contains, “Tomlinson Hill” is trenchant for the way it takes readers, step by step, from “slave times” to today, illustrating the direct effect that the legacy of slavery has on African-American lives in the present. It’s not a pretty story, but it’s an endlessly compelling one, and, clearly, it needs to be told again and again.”

–Laura Miller, Salon Book of the Week

Tomlinson Hill is 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. After nearly two decades as a distinguished international war correspondent, Chris Tomlinson returned home to Texas to investigate his own – and our nation’s – inheritance of economic and social, political and criminal violence and injustice. This vivid exploration of the truths and the lies that run through the memory of his white ancestors and the generations of their black slaves, is not just a fascinating social historical account of what we as Americans have come through – but also an urgent contribution to our understanding of who we are now.”

–Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

“Published fifty years after Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, in July 1964, Tomlinson Hill is particularly timely, not only because of the progress we’ve made but because false memory continues to blind us to present realities. … Because we refuse to remember the tragic and often tawdry racial history that unfolded throughout Texas much as it did on Tomlinson Hill, we can’t see the ways in which we’re repeating it.”

–Michael Ennis, Texas Monthly

“This story of two different families moving in very different directions because of the color of their skin is both relevant and valuable. Not only does it allow one man to make peace with his past, but it also helps to shed light – for all the rest of us – on the sometimes painful reality of how we got to where we are today.”

– Caroline Kelly, The Christian Science Monitor

“Chris Tomlinson, the great-great grandson of a slaveowner, tracks the remarkable story of two families from East Texas who share the Tomlinson name – one white, one black – and how they reflect our story as a nation. All of Tomlinson’s award-winning skills as a reporter, much of them honed in South Africa as the sun set on Apartheid, come to bear in this personal, unvarnished look at race in America.”

–Mark K. Updegrove, presidential historian and author of Baptism By Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office During Times of Crisis

Tomlinson Hill is an important book for anyone who wants to know what really happened in slavery days in Texas. Chris Tomlinson is brutally honest about his ancestors’ treatment of black Tomlinsons, both before and after they were freed. In addition to a fascinating look into his own past, he offers a well-documented history of race relations in the Lone Star state.

–Elizabeth Bennett, The Houston Chronicle

“The book he has written skillfully blends journalistic research and interviews, plus family stories from both groups of Tomlinsons. He delves into relevant Civil War history, Texas political events and groups associated with racism, and carefully examines his own recollections and views.”

–Si Dunn, Dallas Morning News

“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 Review

“In this fast-paced and spellbinding tale, Chris, who is white, narrates with great verve the tale of a Texas plantation owned over the years by both white families and black families—including LaDainian’s—that share the same name. … 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.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“Tomlinson turns his journalist’s acute eye on his own family background to present 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, from Reconstruction to life in the Jim Crow South to today.”


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