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Stewards of History: A Study of the Nature of a Moral Deed
by Caryl Johnston
Stewards of History tells of three pasts: the remembered past, the researched past, and the revelatory past. It tells the story of the response to race, slavery, religion, and civil rights by some members of a Southern family over six generations.
The first half of the book describes the life, religious thought, and slave emancipation project of General John Hartwell Cocke (1780-1866), a Virginia planter and younger contemporary and friend of Thomas Jefferson. The writer, General Cocke’s great-great-great-granddaughter, describes the influence the “Old General” exerted through several generations of the family.
The second section of the book deals with the events of civil-rights era Birmingham, Alabama. The Old General’s struggle for Christian liberty is the best paradigm for understanding what happened in Birmingham. The events of Birmingham are described in the light of Vulcan’s torch, which becomes a symbol for the “industry of history.”
The third and concluding part of the book recapitulates what has gone before from the point of view of honor, patrimony, the moral deed—these being an essential part of the continuance of historical life. In an America that has lost its way, Stewards of History shows us how to care for, be a good steward to, history. We need to recover the threads of our true history, and this narrative of a Southern family shows one way of doing it. It is a powerful and hopeful message much needed today.
About the Author
Caryl Johnston was born in 1947 in Birmingham, Alabama. A freelance writer and archivist, Ms. Johnston has worked on manuscript collections in Birmingham; Charlottesville, Va.; and Harvard. She is the author of Indulge Me Once (poems) and Earthly Nurturance (stories), available through www.lulu.com. Her book Consecrated Venom: The Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge, a meditative essay on the Creation story in Genesis, was published by Floris Books, Edinburgh, in 2000. She lives in Philadelphia.
(2011, paperback, 144 pages)