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Tomlinson Hill: Book summary and reviews of Tomlinson Hill by Chris Tomlinson

Tomlinson Hill

The Remarkable Story of Two Families who Share the Tomlinson Name - One White, One Black

by Chris Tomlinson

Tomlinson Hill

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Book Summary

Foreign correspondent Chris Tomlinson returns to Texas to discover the truth about his family's slave owning history. Tomlinson Hill tells the story of two families, one black and one white, who trace their ancestry to the same Central Texas slave plantation.

Tomlinson discovers that his counterpart in the African American family is LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the greatest running backs in the history of the National Football League. LaDainian's father was the last Tomlinson living on the Hill when he died in 2007. LaDainian's earliest memories are from the idyllic community built by former slaves on the former plantation grounds. Chris learns that many of the stories surrounding the Civil War and the South that he learned as a child are simply untrue.

He finds family letters that detail the mix of brutality and meager kindness that his relatives used to maintain order. He then compares and contrasts what the two families experienced at Emancipation, during Reconstruction, through the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the Civil Rights era, and ending the day LaDainian's father died.

Tomlinson Hill is more than a history of two families; it tells the story of America and how slavery still shapes our society. And it ends with the fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream that one day the sons of slaves and the sons of slaveholders would meet in brotherhood.

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Some of the recent comments posted about Tomlinson Hill:

Ask the Author
[b]... and to follow up on Retired Reader's question, what did you learn about your family or about the history of Texas that surprised you, if anything?[/b] Perhaps naively, I didn't understand how my ancestors looked upon their slaves primarily ... - kimk

Do slavery and segregation still shape our society today?
Growing up in Southern Alabama, I can definitively say, unfortunately, yes. One of the most formative statements I ever heard my father say, while discussing with a group of other white men at our white church about sending their children to the ... - lbellg

Do you ever foresee a time when racial prejudices won't exist?
I don't think so. The cycle keeps itself fueled. it seems like things simmer down and then something happens to bring it all up again. Even if it isn't about race, somehow it always ends up being blamed that it is. - sharalynnep

Documentaries based on books & vice versa -
I personally have no further interest in Tomlinson Hill. I am not uncomfortable with the subject matter, but I read for pleasure and this wasn't high on my list of "must" reads. - sharonl

Does the election of a black president mean the nation’s race problems are solved?
Far from it, but it is an exciting starting point. - lbellg

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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

"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

"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

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Reader Reviews

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karen

tomlinson hill
The important topic of slavery told by a man that is investigating his family's connection to the land he roams as a child. A white woman begins the lineage and the black child's father is the last to inhabit the land. The story is woven with historical fact.

Sharalynne P.

Not what I was expecting..
Liked the writing....the author has provided a very detailed history of the time period...I was hoping for more information on the Tomlinsons, black and white. I feel like the book focused more on the history of slavery itself and not enough on the specific Tomlinson families so in that was I was disappointed.

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Author Information

Chris Tomlinson Author Biography

Chris Tomlinson is the Supervisory Correspondent for The Associated Press in Austin, Texas. He spent 14 years as a foreign correspondent, based in Africa but covering wars and disasters across the Middle East and Asia. His stories covered the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, civil wars in Somalia and Sudan and natural disasters in India and Congo. He is a fifth generation Texan and graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

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