A Deeper Connection
It seems you've cultivated relationships with a lot of the people you've interviewed — even become friends with some of them. How would you characterize the relationship that exists between you and the descendants of the people that your ancestors enslaved?
They are evolving. When we first met, our relationships were based upon mutual shock. We were stunned at each other's presence in our respective lives. We didn't know what to think of each other and gradually, we became more trusting and we became part of each other's lives and comfortable with each other and friends, in many cases. And now the book has come out and it has created some sort of deeper connection between the black folks and me, because we feel as though we've come to the end of a journey together... Now we're trying to figure out how much to be a part of each other's lives... We came through this strange journey together and now we have to figure out what to do.
There are also lots and lots of folks I haven't met — Ball slaves number between 75,000 and 100,000 living Americans, and I've met, let's say, 100 to 120 people. That's a tiny, tiny fraction, and I think that I'll probably meet more people as the months and years go by, though I'm not sure where and under what contexts.
I've seen positive reactions from your white relatives about the book and the history that you've related, but do they seem interested in pursuing these relationships further?
Yes. A handful of them are intent on pursuing it and, in fact, are pushing me. Probably, a large number, the plurality of the family, are curious and a little wary, but curious about what might happen next. And then there's a small cohort who are frightened and are worried that whatever happens is not going to be good.