Professor documents history

The Bond family is the subject of GW history professor Adele Logan Alexander’s new book, Homelands and Waterways: The American Journey of the Bond Family 1846-1926, even though the family is neither famous nor found in any history textbook.

“The Bond family is my family,” Alexander said. “They’re not rich or famous.it’s a three-generation American story including stories about African Americans and whites.”

A professor of African-American history, Alexander has taught at GW for five years. Her latest book Homelands is a unique journey of one family that serves in three different wars. It joins a growing trend in interest about family histories. Alexander attributes this to an increase in accessibility, particularly a result of the Internet.

The book’s publisher, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, nominated Homelands for a Pulitzer Prize.

“This is just the very preliminary stages,” Alexander said. “There is a long, winnowing down process that comes afterwards. They let me know pretty soon after (publication) that they would be nominating it.”

Her story received critical acclaim from high-profile critics such as television news anchor Dan Rather and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

“It’s unusual for an academic book to get as much attention and receive such rave reviews,” history department Chairman Ronald Spector said. “She’s a role model.her own research is so wide-ranging and interesting.”

Alexander said research was an integral part of preparing her latest work.

“I went to most of the places I deal with in the book,” Alexander said. “A lot of the research was done locally in Washington.”

Alexander’s book begins with the story of her great-grandfather, who was born to a black father and a white Irish mother in Liverpool, England.

After immigrating to the United States, her great-grandfather joined the Union Army. The story then follows Alexander’s grandfather, who attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and then moved to Washington, D.C. Alexander said the 80-year time span of the book represents the life of her great-grandmother, Emma Thomas Bond.

“In 1994, shortly after my mother died, I was thinking about the things that were important in her life,” Alexander said. “I thought it would be an essay, and it turned into this big fat book.”

This is not Alexander’s first published work. In addition to writing for many journals and essay collections, Alexander published her master’s and doctoral theses, Ambiguous Lives: Free Women of Color in Rural Georgia, 1789-1879.

Homelands also contains several sets of photographs from Alexander’s family collections and the Library of Congress. Since its release in early September, Alexander has traveled throughout the country to promote her book.

Alexander, who lives in the Washington suburbs with her husband, has two children – ages 35 and 37. Her fourth grandchild was born in July, and she is expecting another.

She said she plans on writing more books, but for now she said she is content spending time with her grandchildren.

“(Homelands) took five years from research, writing and production,” Alexander said. “But if you’re a historian, you don’t think five years is such a long time.”

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