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Current Book Project

Finding Francis: One Family's Journey from Slavery to Freedom


This biography traces the pre- and post emancipation story of Francis Sistrunk (b~1822) and her six children, following their lives of enslavement and forced migration from Georgia to Mississippi four years before the Civil War until 1920, when Hillman, the last of this emancipated generation, dies and is buried more than 130 miles away from home in the state’s mental asylum. Despite this unspeakable end, however, this is a narrative that captures the resilience and perserverance of Black families, in particular highlighting the ones such as theirs, led by a single black mother. This story captures the industry, planning and optimism of Francis and her Noxubee four—that is, sons John, Hillman, and Shad, and daughter, Lucretia—the four adult children who established their roots among first generation freedpeople in Noxubee County, Mississippi. Their story demonstrates that contrary to stereotypes depicting them as lacking the agency and imagination to envision their future, freedpeople, that is, African American southerners in the post Civil War rural south were their own advocates.

Cistrunk Rd Noxubee.jpg
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