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May 31, 2022

How Gayle Jessup White Discovered her Family’s Legacy

How Gayle Jessup White Discovered her Family’s Legacy

Growing up, Gayle Jessup White had heard that her African American family was somehow related to Thomas Jefferson. But it wasn’t until advances in DNA technology, along with methods pioneered by historians exploring the African American experience in the U.S., helped her uncover her direct link to not only Thomas Jefferson, but also Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman with whom Jefferson had had 6 children.

The result is a new book, Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, And A Descendant's Search For Her Family's Lasting Legacy. If you are writing (or thinking of writing) about your family — especially a story with national and historic significance—this episode will have lots to say to you.


Growing up, Gayle Jessup White had heard that her African American family was somehow related to Thomas Jefferson. But it wasn’t until advances in DNA technology, along with methods pioneered by historians exploring the African American experience in the U.S., helped her uncover her direct link to not only Thomas Jefferson, but also Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman with whom Jefferson had had 6 children.

 

The result is a new book, Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, And A Descendant's Search For Her Family's Lasting Legacy. If you are writing (or thinking of writing) about your family — especially a story with national and historic significance—this episode will have lots to say to you.

 

In this episode, we also discuss:

  • How truths embedded in her family lore helped Gayle to direct her genealogical research
  • How do you go about researching your ancestors, especially as an African-American
  • The complexities of America’s history of enslavement, as illustrated by the story of “Old Sal” – the enslaved woman, owned by the Jefferson family, who started as Thomas’s wet nurse, but later became his own slave when Thomas’s father died.
  • Writing in the “flow state” & more

 

Gayle Jessup White is the Public Relations & Community Engagement Officer at Monticello, and a former award-winning television reporter and anchor, and she’s documented her search for ancestors on NPR, in the New York Times, theroot.com, CNN, and other places.

 

Discussed in this episode:

Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, And A Descendant's Search For Her Family's Lasting Legacy (HarperCollins Publishers)

A Black Descendant of Thomas Jefferson Explores Her Ancestors’ Legacy, NPR

Cousins, Across the Color Line by Tess Taylor, NYTimes, Jan 22, 2014.

Historian Cinder Stanton

Getting Word: African American Oral History Project at Monticello

 

Credits:

This episode was edited by Paul Zakrzewski and produced by Magpie Audio Productions. Theme music  is "The Stone Mansion" by BlueDot Productions.

Transcript

[music]

[intro quote by Gayle Jessup White]: Well, my first bit of advice is don't give up, never ever give up. It took me decades to uncover the story of our connection to Jefferson, and ultimately, of our connection to the people he enslaved.

Paul [host intro]: Welcome to "The Book I Had To Write." This is the podcast where I talk to authors about their most compelling stories and why these journeys matter to anyone who wants to publish. I'm Paul Zakrzewski. I'm a writer and book coach.

A few months ago, I was listening to NPR, and I had one of those driveway moments. On the radio is today's guest, Gayle Jessup White. Growing up, Gayle had heard that her African American family was somehow related to Thomas Jefferson, but she was having a hard time getting to the bottom of that complicated legacy.

And then advances in DNA technology, along with her own dogged research, had led her to find a direct link, not just to Jefferson but also to Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman with whom Jefferson had had six children.

"How do you reconcile that some of your ancestors owned and horribly mistreated other ancestors?" the interviewer asked Gayle. "How do you reconcile those contradictions that live in you?"

And Gayle said, "It's not my job to make the past okay. My job is to tell the story of the 400 enslaved people who were owned by Jefferson at his Monticello plantation."

Gayle's done just that by writing a new book called, Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, and a Descendant's Search for Her Family's Lasting Legacy. She's also done that through her own work at Monticello. That's where she's the public relations and community engagement officer. Gayle's a former award-winning television reporter and anchor.

She's documented her search for ancestors in "The New York Times," theroot.com, CNN, and many other places. I think if you're someone writing or planning to write about your family or you care about the ways that America still struggles with questions of race and identity, this episode will have lots to say to you.

[music fades]

Gayle, welcome. Thank you so much for doing this interview with me.

Gayle: Thank you, Paul. I'm delighted to be here.

Paul: Oh, I'm excited for this conversation. And I thought that we could start things off at the beginning of your story. Can you tell me about the first time that you heard about this possible connection...well, at the time, was a possible connection with your ancestor, Thomas Jefferson?

Gayle: I can. I grew up in Washington, D.C., the youngest of five siblings. And my sister, the oldest one is 20 years older than I. And she was visiting our family. I was 13 years old. And she was visiting our family and having a conversation, a really in-depth conversation with my dad. And I'd left the room.

And all of a sudden, as I was in the kitchen, looking in the refrigerator for a snack, I heard my sister say to dad, "And I said we're descended from Thomas Jefferson." And, of course, I was in shock because I had never heard this. I loved history. In fact, at that time, Jefferson was my favorite president and it was principally because he'd written the Declaration of Independence. And I, like most other Americans at that time and many Americans today, did not know that Jefferson owned people.

So, I couldn't reconcile the idea of my being a descendant from the third U.S. president and being a little black girl growing up in Washington, D.C. So naturally, my curiosity was aroused. And I almost immediately began questioning my dad because it was on my dad's side where the tie would've been. And ultimately, it led me here...

Paul: Yeah, right.

Gayle: ...so many decades later to Monticello, which was owned by my ancestor and built by my other ancestors, those people that Jefferson enslaved.

Paul: It's a crazy story and I'm really looking forward to unpacking it. So, there's a character early on in your book, Aunt Peachie. Who is that?

Gayle: So, Aunt Peachie was the single person in my dad's family who passed down this oral history. And this was all oral history. There was no documentation at all. Aunt Peachie was my grandmother's half-sister. And Aunt Peachie would say to my sister, she used to live with us, Aunt Peachie did, I never knew her, she lived with us before I came along, and she would say to my sister, "You're descended from Thomas Jefferson. I'm not, but you are."

And my sister said Aunt Peachie would say it with a level of pride. It meant something to her, and apparently, it meant something to her sister who had died when my dad was just a child. And so he didn't remember her, no one in our family obviously knew her aside from Aunt Peachie.

And the thing is, Paul, Aunt Peachie couldn't read, write, or even spell her own name, but there were certain things she held onto, and this was one of them. And my sister held onto it as well. It must have been as fascinating to Janice, in fact, that's my sister's name, in fact, I know it was as fascinating to Jan, as it was to me because she and I really became partners in many ways in uncovering this mystery of how we could have been related to Jefferson.

So, Aunt Peachie worked for...her real name was Virginia, Virginia Robinson, and she worked for a very well-to-do and well-known family in Washington. And she was a domestic. And she eventually had a stroke. She worked for them in the early part of the 20th century. She had a stroke. And when she did, they let her go. She didn't have a pension. My mother, who was a very outgoing, courageous, and determined woman, went to them and demanded a pension for Aunt Peachie. And then they brought her, my family brought her to live with them, and she lived with us for 20 years.

So, that means for 20 years, my sister growing up heard Aunt Peachie say, "You're descended from Thomas Jefferson, I'm not." And it made a great impression on Jan, and ultimately, made a great impression on me.

Paul: Right. It's like the chestnut that kind of sets...the seed that sets the story growing.

Gayle: Yeah.

Paul: And your father tells you a few things. But he is a man with, I guess, with secrets, you'd say. To what degree do you feel like...or how do you see your role as both the family historian and the person that your dad eventually turned to to talk about these things that you didn't know, you know, the deaths in his family? How do you see those two things as intertwined in your story?

Gayle: So, I did not plan on being the family historian. This is something that's sort of evolved. And as far as my dad is concerned...and daddy never saw me as a family historian, I don't think. He did see me as an organized person. I'm not quite sure why Daddy saw me that way. I think he was trying to plant a seed, so I would grow into it. But my dad confided in me because I was so persistent.

And because he and I, as I explained in the book, spent a great deal of time together and I think he wanted a confidant, and he wanted someone to share some of his youthful anxiety and pain with, and I was there, and I was this open vessel wanting to take it all in, and wanted to help him deal with any depression that might have been left over from a very challenging childhood.

But the conversations were initiated with him because I wanted to learn about this Jefferson connection and I thought he might offer some insight. However, they grew into much more. They grew into a very bonding experience between the two of us and a sharing, and an opportunity for us to share some of the pain that both of us were beginning to experience, but for different reasons. And I explain all this in the book.

And you make reference to secrets. Well, all families have secrets, and we certainly had ours. And I have revealed some of them in this book because I think it's important for people to understand why this pursuit of this history connecting us to Jefferson was so compelling to me. And part of that was because of my dad and what he had gone through.

Paul: And then I feel like another big turning point in your story is in the early 2000s, you moved to Richmond and you start visiting Monticello on a somewhat regular basis. And you meet a historian there. I believe her name was Cinder Stanton. Is that right?

Gayle: That's correct. Yes.

Paul: And can you tell me about her, and kind of the role she plays in your story?

Gayle: So, Cinder Stanton, she's retired now from Monticello, but Cinder Stanton was and is the foremost expert on enslavement of Monticello, and on the Jefferson legacy, and the Jefferson family. And Cinder started a project at Monticello almost 30 years ago now called the Getting Word Oral History Project, the Getting Word: African American Oral History Project.

And this project sought to get interviews or acquire interviews, oral history with the descendants of the enslaved community. So, she and her co-founder, a woman named Dianne Swann-Wright, who has since passed away, she and her co-founder traveled tens of thousands of miles across the country collecting these interviews.

And so it was really quite remarkable that they had learned so much about enslavement at Monticello by talking to descendants, and in many cases, connected people who did not know much about their own families because, unfortunately, black people were treated like property. They were property, they weren't treated as humans.

And so there wasn't the kind of documentation that other Americans could find in their repertoire, in their backgrounds. If you could find a tax record, perhaps you might find something about your family, or a will, perhaps you'll find something about your family. But if you're looking for a census record or a birth certificate, you're not going to find anything, generally, before 1870.

And Cinder helped me find my grandmother living with one of Jefferson's great-great-granddaughters. And that was one of the aha moments. "Oh, well, there must really be something to this because there's my grandmother," Eva Robinson was her name, Eva Robinson Taylor was the name she often used, but her name on her documents was Eva Robinson, on most documents, and there she was living with one of Jefferson's great-great-granddaughters listed in the 1900 census as a servant.

And Cinder Stanton says to me it was not at all uncommon for the progeny, the children of black women...at this point, she wouldn't have been enslaved, but her mother might have been coerced, we'll never know, but black women who had relations with white men living with family members. And it was from there that we began to really unravel the mystery of who my family was and what our connection was to Jefferson.

So, Cinder Stanton is not only the patron saint of my own heart, but she's also the patron saint of the descendants of Monticello's enslaved community. She's done so much to inform us and tell us about our family...families and bring us together.

[00:12:39]

[music break]

[00:12:55]

Paul: And then another strand in your story that you talk about is the role that DNA starts to play. Can you tell me about that?

Gayle: I will. So, a couple of things, just to set this up. My dad said that my grandmother had two names, one was Robinson, one was Taylor. She was known as Eva Robinson Jessup, of course. So, this is when I was pressing dad on who his mother was, and I would ask...well, he would say her name was Eva Jessup. I said, "Daddy, no, we need her maiden name. What's her maiden name?"

And he said it, she would go by Eva Robinson and sometimes Eva Taylor. So, in tracing the documents, I found that on official documents, she was Eva Robinson. On sacred documents, such as baptismal certificate, she was Eva Taylor. Well, it turns out that Jefferson had a great-great-grandson named Taylor, Moncure Robinson Taylor, and he lived just a short distance from a woman named Rachel Robinson, who ends up being my great-grandmother and the mother of my grandmother, Eva Robinson Taylor.

So, why does this matter? For so many reasons, it matters. Obviously, once again, this provides us with evidence that my dad's family, my grandmother carried some pride in knowing that she was related to a descendant of Jefferson. And apparently, she wanted to have some connection to the Taylor family. And she wanted it to be known that she was a Taylor, even though her parents weren't married.

And we can make all kinds of assumptions based on that, but because of the work I do with historians, I'm often warned not to make too many assumptions but, in fact, she did use that name. So, I posted, I started doing research and started getting Google alerts about Jefferson family descendants.

And it's through that process that I learned of a woman named Tess Taylor. And Tess Taylor is a poet, and she'd written some poetry called "The Forage House," about her mixed feelings about her famous ancestor. She's a Jefferson descendant, and her last name is Taylor. So, I sent a note and I said "Tess, my grandmother's name was also Taylor, although she didn't exactly come from the front door."

And Tess responded and we met, and she wrote a piece in The New York Times, which I write about in the book, and that led to Skip Gates' team reaching out to us, to offer to do a DNA test, which in fact we did. And through that test, it was determined...we did two tests, one through Ancestry DNA and one through 23andMe, and there were so many connections to the Randolph family.

The Randolph family is the one that Jefferson married into. His daughter was a Randolph, and his wife was a Randolph. And it lined up, Paul, exactly where it was supposed to in terms of what the oral history told us and what the documentation told us.

The DNA lined up precisely where it was. And so it's so funny, my sister and I held our breath as we waited for these results to come in because it had been literally decades that we believed this oral history, but we didn't have any proof. And she and I said to each other, this is on the book, we said to each other, "No matter what happens, this is our story and we're sticking to it."

Paul: Right. It's a crazy moment. It's a crazy story. Because one of the other things that you start to realize is in addition to being a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, as I understood in your book, you're also descended from Sally Hemings through a different line. Is that...that's correct?

Gayle: That's correct. So, as I said, we always assumed...once again, there's that word, assumed. As a former journalist, I should know better than that as a trained journalist. But we always assumed that it was through Hemings and Jefferson that we were descended.

Some of that assumption was based on what we knew of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. Some of it was based on not having enough information and not knowing the history because most people don't know the history of what it was like to live during enslavement, and what the practices were during enslavement.

So, ultimately, what we found out with the help of Cinder Stanton, we found a document, these are the kinds of documents you look for. You look for the census records for black folk after 1870 and beyond, and you look for birth certificates, and you look for death certificates, and marriage licenses as well.

 

And we found a death certificate, and we knew who some of the relatives were. We knew who my great-grandmother's siblings were. And one of her siblings was a man named Peter, Peter Robinson. And on his death certificate was his mother's maiden name. And his mother's maiden name was Sally Hemmans, H-E-M-M-A-N-S, Sally Hemmans, which is a corruption, and this is according to Cinder Stanton, the foremost expert, of the name Hemings.

And it was one of those...another aha moment. So, what this told us was that Peter Hemmans' mother, who was also my grandmother's...my great-great-grandmother's mother, Sally, was named after Peter Hemings. We kept doing the research, and that's what we determined. She was named after her famous aunt. It's very confusing. It's all in the book. And it's laid out there.

Paul: Because names keep getting repeated. That's one of the markers, right?

Gayle: Exactly. From what I've learned, there are a number of reasons that names were repeated in enslaved families. Some of it was because the markers, as you said, they wanted to know, if people moved around, they wanted to be able to find people based upon their names, so I've been told. And the other was... I mean, as any other family would name their descendants. I have...my middle name is after my mother's sister, and likely my father's sister's name was also Louise.

So, in the Hemings family, and my Robinson family, as we learned, is a descendant of the Hemings family, names are used over and over and over. And so Rachel is a name that was from the Hubbard family, also enslaved at Monticello. That was my great-grandmother's name. Sally is a name that's used over and over again among descendants of the Hemings family.

So, my great-great-grandmother was named after her father's sister, and her father's sister was Sally Hemings. Her father was Peter Hemings. So, what does this say? This means that Peter Hemings was my three-times great-grandfather and Sally Hemings was my four-times great-grandmother.

But it's more complicated than that because through the research, since I've been employed here at Monticello, I work here now as public relations and community engagement officer, and I work with brilliant historians and staff members, and what I've learned since I've been here is that there were generations of Hemingses who coupled with generations of people related to the Jefferson family. And that would've included Jefferson's father-in-law who had relations with Elizabeth Hemings, the mother of Sally Hemings, which would've made Jefferson's wife, Martha, Sally Hemings' half-sister.

This would include Jefferson and Sally Hemings. This would include Jefferson's son-in-law, who had relations with a Hemings woman after Jefferson's daughter died. This would include my own ancestor, my great-grandmother, Rachel Robinson, who had relations with a Jefferson great-great-grandson. That's four generations right there. And there might be others that we are still searching for.

Paul: I mean, you, just in passing, mentioned the story of an enslaved woman named Old Sal, who was Jefferson's wet nurse...

Gayle: Yes.

Paul: ...obviously, when he was a baby, and then she becomes his property when he inherits all the enslaved people from his, I guess, his father, on the death of his father. And just kind of the craziness of this story was really intense to read about.

Gayle: Thank you, Paul, for reading so well, and for mentioning Old Sal because lots of people wanna talk about Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson and not having to be led into recognizing that there were some 607 other people Jefferson enslaved over the course of his life, during his life, usually 150 at any given time lived here at Monticello and others at his other plantations. He owned other plantations.

So, thank you for mentioning Old Sal, who was my five-times great-grandmother. She's from the Hubbard family. And I'd like people to think of...imagine what it would've been like to have nursed a child, to have known this person before he was born, to nurse him as a child, and then once he comes of age, becoming his property.

When I think of that, it turns my stomach. It makes me feel sick to imagine what my ancestors went through. On the other hand, I'm also inspired by them because they survived and they passed down to their descendants such a strong foundation. So, they're inspiring people.

Paul: I mean, I don't know that I'll include this, but, you know, the amount of compartmentalization that would've had to have gone on is just...is intense and crazy. It really is.

Gayle: I agree with you. I think that's right on everyone's part, on the enslaver and the enslaved, but they had to compartmentalize. Think about Jefferson, here's a man who wrote some of the most racist diatribes you could think of about black people, but he was sleeping with and had children with a black woman. It doesn't matter that she was, I guess, three-quarters European, she was a black woman and enslaved, and he slept with her and had six children with her, and it was his wife's half-sister.

[music break]

[Gayle reads] I had long ago separated myself from the Catholic church and religious beliefs. After the deep part of my parents' deaths, I was not sure whether I still believed in God. Yet, standing on my back porch, I heard my grandmother's voice as clear as the bells I heard every Sunday from nearby churches. It was not Paul's road to Damascus conversion, but I definitely felt something spiritual. From that moment, I knew I had an obligation to tell not only my grandmother's story but that of as many black ancestors as I could uncover.

[music fades]

Paul: So, welcome back, Gayle.

Gayle: Thank you.

Paul: Just walk me through actually how did the book itself come together once you decided to write it? What did that journey look like?

Gayle: So that was a really long, arduous, tough process because, first, I had to get beyond the idea of writing the story myself. I am married to a writer and an editor, who's brilliant at his job, Jack White, Junior, who worked at Time Magazine for 33 years. And I actually wanted him to write this with me. And he said, "Oh no, I like my marriage more."

Paul: And a smart man, right?

Gayle: Yeah, a smart man. And he said, he's such a good editor, and such a good motivator, Jack said to me, "This is your story. You are a writer, you can do this yourself." And I was really afraid of it. I was afraid to tell this story in my own words. I was afraid that even though I knew how to write, and even though I knew how to tell stories, that it was just too much, that I would be overwhelmed by having to compile the information.

And then I also had to get past the idea of sharing so much. In order for this book to have authenticity, in order for it to matter, I had to really become vulnerable and expose myself in ways that I had never in the past. And I was afraid of that.

But I had a lot of support, not only from my husband but from my agent, whose name is Jenny Herrera. She works for the [David] Black Agency and she kept encouraging me and saying, "Be your authentic self. Tell your story. Don't be afraid." And then my editor, HarperCollins editor, Patrick Bass, was another person. He says, "You have...your family's got so much there. And just go ahead. Let it go. Reveal it." But I had to go through that process. I had to overcome my fears.

Paul: Yeah. I mean, that's really understandable. Did they look at drafts and then gave you feedback and kind of helped guide you along the way? Is that how that worked?

Gayle: Yeah. My agent...remember, I'd never written a book before, so my agent helped me put...that's her job, she helped me put this great proposal together. And then, of course, Patrick, my editor, helped formulate the chapters and helped craft the book.

And then Jack helped as well. So, it didn't take a village, but it took some support, a lot of support. And then there were times too, Paul, when I had this phenomenal energy when I would just sit down in front of my computer and write for...I remember one day I didn't eat, I didn't sleep, I just wrote. For about 13 hours, I just wrote.

Paul: That is amazing. What do you feel like was, when you were really in the zone, you know, and, I guess, a flow state, what do you feel like was...why was the wind at your back at that point?

Gayle: So, I was high. It felt like I was high. I mean, I wasn't high from drug use or anything like that. I was high from the idea of having to tell this story and this was almost manic with this energy. I didn't feel my ancestors. I've written about feeling my ancestors and how they've moved me, but that's not what was happening at that moment.

It was something else. It was an energy that came from within. Now that might have been informed, it might have been inspired by my experiences in connecting with my ancestors, but at that moment, during those 13, 14 hours, I was in a zone. It was unrelenting. I did not wanna stop. I felt so much pleasure in the process, so much joy in what was happening, and the words just flowed. They just flowed from me. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life. And that only happened at one time when I just sat down and did it. I wrote thousands of words that day.

Paul: I love that.

Gayle: It was amazing.

Paul: That's amazing.

Gayle: It was amazing. It was absolutely amazing.

Paul: So, what advice would you have for other people who may be thinking about writing books like yours that are rooted in a search for their past in some way? What kind of advice would you have based on your own experience?

Gayle: Well, my first bit of advice is don't give up, never ever give up. It took me decades to uncover the story of our connection to Jefferson, and ultimately, of our connection to the people he enslaved. And, of course, that led to me working at Monticello where my family was enslaved, but I never quit. I would also recommend talking with your family members. So, many family members were not there for me. They died long before I was born.

But I did have my dad, I did have my older sister. I still talk to my older sister. She lives in Berlin now, but we chat twice a week for hours because there's still stories that she has, there's still knowledge that she has that I don't know because she was there 20 years before I was. And I used to talk with my other siblings and my cousins now, because I'm working on a second book about my mother's family, and her family was incredible. So, I'm gathering as much as I can from the people who remain here on earth with me.

Paul: So, this feels like a great segue way to ask you actually about publishing the book, and its reception, and what you've experienced. What's that been like for you?

Gayle: This has been the greatest journey of my life. I'm having a good life. I'm having a good life. However, this would fit into the very top of my joys in living. Raising my son was a great joy. I married for the second time, my husband and I have been together 18 years now, and we are a soul match, and I don't know how many people get to have that in life. And then, of course, this book.

I would say, those are the three really major events in my life, raising my son, marrying Jack, and then writing this book. And everything else has been pretty fantastic too. I've been really lucky, lucky in my life. And as for the reception of the book, it's been phenomenal, frankly. I had a wonderful launch at Monticello. I was on CNN, I've been on NPR, I've been in newspapers. There was one article where someone wrote that this could be on the...I could be a candidate of Banned Books, or my book could be a candidate of Banned Books.

Paul: I wanted to ask you about that because one of the reasons I loved your book is that it complicates this story that I feel like conventionally people have understood about American history. Your book is one of several that are doing that now. And it's coming out at a time where I see there's two opposing forces, you know, we've had the Black Lives Matter movement, and then what we're seeing now is pushback against that.

Gayle: Of course.

Paul: And what's it been like to have your book kind of come out at this particular historical moment?

Gayle: So, I mean, this is the perfect time, isn't it, for this book to come out. And it's not that I am condemning or criticizing anyone in this book, I'm being honest and telling my authentic history. And it's also a book...the book's title, of course, is Reclamation because I'm encouraging people to reclaim that history. I had reclaimed my family's history. Monticello, I feel where my family was enslaved is as...it belongs to us.

When I say us, I mean, the black descendants whose ancestors helped build that place, and it also means to black people as symbolized by the descendants who represent the ancestors who built that place. But by extension, it also belongs to all Americans, doesn't it?

And we, black people, are part of that story. So, Reclamation is again, reclaiming that history, reclaiming that space, helping people understand that enslaved people helped build this country, and black people and marginalized people continue to contribute to the success of this country. And we should not be denied that. We should not be denied our humanity, and we continue to be denied our humanity. So, that's part of the message of this book. And I'm really proud to be engaged in that conversation right now, and it's not where I expected to be ever in my life.

Paul: I bet, no.

Gayle: But I'm glad. I'm glad that this book seems to be resonating with people, black and white. I get letters from folks, and I always respond. I write back, I get emails. And descendants from other founding fathers have reached out to me and are interested in learning more about the descendants of the people, their ancestors enslaved. And this is significant. And this is important because, Paul, my message is one of healing. I know that until America begins to recognize, or until America recognizes the strength of diversity, and a lot of Americans are moving in that direction now, then we won't heal and we will not succeed.

Paul: Gayle, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I was really moved by your book and congratulations again on its publication.

Gayle: Thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure.

[music]

Host Outro: You've been listening to "The Book I Had To Write." I'm Paul Zakrzewski.

In this episode, I talked with the writer, Gayle Jessup White. If you enjoyed the show, then I hope you'll subscribe on Apple Podcasts. I'm always grateful for reviews and for sharing the show with friends. To get a transcript of this and every episode delivered to your inbox, sign up at thebookihadtowrite.com/subscribe. In addition to transcripts, I'll send you information about upcoming episodes, plus special offers available only to email subscribers. If you're working on your own book you have to write, or you wanna get started, maybe I can help. Find out more about me and my book coaching at thebookihadtowrite.com/coaching. That's thebookihadtowrite.com/coaching.

And thanks for listening.