America’s Slavery-Ridden Origin Story: Facing the Uncomfortable Reality

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Dionne Ford. Photo courtesy of Dionne Ford

The discussion surrounding slavery shaping the founding of the United States and its continued history is ubiquitous in contemporary dialogue. In tandem with that, the use of websites and online services like and others has allowed people to further explore their origin story and dive into personal stories of how they came to be who they are, living in the places they’re in and growing up with the family they had. Writer Dionne Ford took this to another level through her brilliant new book, Go Back and Get It: A Memoir of Race, Inheritance, and Intergenerational Healing.

In this week’s Scheer Intelligence with host Robert Scheer, Ford explores the complex and emotionally perturbing history of her family, which happened to have been born out of a  joining together of a slave and slave owner. Ford acknowledges the disturbing nature of the circumstance but does not shy away from confronting the reality head on and exploring what it means within her family. The original sin of slavery in America is certainly discussed, but “A conversation we still need to have is that that original sin is also on the backs of the women who were enslaved, whose bodies were also violated in this particular way of forced sex, and then all the children that they created out of that, that were then sold. It interested me to look at that part of my family's history by finding out about my great-great-grandmother and excavating both of those stories,” Ford says.

Ford also mentions the importance of understanding the nuances of people’s situations. Despite being a slave and owned as property, once emancipation came around, some former slaves decided to stay with those same families who owned them because of these very complexities surrounding slave women who were raped and bore interracial offspring. “I look at my great-great-grandmother, Tempy…she made some decisions around whether or not to stay in Mississippi or go somewhere else in a way that would be beneficial to her family. And so in that way, she does take some more control over her destiny,” Ford says. 

Despite the kind of pressure and duress people like her great-great-grandmother were under, they were able to make difficult decisions that could ultimately lead to a better situation for her family. “That was really powerful for me to consider that she would have been thinking about those kinds of things. And really just really having a lot of fortitude, and that gives me a lot of faith and also a lot of pride,” Ford says.



Joshua Scheer