To Tell the Truth: Race, Identity, and Healing (A FAN Virtual Event with Rachel Jamison Webster)

We are pleased to collaborate with Family Action Network (FAN) as they welcome Rachel Jamison Webster, author of the Benjamin Banneker and Us: Eleven Generations of an American Family. Webster will be interviewed by Melissa Blount, Ph.D. This virtual event is free and open to the public. Registration is required. Click HERE to reserve your spot!

This event will be recorded and available later on the FAN website and YouTube channel.

AFTER-HOURS EVENT: Attendees who purchase a copy of Benjamin Banneker and Us from The Book Stall are invited to attend an AFTER-HOURS event hosted by Ms. Webster and Dr. Blount that will start immediately after the webinar. The link to register for the AFTER-HOURS program will appear in red font at the top of an email from The Book Stall. Look for it right after your receipt arrives!

About the Book: Since the sequencing of the genome in 2003, we have known that humans share 99.9 percent of our DNA with all other humans, regardless of skin tone or nationality, indicating that race is not a biological reality as much as a legal and cultural construction. Today, thanks to sites like and 23 and Me, these facts are getting personal, as Americans discover ancestries that complicate long-held family identities. What should we do when we discover a family secret? And how can our ancestral stories help to illuminate our present moment?

This conversation begins with the premise that telling the truth is essential for healing. Join Rachel Jamison Webster, Professor of Creative Writing at Northwestern University, as she shares the story of her book, Benjamin Banneker and Us: Eleven Generations of an American Family. In 2016, Webster learned about several generations of African American ancestry that had been hidden in her family. This line traced back to the sister of Benjamin Banneker—the first Black man of science. Banneker was a free man living in the Revolutionary era. He helped survey Washington D.C., he compiled and published bestselling almanacs, and he corresponded with Jefferson about the heinous injustice of slavery.

About the Author: Rachel Jamison Webster is a professor of creative writing at Northwestern University and the author of four books of poetry and cross-genre writing. She has taught writing workshops through the National Urban League, Chicago Public Schools, Gallery 37, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art, working to bring diversity and antiracist awareness into creative writing curricula. Webster’s essays, poems, and stories have been published in outlets including PoetryTin House, and the Yale ReviewBenjamin Banneker and Us: Eleven Generations of an American Family is her first nonfiction book.

About the Interviewer: Melissa Blount, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, and licensed clinical psychologist practicing her craft in Evanston, Illinois. Her textile pieces explore notions of Black womanhood, trauma, and white supremacy in America. She often works with antique household linens as a canvas to reshape and reimagine the narratives around Black women and domesticity that are deeply woven into the fabric of our country. She cultivates unique opportunities for people to contribute to these conversations through community sewing circles and public actions.

Event date: 

Thursday, April 4, 2024 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Event address: 

Virtual Zoom Event
Benjamin Banneker and Us: Eleven Generations of an American Family By Rachel Jamison Webster Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250827302
Availability: On Our Shelves Now--Subject to Availability
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - March 21st, 2023

A family reunion gives way to an unforgettable genealogical quest as relatives reconnect across lines of color, culture, and time, putting the past into urgent conversation with the present.