Slaves in the Family
One Small Step
Slaves in the Family ends rather abruptly with the ceremony of supplication in Sierra Leone. Contrary to expectations, there is no concluding discussion of affirmative action, restitution, or other contemporary racial issues, which might naturally follow from the subject matter. And aside from providing some necessary historical background, Ball scrupulously avoids expanding the scope of the work beyond the lives of the families chronicled.
This omission seems deliberate. It is as though Ball recognizes that the racial gulf created by slavery is so great that an attempt by one man to heal it would take sheer hubris. It is all he can do just to address the legacy of his own family. As he says, "I'm trying to take care of my own business at the level of one person and one family... It has taken just about every ounce of my energy even to do that." A national conversation needs to ensue before a satisfactory account of slavery can emerge, along with the "context" and "consensus" necessary for true racial reconciliation.
In addition to being a work of history, Slaves in the Family is the first gesture in a rite of atonement. One can only hope that Ball's example will inspire others to someday complete it.