Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

March 2, 2014

Loraine Anderson: Following a great-great grandfather

I sit at my dining room table, contemplating my first month of “retirement” and the clutter surrounding my laptop — notebooks, the program from “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman,” a brilliant one-woman play performed last month at the Milliken Auditorium as part of local Black History Month events.

A yellow file folder bulges with short bios on Civil War soldiers from my hometown while it rests on my writing table. A daunting stack of books stands precariously in a nearby armchair, among them:

n William Least Heat-Moon’s 1982 “Blue Highways: A Journey into America”

n John Steinbeck’s 1962 “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”

n Nell Irvin Painter’s “Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its meanings, 1619 to the Present”

n Noah Andre Trudeau’s “Southern Storm: Sherman’s March to the Sea”

n Sojourner Truth’s “Narrative”

I am doing homework for a research and writing road trip I plan to take in April through Tennessee and Georgia.

I call it “Following Charles,” in honor of my great-great-grandfather Charles Dickerson, who served in the Michigan 23rd Volunteer Infantry.

I will trace his path in the Civil War under the command of Gen. William T. Sherman.

Unlike Steinbeck and Heat-Moon, I am not searching for America, nor trying to find my newly retired self.

I seek answers.

I want to know why and how genocides happen and continue to happen. I hope to bring home a deeper understanding of the South, the North and the grip the American Holocaust — slavery and colonization — still has on our nation, its politics and today’s generations.

My intent is not to single out the South. Slavery fueled the economies of both the North and South.

It was a 242-year-old institution when the Civil War began in 1861.

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