Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review: The Fiddler on Pantico Run

By Joe Mozingo

Joe Mozingo knew himself as a white man with blue eyes.  The family lore was that the Mozingo surname was Italian, Spanish or Basque in its origins.  He had no reason to question it.  In his travels as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times he had a handful of chance encounters with people with the same name, some were black, and said their name was from Africa.  He also met with people from the African continent who told him his name was African.  Joe, a reporter with an eye for a good story, set about on a quest to discover the origins of his name that would take him on a personal journey crisscrossing the United States, and would spawn two trips to Africa.

What started out as a handful of newspaper stories grew into a book, “The Fiddler on Pantico Run: An African Warrior, His White Descendants, a Search for Family.”  His genealogical search led him to Edward Mozingo, the progenitor of the Mozingo name in the United States.  Edward, as it turns out, was black man, a slave brought from Africa to the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1644, a man whom after serving as a slave for 28 years sued for his freedom and won.  Edward Mozingo married a white woman who was the mother of his children

Through DNA testing, Joe learned that he was not a directly descended in an unbroken line of male Mozingos but was likely the a descendant of one of Edward Mozingo’s granddaughters.  Seeking out Edward Mozingo’s American descendants Joe travels across the United States and interviews a number of people who share his last name.  White and black, some know the secrets of the family’s past while others, notably the family’s white descendants, are either wholly ignorant of the family’s origins, or also share the family tradition that the name was Italian,  Other white family members were blatantly racist and could not come to terms that their ancestor was a black man.

Searching for Edward Mozingo’s African origins lead Joe to research the history and intricacies of the Atlantic Slave Trade.  Two trips to Africa did little to fill in any facts that are actually known about Edward Mozingo himself, but did help Joe place Edward within the context of the time and place from which he likely came.

“The Fiddler on Pantico Run” is an absorbing look not only at Joe Mozingo’s paternal genealogy, but also the evolving definitions of race and racism in the United States.  Mr. Mozingo deftly demonstrates the color of one’s skin, even within the same family, can influence the destinies of people for generations.

ISBN 978-1451627480, Free Press, © 2012, Hardcover, 320 pages & Index. $32.00.  To purchase this book click HERE.

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