Current Book Projects

1. Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Once We Were Slaves uses family heirlooms to unlock the genealogical mystery of the missing ancestors of a reclusive Jewish heiress. An obsessive genealogist and descendent of one of the most prominent Jewish families since the American Revolution, Blanche Moses firmly believed her grandmother Sarah Brandon’s family were Sephardic grandees. Yet Blanche found herself at a dead end when it came to Sarah’s maternal line. Even the most famous genealogists of the day were likewise stumped. When Blanche died in 1946, the family papers and heirlooms became part of the collection at American Jewish Historical Society, and the mystery remained unsolved. Once We Were Slaves overturns Blanche’s assumptions about her past by showing how Blanche’s grandmother and great-uncle actually began their lives as poor Christian slaves in Barbados. Once We Were Slaves traces the extraordinary journey of Sarah and Isaac Brandon as they traveled around the Atlantic World, and in the process changed their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and—at times—white. Forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Image at Left: J.L. Riker, "Portret van het echtpaar Johannes Ellis en Maria Louisa de Hart" (Daguerreotype from Suriname, ca. 1846). Copyright Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.