Growing up in South Carolina, Baynard Woods loved country music, NASCAR, barbecue, and the confederacy—or the myth of it that had been passed down to him. He gradually came to break away from the culture he’d been raised in, leaving the state after several scrapes with the law. He prided himself on being a white ally with progressive values. But his world was turned upside down when he discovered the reality of his family’s history as terrorists, murderers, and slavers, who collectively held hundreds of Black people in bondage over the course of two centuries. INHERITANCE is his journey to grapple with the country’s oldest wound and its effects on his own life.
As he re-examines his past, the stories in which he had once been the hero take on a different, whiter, hue. When Woods was arrested for smoking weed, he’d felt like a victim of the drug war. But when the cops asked where he got the grass, he said: “From a Black guy.” When he got in trouble, his grandpa’s white good-ole-boy network got him out. When he got into college after flunking through high school because of his SAT—that was whiteness. Behind every success and every failure, there now seemed to have been a force at work that he never even noticed. It was his whiteness.
And even as he covered events like the Baltimore Uprising and Charlottesville as a left-wing reporter, he carried the inheritance of his ancestors—whiteness.
The 2015 massacre of nine Black Charlestonians by a racist white kid from his hometown, made Woods recall a story about a great grandfather who had lynched a Black man and gone to hide out in Texas after the war.
Investigating this crime and doing his best to discover the story of Peter J. Lemon, the Black county commissioner I.M. Woods assassinated in 1871, Woods comes face to face with his own whiteness. His inheritance. But even after recognizing it, he has to figure out what to do about it, asking: how can we repair the past, pay our debts, and begin to heal this ancestral curse.
It's a thread most white people are too uncomfortable to follow, but Woods casts this furious indictment in a literary exploration that pulls us along toward the searing conclusion. As Woods so eloquently sums it up: "Only if we are willing to face the horror of our history can we hope to emerge from it. Only if we know the cost, can we begin to account for the enormity of the reparations that are due." Unflinching and uninhibited, Inheritance gives readers a reckoning that will shake them to the core‑and inspire them to put a stop to this unending cycle of racial hatred, violence, and destruction.
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