W. Ralph Eubanks

The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South

In 1914, in defiance of his middle-class landowning family, a young white man named James Morgan Richardson married a light-skinned black woman named Edna Howell. Over their more than 20 years of marriage, they formed a strong family and built a house at the end of a winding sandy road in South Alabama, a place where their safety from the hostile world around them was assured and where they developed a unique racial and cultural identity. Jim and Edna Richardson were Ralph Eubanks's grandparents.

Part personal journey, part cultural biography, The House at the End of the Road examines a little-known piece of this country's past: interracial families that survived and prevailed in defiance of Jim Crow laws, including those prohibiting interracial marriage. As he did in his acclaimed 2003 memoir, Ever is a Long Time, Eubanks uses interviews, oral history, and archival research to tell a story about race in American life that few readers have experienced. in lyrical, evocative prose, this extraordinary book pierces the heart of issues of race and racial identity, leaving us ultimately hopeful about the world as our children might see it.


Advanced Praise for "The House at the End of the Road"


Eubanks’s story about his grandparents—an American mixed-race couple living openly (and precariously) in the cold heart of 1920s Jim Crow Alabama—enacts the liberating magic of literature: it finds its truth in between conventional wisdom and sociological presumption, in between lies and faulty history. It is a story of race, of family, of place itself, and it tells us that compassion and the stirring force of individual human endeavor finally mean more than anything.”
—RICHARD FORD

“Ralph Eubanks pieces together this intricate story across three generations of his family, and in turn sheds powerful new light on the complex story of race and identity in these United States. A pleasure to read, a poignant American story not to be missed.”
—DAVE ISAY, Founder of StoryCorps

“Ralph Eubanks’s grandparents created an interracial family in rural Alabama nearly a century ago. Now he has taken his family’s story and used it to explore our changing American ideas about what to make of our ancestries. His work should inspire all of us to think anew about our country.” —K. ANTHONY APPIAH,
Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University

“Eubanks writes with a novelist’s sense of story and a poet’s eye for language and detail. Most importantly, though, he writes with sensitivity, understanding and Socratic wisdom. This is not just an important book for these times—it’s a book for all time.”
—STEVE YARBROUGH, author of Prisoners of War


Reviews


Eubanks narrates a larger story about the decreasing importance of race in American life. That story has many starting points and many heroes, and the particulars of Jim and Edna Richardson's lives -- as understood differently through census documents or through the proudly partisan memories of descendants -- cannot alter the moral of the tale.--Martha Sandweiss, The Washington Post

"Thoughtful and accessible."--John Sledge, The Mobile Press Register

"Highly recommended"--Library Journal, Starred Review

Selected Works

Essays
Traveling the highways of America's least connected state
When a writer took a DNA ancestry test, his notions of ethnicity were turned upside down.
A Son Relishes Counsel That Comes in Dreams
Has Capitol Hill, barricaded and fenced off, lost its small-town appeal?
A summer trip to Mississippi provides the author and his children a look at Freedom Summer 1964
Fewer of us are reading, and our leaders may have scared even more people away from the pastime.
Books
A look at race and identity through three generations of one American Family
A gripping memoir of coming of age in Mississippi in the Civil Rights era.
Articles
Eudora Welty's "Where is the Voice Coming From?" helps show a full picture of Mississippi in 1963.
Four U.S. Poets Laureate have taught at the University of Michigan. The author shares his memories of three of them.
A look back at the joys of summer reading on an old bookmobile
Now is the time to reconsider a policy that must eventually change. But simply replacing race with class isn’t the solution.
A look at the changing mind of the South
A Look at the Meaning of Racial Labels
A look at the significance of Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail
An analysis of the comments made by Trent Lott at Strom Thurmond’s Birthday Party in 2002.
Reviews
A Review of Abraham Verghese's "Cutting for Stone"
A review of Scott Casper's "Sarah Johnson's Mount Vernon"
A Review of Richard Wright's A Father's Law
A review of Nathan McCall's "Them: A Novel
A Review of Doug Marlette's Magic Time