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Connected through slavery, Virginia cousins talk about their book

The co-authors of the book Cousins: Connected Through Slavery will give two public talks in Harrisonburg later this month. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

Cousins tells the stories of two women: Betty Kilby Baldwin and Phoebe Kilby – one Black, one white – who discover a connection between their families rooted in slavery in rural Virginia.

Proceeds from book sales will be donated to the Kilby Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to descendants of people who were enslaved in Culpeper, Rappahannock, and Madison counties, with preference given to descendants of those enslaved by the white Kilby family, including Betty's own grandchildren –

BETTY KILBY BALDWIN: … three of my grandchildren who are currently in school, and currently receiving the scholarship. And so the legacy that I pass on to them – yeah, we might have been descended from slaves, but look at your ancestors. From slavery, they are helping you to get an education, and I don't think there's anything cooler than that.

On March 23rd, the two authors will speak at Lehman Auditorium at Eastern Mennonite University at 10:10 a.m. It’ll also be livestreamed on their Facebook page. Then, on March 24th, at 7 p.m., they'll give a talk at Massanutten Regional Library. Advanced registration and face masks are required to attend that event.

Also stay tuned for a forthcoming five-part series produced by WMRA, which features Baldwin, her brother, and four others who were at the forefront of the struggle to desegregate public schools in Virginia.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.