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The Fiddler on Pantico Run: An African Warrior, His White Descendants, A Search for Family
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The Fiddler on Pantico Run: An African Warrior, His White Descendants, A Search for Family

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  126 ratings  ·  36 reviews
“My dad’s family was a mystery,” writes prize-winning journalist Joe Mozingo. Growing up, he knew that his mother’s ancestors were from France and Sweden, but he heard only suspiciously vague stories about where his father’s family was from—Italy, Portugal, the Basque country. Then one day, a college professor told him his name may have come from sub-Saharan Africa, which...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Free Press
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I won this book in Goodreads Giveaways: A good examination of the meaning of race and heritage on the American sense of identity. What does it mean to a white extended family when one of them digs up an African ancestor? This book finds out - my favorite chapter was after the author published the story of his family and then collected the reactions. Some were pleased, others horrified, many were in denial ("we're Italian!!"). The discussion from white supremacist websites was fascinating - what...more
As an avid family historian I was immediately drawn to the premise of Joe Mozingo's book, and throughout I found myself often nodding in agreement with the thoughts and feelings he experienced as he journeyed to connect to his long-forgetten slave ancestor.

There's something inherently uncomfortable about a White person exploring the connections to slavery sometimes. I once saw a documentary (thank you, PBS Independent Lens!) on a group of people from Virginia who traveled back to England to wher...more
Laura LeAnn
This story was quite intriguing as I also research my family history and genealogy. Reading about the author's journey, both figurative and literal, to find his history was interesting, but also, at some points, fell flat. I found it difficult to understand the inclusion of all of the people that were portrayed in the book. The story would have been just as interesting if some of the more stereotypical "rednecks" were left out of the story. I understand the larger picture Mozingo was trying to p...more

Amazing research takes this well beyond the usual tale of chasing our relatives. There is a great deal of history of the slave trade both in Colonial America and Africa--and the various nations who were in Africa and who were part of the slave trading. It was easy to identify with his compulsion to find out more about his family's origins. An excellent exploration of many cultures and many influences across centuries and what they might mean to a contemporary family.
David V.
Received as an ARC from the publisher. The author's search for his family's roots leads him to a free black man who came to this country in the 1600's, ultimately resulting in racial intermarriages, until the white man author confronts his white relatives. An excellent history of the slave trade in early America and the racial life in this country and in Africa. Should be required reading for all American History classes.
Jeff Flottman
I just started reading this book after receiving this book from my brother for Christmas. My grandfather was a Mozingo and we too had heard the stories of where our family had come from. Our paternal side was easy-we were German to the core. But the other side was a mystery. This book cracks open the history of our family, the good and the not-so-good. I'm looking forward to learning more.
LOVED this book! A well-researched quest to find family history has surprising and controversial results. It's piqued my thirst for history.
Impeccably researched. Riveting.
Name of Book: The Fiddler on Pantico Run: An African Warrior, His White Descendants, Our Search for Family

Author: Joe Mozingo

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2748-0

Publisher: Free Press

Year it was published: 2012


Growing up, Joe Mozingo heard many stories about where his father's family was from- Italy, Hungary, the Basque Country. Then one day, a colleague told him his name came from the African Congo, and that sent Joe, a blue-eyed, brown-haired white man, on a journey to find the truth of his family...more
Stephanie Patil
This book is profound, relevant and interesting. It is about identity, genetic and cultural heredity. The author is on a quest that is meaningful to him, and to us.

A black slave, 'Edward' Mozinago, was probably 10-15 when he arrived in the Virginia area in the 16th century. He retained his name (Mozinago) which was rare for slaves of this era. Edward was probably literate in his native tongue., a 'princeling' on the losing side of an intertribal conflict in Africa. Edward successfully sues for h...more
What's in a name? More than you could ever imagine for journalist Joe Mozingo. His name had always puzzled him, was it Italian? European? Joe Mozingo decides to find out. His decision will change his life. He travels from California to Indiana to Virginia to the Carolinas and finally to Africa. On the way he meets family members from every possible group from conservative rural folks to city dwelling people who really did not care where the name came from.

He finds when he reaches Cameroon and An...more
I read Mozingo's articles in the LA Times and loved them. It took a while before I got the book. I liked the book because it talks about ancestry, and most of us, like the author, have no idea what our ancestory is. Mozingo's was intriguing because it's truly rare.

I felt as if his discovery left many questions begging to be asked. I've had some similar experiences, looking at my family tree, like, "oh... hey, that part of the family tree isn't forking..." or my mom and aunt visited some kin, wh...more
Interesting book about a White reporter who decides to study the origin of his unusual last name "Mozingo." The book was full of interesting facts -- e.g., this was one of only a handful of African names to survive slavery. The book was also an interesting commentary on racism in America -- many of his distant relatives refused to believe that they had any black blood. But ultimately, the book was a bit boring. He chronicled his meetings with members of the various branches of the family all acr...more
Kathy Stone
This was an interesting book about a journalist who wanted to know where his name came from. He is a white man living in Los Angeles when he finds out that his last name, Mozingo, probably came from Africa. He sets out on a quest to find the truth. He meets all kinds of people with that last name. Racists who cannot believe that the name is not Italian to black descendants. Some have even intermarried with blacks and whites. It is interesting that he tried to find out exactly when the first ance...more
The author's paragraph about internet posters/story commenters--some trolls, some not, but usually racist--was wonderful:
This [racist blog posts] was the domain of what were once mainstream ideas, now a bunch of weirdos too scared to use their real names, practically masturbating to their own "whiteness," and plotting the takeover of America like children planning a trip to Mars.
I got interested in this book after I heard Joe Mozingo interviewed on the NPR show Fresh Air. His search for his family's ancestral roots & the meaning of those roots makes for a compelling story.

But it really is so much more than that. Mozingo's artistry with language transcends the story of one man's quest for the truth about his geneology. It's the story of the whole of humanity.

As he unpacks the loaded question of, "What is my race?" Mozingo comes to understand that "Now and then an ob...more
A Fantastic story about finding ones family's roots and following them all the way to the present. I's also a great way to learn about our country's history as well as the slave trading that went on and all early settlements on the east Coast.
He made his entire family's tree bloom with life and excitement as well as hardships and tears through many different generations. I found it extremely interesting from the very first page to the very last page. Great book and highly recommended...more
Nancy Villalobos
Joe Mozingo is an investigative reporter who wondered about his unusual sir name until the day he stopped wondering and began investigating. His journey takes him to the other side of the country from his home in southern California and beyond, to Africa. Along the way he is introduced to the depths of current racism in the US as well as to complete acceptance of mixed race families. I found it fascinating and easy to read. A must read for fans of Who Do You Think You Are?
Joe Mozingo has done some fascinating research on how the West African name "Mozingo" was accidentally preserved by the white descendants of the original African who bore it. Even though his research clearly disproves the "one drop" myth and white racial "purity," Mozingo is still foolish enough to claim that his ancestors "passed as white." Since Mozingo admits that he himself and most of the Mozingos are white, where was the caste line crossed?
I was really excited to see a book about genealogy written for the general public, but I was a little disappointed in The Fiddler on Pantico Run. The author's linkages of his ancestors were often tenuous, and several wouldn't stand up in the professional world. Still, it was an interesting unfolding of his unusual African roots. The best part of the book was the exploration of a family moving from black to white to black again over generations.
Michelle M
Wonderful journey into the history of Joe's family and the different paths his ancestor's took. Very well written, with an interesting combination of history, geneological research and exploration of human nature. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history, geneology or just plain famiy scandal!I won this good through first reads and have already passed it on to others to enjoy.
There are some wonderfully written phrases/paragraphs in this book. Anybody who's ever been bitten by the genealogy bug will definitely understand and crack a few smiles at how involved the author gets in tracing his family history and his reflections on the past stretching back and being reflected in the future. Definitely a good read though the end is a bit weak.
Very well-written, and interesting - if you're already interested in the subject matter. I would have benefited from a family tree to keep all the distant cousins and Josephs straight, but in the end it didn't really matter.

Not exactly a page-turner, but for someone who loves the idea of family history and the mysteries one can find, a great read.
I haven't finished this book. However, what I have read thus far has been great. I am so grateful to have received it through Goodreads Firstreads. Due to some difficult family issues I am having to set it aside for the time being. I look forward to picking it up again when I have the time to give it the attention it truly deserves.
Margie Peterson
I hope Joe Mozingo continues to write and research. This is a brave and carefully crafted that reads like the best mysteries. I stopped before finishing, because I didn't want his storytelling to end. My only regret is that Mr. Mozingo is not sharing his skills and work ethic to young journalists throughout the world.
It is an extraordinary read about one man's family crossing the the color-line in our history of racism. Story chronicles the sleuthing of his family name, Mozingo, and discovering that it is not Italian, it is African. Great read!
Great book. Since I work in the genealogy division of a library I, of course, enjoyed the genealogical search by the author. I learned more about the importation of slaves than I had known before and it wasn't pretty.
Relevant to me because I grew up in a town where Mozingo's Pool Hall was a Saturday night hangout for guys I knew. (Nice Southern girls didn't go to pool halls.) fascinating to track that name backwards and forward.
I enjoyed the journey he made to learn more about his roots. I've been involved in genealogy for nearly 20 years and recently did DNA testing which shows some colonial Sub-Saharan African roots in my family also.
Charity Myatt thompson
Well written story of Joe Mozingo's search for the truth behind his family name. If you are interested in genealogy, the Mozingo surname and/or African slave trade history, then you will enjoy this book.
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