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

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  176 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
A prize-winning journalist’s quest to uncover the hidden history of his remarkable American family, part black and part white—all descended from an African slave who won his freedom in the Jamestown court in 1672, one of the country’s first free black men.

“My dad’s family was a mystery,” writes prize-winning journalist Joe Mozingo. Growing up, he knew that his mother’s anc
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Free Press
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Sep 26, 2012 Alice rated it really liked it
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
Jun 17, 2013 Jasonian rated it liked it
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
Nov 30, 2012 Debra rated it really liked it

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.
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.
Laura LeAnn
Feb 09, 2013 Laura LeAnn rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
David V.
Sep 11, 2012 David V. rated it really liked it
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.
Ramey Channell
May 20, 2015 Ramey Channell rated it really liked it
This was a very good book, well written and full of interesting historical information, especially for anyone interested in genealogy and family history. I really enjoyed reading this, with a few reservations. One peculiar statement that had nothing to do with the author's search for his family history: "Children form no lasting memories before grade school." What an out-of-place and untrue statement! The author or his editor should have caught this mistake and removed it before publication. And ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Neila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If anyone is interested in genealogy and researching a family's heritage, this is a wonderful book. I got a bit bored in the middle of the book when the author went into the history of the slave trade, but eventually it became apparent why it was necessary.
Rhea Graham
Dec 29, 2013 Rhea Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting search for ancestors in Africa post-Alex Haley. Quite riveting and a brave effort by the writer. Do not read if you aren't open minded about miscegenation cover-ups in the good ole USA.
Dec 10, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book! A well-researched quest to find family history has surprising and controversial results. It's piqued my thirst for history.
Oct 21, 2012 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Impeccably researched. Riveting.
Oct 08, 2012 Aurora rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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
Stephanie Patil
Sep 01, 2013 Stephanie Patil rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 25, 2013 Ellen rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it
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
Jul 31, 2013 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
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
Dec 20, 2012 Kathy Stone rated it really liked it
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
Jan 31, 2016 Anita rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book, about a white man searching for his black ancestor, but I thought it bogged down at the end with the history of Portugal and Africa. Edward Mozingo and his decscendants were just so interesting to me that I didn't want to leave them to hear about anything else, but this book has a lot to teach about racial identity in America in the story of this amazing familiy.
Apr 16, 2016 Jbondandrews rated it really liked it
I am always interested in books that delve into family history and The Fiddler on Pantico Run is just such a book. Joe Mozingo's search for his roots is a very fascinating read. The two sides of the family, how they thought they were Basque or Italian or another European country is interesting and not all are happy to be African but mostly they are.
May 28, 2014 Rob rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 12, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 18, 2012 Eileen rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 12, 2016 Betty rated it really liked it
l found this a fascinating account of one man's journey to discover who his ancestors were. He knew where his mother's ancestors were from, but he had heard only vague stories about where his father's family was from.
It was after being told by a college professor that his name may have come from Africa. That made no sense to him because he was a blue eyed white man.
He found out that everyone in America with his last name appeared to be descended from a black man who was brought to America as a
Jun 03, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
One of the best non-fiction books I've read in a while. Beautifully written.
Catherine Kesseler
Dec 28, 2014 Catherine Kesseler rated it really liked it
I loved this book. A great story of the author's search for the origins of his name.
Bessie Chu
Jan 29, 2015 Bessie Chu rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and timely read.
Diana Post
Aug 03, 2015 Diana Post rated it really liked it
A very interesting dive into researching one family's genealogy, with the added bonus of being well-written and informative. I learned a lot about the slave trade in general as well as the mindsets of many types of people whose lives were touched by that dark time.
Nancy Villalobos
Apr 30, 2013 Nancy Villalobos rated it it was amazing
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?
Apr 15, 2013 A.D. rated it liked it
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?
Jun 26, 2013 Tanya rated it liked it
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.
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