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Letters: Toni Morrison

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Now to your comments.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And we got many of them in response to my interview yesterday with the Nobel-winning author Toni Morrison. We talked about her new novel called "A Mercy." Many of the books characters are essentially slaves, but not black slaves.

SIEGEL: Morrison said she was surprised to read about the history of indentured servitude in a book called "White Cargo."

Professor TONI MORRISON (Author, "A Mercy"): There is a sentence in that book that says many white people in the United States are descendants of slaves.

NORRIS: Sure enough, Richard Gissele(ph) of Fairborn, Georgia, told us he was one of them.

SIEGEL: He writes this. "About a year ago, I found out that one of my six great-grandfathers who came over from England in the early 18th century was an indentured servant. Although it was jarring at the time, that revelation was nothing compared to how disturbing it was to hear that the term was in many cases just another name for slave. Well, now we know that we have more in common with a lot of Americans that we ever dreamed."

NORRIS: Caitlin Rabbit(ph) also wrote us a personal story, but she was not surprised to hear about the history of indentured servants. She writes, "My own ancestors were on one side, a motley mostly Irish mix. On the other side, my relatives were Russian immigrants who arrived, albeit circuitously, from a country populated by a few nobility and a whole lot more serfs. Indentured servants were such a major component of colonial America that I've always assumed at least some of my ancestors fit into this category."

SIEGEL: Well, thanks for your emails. You can send them to us by going to npr.org. Click on "Contact Us" at the top of the page. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.