New book explores family’s roots

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2012

While Dr. Harvey Webb Jr. may call Florida home, his roots are deep in the history of Covington County and the surrounding areas.

Recently, Webb described those roots in his new book, “Wash: Faith In Hard Times.”

Webb will hold a book signing today at the Andalusia Public Library beginning at 3 p.m.

Described as “creative non-fiction,” the book outlines the story of a freed black slave struggling for his manhood in the post Civil War South.

“Wash, who was born George Washington Abrams, a slave in Georgia, was my maternal grandfather,” Webb said. “His life story began around 1854, during slavery, followed by the hardships, trials and achievements attained in Alabama through his beliefs and determination to succeed during the Jim Crow era.”

Webb said he spent more than 30 years researching and documenting Wash’s experiences using the courthouses and public libraries in Guthbert, Ga., Andalusia and other townships within 50 miles of the Searight Community.

“The discoveries I made about the primogenitors of my mother’s side of the family were revealing and exhilarating,” Webb said. “The information I uncovered made me understand how deeply the roots of our family penetrated the fabric of American life and the degree to which all their progeny and I are integral components of the American experience.”

Webb said Wash’s story of former slave descendents encountering constant challenges to their faith, family, friends and future reflects a universal experience.

“His struggles to honor these commitments create conflict, confusion and tragedy,” Webb said. “Daily efforts to become educated and improve the lot of his family, friends and himself are frustrated by racist policies of the new South. He pursues the lofty goal of farm ownership. Wash’s distress and degrading experiences force him to mature quickly, accept reality, and new responsibilities. His intelligence and humble manner depict many southern stereotypes used to overcome injustice and assure survival in the reconstruction of the south.

“The novel outlines how Wash advances his cause by using the oppressive self-interests of white society to achieve his goals of farm ownership and community harmony, through hard work,” Webb said.

Webb said the most significant component of his 30-plus years researching his family history was preserving the memories of his 87-year-old mother, Willa Mae Abrams Webb.