Tangled Journeys

One Family's Story and the Making of American History

By Lori D. Ginzberg

Tangled Journeys

288 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 27 halftones, 1 figs., 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7996-9
    Published: September 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7995-2
    Published: September 2024

Paperback Available September 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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In 1830 Richard Walpole Cogdell, a husband, father, and bank clerk in Charleston, South Carolina, purchased a fifteen-year-old enslaved girl, Sarah Martha Sanders. Before her death in 1850, she bore nine of his children, five of whom reached adulthood. In 1857, Cogdell and his enslaved children moved to Philadelphia, where he bought them a house and where they became, virtually overnight, part of the African American middle class. An ambitious historical narrative about the Sanders family, Tangled Journeys tells a multigenerational, multiracial story that is both traumatic and prosaic while forcing us to confront what was unseen, unheard, and undocumented in the archives, and thereby inviting us into the process of American history making itself.

About the Author

Lori D. Ginzberg is Professor Emeritus of History and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Pennsylvania State University, as well as the author of several books, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life and Untidy Origins: A Story of Woman's Rights in Antebellum New York.
For more information about Lori D. Ginzberg, visit the Author Page.


"Ginzberg has hit the ball out of the park with Tangled Journeys. Knitting together sources from Europe, the Caribbean, and North America, Ginzberg traces fragmented records to reveal how slavery and empire collided to create blood kin who could be neither recognized nor acknowledged legally in the United States. The result is a genealogical quilt that reveals the pernicious nature of slavery and also the warmth of kinship via the Sanders family. We learn of the resilience of Black people whose very existence resisted fictions about their erasure."

—Deirdre Cooper Owens, author of Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology

"In this sweeping history, Lori Ginzberg offers us a deep and compelling route through which to understand the impact of Black life on the history of the nation. Centered on the ancestors and descendants of Sarah Martha Sanders, this is much more than the history of a family. Through a meticulous and lyrical engagement with their movements, their property, their freedom, and their enslavement, we learn something crucial about the intimate evolution of race, class, and capitalism in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American life. Read this book. It will change the way you see Black, American, and women's history."

—Jennifer L. Morgan, author of Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic