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To Free a Family

To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker

Historian Sydney Nathans spent most of his career studying U.S. political history and he was just making the transition to social history when he came across an intriguing letter. It was a plea written in 1859 to a North Carolina slave owner, asking for the opportunity to purchase some of the people being held in bondage. The message was sent by a white man named Peter Lesley on behalf of Mary Walker, a runaway who was once enslaved by the family she was attempting to contact. The slaves Walker wanted to purchase were her children and mother. Nathans’ curiosity about that letter, the slave woman’s request and the white man who authored it led him on a decades-long quest to find answers. The history he uncovered has been recorded in a new book, “To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker” (Harvard University Press/2012). Nathans joins host Frank Stasio to talk about his findings and what Walker’s story illustrates about the power of family and community.

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
Alex Granados joined The State of Things in July 2010. He got his start in radio as an intern for the show in 2005 and loved it so much that after trying his hand as a government reporter, reader liaison, features, copy and editorial page editor at a small newspaper in Manassas, Virginia, he returned to WUNC. Born in Baltimore but raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Alex moved to Raleigh in time to do third grade twice and adjust to public school after having spent years in the sheltered confines of a Christian elementary education. Alex received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a minor in philosophy, which basically means that he used to think he was really smart but realized he wasn’t in time to switch majors. Fishing, reading science fiction, watching crazy movies, writing bad short stories, and shooting pool are some of his favorite things to do. Alex still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is holding out for astronaut.