Daisy Turner’s words

Daisy Turner was a woman of many words.

The storyteller and poet was a living repository of history. She related the stories of her own family, from the abduction of her ancestors in West Africa to her own upbringing in Grafton, Vermont. Her own parents were freed slaves.

In 1983, folklorist Jane C. Beck began a series of interviews with Turner. At the time Daisy Turner was one hundred years old and still relating four generations of oral history.

In her book Daisy Turner’s Kin, Beck uses Turner’s storytelling to build the Turner family saga, using at its foundation the oft-repeated touchstone stories at the heart of their experiences: the abduction into slavery of Turner’s African ancestors; Daisy’s father learning to read; his return as a soldier to his former plantation to kill the overseer; Daisy’s childhood stand against racism; and her family’s life in Vermont. Beck weaves in historical research and offers a folklorist’s perspective on oral history and the hazards and uses of memory.

Turner was featured reciting Civil War poetry in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, The Civil War.

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