Oprah: What's true and what's not? That's what we all want to know.
Lalita: The bones of the story are absolutely true. All of the things in the book that have captions are real documents and they are true. Most of the events—
Oprah: And may I say, that's one of the most fascinating things. You're reading along, and then there are pictures ... of people ... and slave papers. That's fantastic ... amazing!
Lalita: And a lot of the events are also true. What I have decided to do is to not clarify exactly where I fictionalized and where I didn't fill in the gaps.
Oprah: Was he in the river with the chair? Was the moonlight chair true?
Lalita: We're just going to have to wonder about that one.
Taking Your Ancestors With You
Oprah: Do you still hear the whispers of your ancestors telling you, 'Well done. Our story has been told?'
Lalita: I very much felt the spirit. But I felt it in a different way, and it was pushing me towards doing this. It was pushing me to not give up ... I believe that these women are a part of me now.
Oprah: That's interesting, because I've always felt that. I've always felt shored up by the ancestors, even though I don't know their names.
Lalita: Absolutely. And I'm more calm, I'm more peaceful, and I really have far more of a trust that things are going to happen the way that they're going to happen. ... Some of that is just symbolic of being able to forgive and letting go of some things that happened in history. I don't think we should ever forget them. But I do think that we have to use them to figure out how to go forward.
Adopting Strength Instead of Shame
Danielle: There are members in my family who were saying, 'we weren't from slaves.' Because if you look at them today, you would think that they were white.
Lalita: To me, coming from the slave roots has proven to be such a source of extreme strength. And to be able to come so far, I just—I'm in awe of that power.
Oprah: I think that is the legacy. ... I see a race of people, African-Americans particularly, who have not done a good enough job of passing [their history] on. We really have not. That's why I'm really grateful for your book and other books like it that allow us to see who we have been.
I think the reason why we have the world and young people with distorted beliefs is because nobody really knows who they really are ... that [they] come from such powerful, grand stock that were able to do almost the impossible.
Looking For Legacy
Jeanne: I read the book and looked at the strength that these women displayed and the legacy that they gave to their own by passing down their strength from generation to generation ... always doing better for your children. It shifted my thinking. It helped me through a really rough time.
Oprah: I think what [Lalita was] able to do with this story is open the door for a lot of people who want to trace their own roots or look at what their heritage, what that legacy has meant for them.