Grant Hayter-Menzies

The North Door:

Echoes of Slavery in a New England Family

More Americans are discovering their ancestral connections to slavery --as victims, as perpetrators, as beneficiaries. Biographer Grant Hayter-Menzies has contributed a unique memoir depending not on genes or genealogy primarily, but upon a rich family history full of faces, personalities, and fascinating stories. He follows the threads of lore, remembrance and hard fact to encounters today with descendants of the slave holders and the slaves of his family's past. The result is a powerful testament to the resilience of Americans of all backgrounds confronting slavery's dishonorable and humiliating imprint.

Like an increasing number of historians, Hayter-Menzies describes slavery in the North as a parallel and variation of southern slavery. But he is able to examine the history through the lens of his beloved grandmother, who grew up in the shadow of post-slavery culture, and embodied both a deep humanity and an unconscious conformity to traditional white attitudes. In this memoir of his journey through the past and the present, through his own memories and impressions of early childhood to his mature understanding of the complex legacies of slavery across American culture, Hayter-Menzies makes a remarkable departure from his past work, and achieves a memorable contribution to a literature of growing importance.

About the author...

Biographer Grant Hayter-Menzies specializes in lives unique and unexamined --both human and animal. His most recent book is Woo, the Monkey Who Inspired Emily Carr: A Biography (Douglas & McIntyre, 2019). He is also the author of Dorothy Brooke and the Fight to Save Cairo's Lost Horses (Potomac, 2017 and Allen & Unwin, 2018), the first biography of the Englishwoman who in 1930s Egypt discovered and saved thousands of elderly and abused warhorses, mules and donkeys abandoned by British forces at the termination of WWI; Mrs. Ziegfeld: The Public and Private Lives of Billie Burke (McFarland, 2016), a biography of the beloved Wizard of Oz actress; From Stray Dog to World War I Hero (University of Nebraska, 2015), the story of the legendary terrier, Rags, remembered as a battlefield messenger in World War I; Lillian Carter: A Compassionate Life (McFarland, 2014), a biography of the mother of President Jimmy Carter; Shadow Woman: The Extraordinary Career of Pauline Benton (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2013), a study of the performer and champion of the art of shadow puppetry; The Empress and Mrs. Conger: The Uncommon Friendship of Two Women and Two Worlds (University of Hong Kong, 2011), an exploration of the relationship between the Dowager Empress Cixi and Sarah Conger; Imperial Masquerade: The Legend of Princess Der Ling (University of Hong Kong, 2008), a biography of the Manchu court attendant in the last years of the Qing dynasty.

See more on Grant's work at his website. You can see him talk on C-SPAN about his work on Lillian Carter's biography here.

Grant lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

      -- photo by Dave Traynor

About the afterword author...

Daryl D'Angelo

About the cover artist... Suzanne Carroll Korn has been researching, studying, and writing about 19th century (1800—1860) painted-decorated plaster walls for over 20 years. Her research has taken her to every corner of New England in order to view and document some of the few remaining original works of the itinerant painters like Rufus Porter, Jonathan D. Poor and Moses Eaton. Suzanne's research has been published in The Decorator, a publication of the Historical Society of Early American Decoration, and her study of early muraled and stenciled walls continues today under the auspices of The Center for Painted Wall Preservation, where Suzanne serves on the Board of Advisors. Historic paint-decorated walls are her inspiration! As an Early American Painter and Folk Artist, Suzanne borrows and blends the folk art motifs and early American designs found on these walls to create colorful scenic landscapes reminiscent of rural life in 19th century New England. Suzanne says, "Each painting pays tribute to life in the small colonial villages and coastal towns of England."

Suzanne's portfolio also includes a "rustic-modern" style featuring minimal landscapes and a light color palette. Small cottages, fields of flowers, and sometimes hints of distant saltmarshes gives these paintings a peaceful spirit. "I love creating simple vignettes of rural American life. These inviting rural scenes are a lovely antidote to the hustle and bustle of 21st century suburbia."

Suzanne sells her artwork through her website and at an antiques and collectibles shop in Wilton, New Hampshire. Much of her time is spent in her studio working on commissions for custom landscapes and folk art house portraits. Suzanne makes her home in the town of North Reading, Massachusetts with her husband, Rich, and canine sidekick, Alice.

Follow Suzanne's work at her websites, ,

      Suzanne Korn in the field researching an early paint-decorated wall by Rufus Porter (1792-1884).