PULLMAN, Wash. — The evolution of a remarkable African American family is revealed in an engaging narrative set in Seattle, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
The work, “The Cayton Legacy: An African American Family,” was recently released by the Washington State University Press.
The Caytons lived a true American saga, illuminating the black and white experience in the United States and the troubled, tortuous course of race relations. The narrative details the family’s history, spanning the generations from the Civil War to the 1970s, and gives insight into the collective identity in the modern age.
Horace Roscoe Cayton, born a slave in Mississippi in 1859, and his wife, Susie Revels Cayton, daughter of the first black U.S. Senator, Hiram Revels, were among the most prominent African American families in Seattle at the turn of the 20th century. They and their five children were conscious of their historical heritage and distinct identity, which impelled them to high levels of achievement, education, and sometimes, financial success. The Caytons published newspapers, served as civic leaders, wrote books and articles, wielded political influence and established relationships with nationally prominent black and white community and cultural leaders.
They also faced racial discrimination and duress, business and professional failures, and poverty. Some also struggled with the personal challenges of alcoholism, depression and drug addiction. And yet, the Cayton family endured, passing on its legacy of working for human understanding to a modern generation.
Author Richard Hobbs spent more than 15 years working on “The Cayton Legacy.” He first came across mention of the Caytons as a graduate student in the early 1970s, in an obscure article that mentioned Horace Cayton’s newspaper, the Seattle Republican, and the family’s influence in Pacific Northwest history. Intrigued, he began to piece the family’s story together. Later, with the family’s cooperation and encouragement, Hobbs spent years researching their history, tapping a wide range of sources and traveling to more than a dozen libraries across the country.
“I let many years go by thinking someone else could, would, or should write the book. Then there came a point when I knew that the story was way too important to remain so largely unknown,” says Hobbs.
Hobbs received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from WSU in 1969 and 1971, respectively.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Studs Terkel interviewed Horace Cayton, Jr. on his radio program in 1968 and included information about him in his book, “Hard Times.” Terkel is impressed with “The Cayton Legacy.”
“This is an extraordinary memoir of a remarkable African American family in whose lives is the saga of a race’s hopes, dreams and triumphs,” he said. “It is a hymn to grace under pressure.”
The 272-page book is available for $21.95 in paperback at bookstores or directly from WSU Press at (800) 354-7360.