Edward Ball (American author)

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Edward Ball
Edward Ball..jpg
Ball in 2007
Born (1959-10-08) October 8, 1959 (age 58)
Savannah, Georgia, United States
Occupation History writer, author
Nationality American
Period 1978-present
Genre Non-fiction
Subject History
Notable works Slaves in the Family
Notable awards National Book Award

Edward Ball (born October 8, 1959) is an American writer, a university instructor and the author of five books of non-fiction, including Slaves in the Family (1998) and The Inventor and the Tycoon (2013).

The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures (Doubleday) tells the story of the partnership, during the 1870s, between California railroad magnate Leland Stanford and solitary photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who killed a man, and then went on to invent motion pictures.

Slaves in the Family is a book about the author's family, slaveowners in South Carolina for 170 years. It recounts the author's search for and meetings with African Americans whose ancestors his family once enslaved.[1] The book won the National Book Award, became a New York Times bestseller,[2] was featured on Oprah, and was translated into several languages.[3][4]

Ball's other books include a biography of a transsexual and scandal figure from the 1960s, Dawn Langley Simmons, and a history of a rich black family in the Jim Crow South, the Harlestons of South Carolina.


He was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1959 and grew up in the South. He attended Brown University, graduating in 1982.


After graduation, Ball moved to New York City, where he worked as a freelance art critic, writing about film, art, architecture, and books. For several years, he worked as a columnist for the weekly newspaper The Village Voice.[5]

In the 1990s, he began to research his father's family, which had enslaved some 4000 people on twenty-five rice plantations in South Carolina, between the years 1698 and 1865. The family legacy, documented in several archives, led to his first book, Slaves in the Family, a bestseller that won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.[6] He lived in Charleston, South Carolina at the time.

Ball lives in Connecticut and teaches at Yale University.

Selected works[edit]

  • Slaves in the Family (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998) — An investigation of 175 years of slave ownership by the author's family in South Carolina.
  • The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the South (Morrow, 2001) — The history of the Harlestons, a prosperous black family, progeny of a white Southern slaveholder and his enslaved black cook, who rose from the ashes of the Civil War to create a dynasty in art and music during the Jazz Age.
  • Peninsula of Lies: A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love (Simon & Schuster, 2004) — The life of English writer Gordon Hall, who, during the 1960s, became one of the first sex-reassignment patients, reinvented as Dawn Langley Simmons, a rich white woman, who married a black fisherman and produced a mixed-race daughter, whom she claimed was her biological child.
  • The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA (Simon & Schuster, 2007) — The author finds a 150-year-old collection of children’s hair kept by his family during the 1800s, and turns to DNA science as a tool of family history, testing the locks of hair to reveal their genetic secrets.[7][8]
  • The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures (Doubleday, 2013) — The lives of 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge and railroad capitalist Leland Stanford, who came together to invent the technology of motion pictures, although not before Muybridge murdered a man who had seduced his wife.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]