Why “12 Years a Slave” Will Always Matter to Louisiana


I had a slight advantage over the other kids in my junior high Louisiana history class: Two of my great-aunts, Sue Eakin and Manie Culbertson, wrote our textbook, Louisiana: The Land and Its PeopleI was the only person in my class (and probably the only kid in the entire state) whose textbook was inscribed by its authors. Of course, this wasn’t something you brag about in junior high, and I knew it probably wasn’t wise to tell my teacher that my aunts first gave me their book when I was in the fourth grade, lest he think I had somehow already memorized the whole thing.

Sue, Manie, and my grandmother Joanne, members of the sprawling Lyles family, were all history teachers. Along with their nine brothers and sisters (including three who were lost in childhood), they were born in Cheneyville, Louisiana and raised in nearby Loyd Bridge on…

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