headshot of Rachel Swarns

Journalist. Author. Professor.

Author of the The 272

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Book cover for "The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church"


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One of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2023

The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church

The harrowing origin story of the American Catholic Church and one family’s indomitable will to survive. A saga of resistance, love and faith.

“Through her prodigious research, expert storytelling, and deep empathy for the victims of slavery, Rachel L. Swarns has produced an absolutely essential addition to the history of the Catholic Church.”
Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello and On Juneteenth
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In her books, Rachel explores the complexities of race, history and the American experience, tracing the journeys of Michelle Obama’s multiracial ancestors and exploring the stories behind the photographs that languished for decades in The New York Times archives.

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Rachel, a longtime correspondent for The Times, now focuses on race and race relations as a contributing writer for the newspaper in articles that engage and inform…

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Rachel has appeared on National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour, CNN and other outlets and speaks to groups and audiences around the country. For interviews or speaking engagements, please contact her team here.

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