Praise for Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives.


These Never-Before-Seen Photos From “The New York Times” Offer a New Glimpse Into African-American History

The Smithsonian Magazine

“This book brings the excitement of opening a time capsule, with powerful photographs and searching commentary by an all-star cast that gives us new and original insights into modern African American history.”

Michael Beschloss, historian and bestselling author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989

“Maya Angelou said that ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Indeed, there is an agony in our nation that the stories, the voices, and the images of Black Americans are so unknown, untold, and unseen in our wider understanding of history. This bountiful collection of once-unpublished photographs both gives expressive voice to their subjects and helps to relieve this agony, bringing to life a more complete picture of the compelling, complex, and beautiful story that is America.”

Cory Booker, U.S. senator and bestselling author of United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good.

Unseen reminds me of a lost black history version of ‘You Are There,’ told through photographs that The Times commissioned but chose not to print. This book is a vivid account of race relations in America, narrated through images that survived between the spaces of stories, in the gaps, silences, and lacuna buried in the paper’s archives. They constitute a remarkably vivid parallel text to the last half century of American history, creating an extraordinarily moving visual narrative of the feelings and actions of black Americans in the striking particularity of black-and-white photography. The book simulates what it would have been like to read The Times each day for the last half century, if the full picture of the African American experience had made the cut. If any book proves that it is never too late to publish ‘all the news’–and images–‘fit to print,’ this is it.”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director of Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African American Research and an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker

“By unearthing these fascinating photographs and sharing the stories behind them, the contributors to this extraordinary project have created a treasure.”

Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children’s Defense Fund

Praise for American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama


One of the 100 Notable Books of 2012

New York Times Book Review

“Riveting. . . . American Tapestry is not only the remarkable story of the first lady’s family, providing insight into some of the wonderful traits that have been passed down to her, but also a microcosm of this country’s story as well. . . .The real-life saga of struggle, survival, triumph and tragedy serves as an uplifting companion to Alex Haley’s Roots.”

USA Today

“[A] meticulously researched and eloquently written real-life detective story.”

Essence Magazine

“Swarns has unearthed and disseminated crucial American history here.”

The Washington Post

“An engrossing book. . . . Swarns outlines the fascinating journeys taken by various ancestors of First Lady Michelle Obama—the people who, across the generations, helped make her who she is today.”

Library Journal

“[A] meticulous, detailed investigation into Mrs. Obama’s family tree. . . . American Tapestry holds rewards.”

Denver Post

One of “the year’s outstanding books for public library collections”


“Tremendously moving. . . . Swarns provides numerous tales of heartbreak and achievement, many of which essentially make up the American story.”

Kirkus Reviews

“[A] layered, scrupulously researched, and wrenching chronicle.”

Publishers Weekly

“The First Family becomes ever more fascinating-and ever more representative of the nation as a whole-in Rachel Swarns’s terrific investigation into the roots of Michelle Obama. Reaching back to the Revolutionary War and moving up through the present with rich and illustrative detail, Swarns shows the ways in which Mrs. Obama’s family was touched by every major shift in the nation’s history.”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University professor and host and executive producer of PBS’s Finding Your Roots

“Rachel Swarns has not only excavated, with painstaking care, the family tree that is Michelle Obama’s, but, with great insight and beautiful prose, has revealed the complex, eye-opening, and disconcerting experiences that are America. This is a work of impressive historical imagination and deep cultural significance.”

Steven Hahn, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Nation under Our Feet

“A grand, important book that shows how American bloodlines are rarely wholly black or purely white, neither one race nor another. Nowhere is that more true than in American Tapestry, an eloquent history of the First Lady’s family.”

James McBride, author of the New York Times bestseller The Color of Water

“Tracing the ancestry of the first African-American First Lady from the time of slavery to the present, Swarns excavates the buried truth of mixed-race America. Unforgettable in its sweep and movingly told, American Tapestry has the power to reshape our understanding of the phrase ‘descended from slaves.’ This country has long been more multiracial, Swarns’ illuminating book makes clear, than many Americans-white or black-have cared to admit.”

Janny Scott, author of the New York Times bestseller A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother

“In this tour de force of biological sleuthing, Rachel L. Swarns explodes simplistic notions of life and love in the Old South. She peels back accumulated layers of myth, bigotry, and pure wishful thinking to show us the rich intertwining of white and black families and bloodlines. More than adding fascinating depth to the First Lady’s personal family story, Swarns has bestowed upon all Americans a revelatory understanding of our shared racial heritage.”

Fergus M. Bordewich, author of Bound for Canaan