Annotated Edition of the History of the Jones Family


by John L. Jones and, In Memoriam: J. McHenry Jones

This annotated edition of the History of the Jones Family (ca. 1930) by John L. Jones (1857–1938) puts back into print an important historical book. Published forty years before Roots, History of the Jones Family also tells the story of a remarkable African-American family. Alex Haley was a professional writer and Roots was a best seller. John L. Jones was a businessman and he probably gave away all 100 copies of his own book. Nevertheless, Jones wrote in a natural, conversational, unpretentious style that is delightful to read. He mixes family stories with family fact in an absorbing narrative tracing his father’s activities as a conductor on the Underground Railroad to his own accomplishments in business and civic affairs. Along the way he recounts the considerable achievements of other family members, including his well-known brother, James McHenry Jones, president of what is now West Virginia State College. Even rarer than a copy of the first edition of History of the Jones Family is In Memoriam, a tribute to James McHenry Jones. In Memoriam is reprinted here also. Found in the files of the late Beulah Johnson, who researched African-American history in the Gallipolis, Ohio, area. In Memoriam likely represents the text of orations made at James McHenry Jones’ funeral. The Jones family’s story reaches from Richmond, Virginia, at the turn of the nineteenth century to the Ohio River cities of Cincinnati, New Richmond, Southpoint, Middleport, Pomeroy, Gallipolis (Ohio), and Wheeling (West Virginia), throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. John L. Jones spent most of his adult life in the Perry County, Ohio, mining town of Rendville. Rendville is particularly interesting because of its African-American citizens’ early involvement in the beginnings of the labor movement. Notes by Michel S. Perdreau and Nancy E. Aiken describe some of the significance of Rendville and other places and events in the History of the Jones Family. The History of the Jones Family brings into sharp focus the ambitions, frustrations, and determination of a free African-American family from the antebellum era to the early twentieth century. Their sense of family, their loyalty to each other, and their singular accomplishments belie the common stereotypes.


Nancy E. Aiken and Michel S. Perdreau


(2001), 2012, 5½x8½, paper, index, 126 pp.

ISBN: 9780788418778