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A wealthy planter leaves his wife in Virginia for the wilds of Mississippi and a life with his slaves, whom his family has prevented him from freeing. He takes a black common-law wife, and in his will he frees their daughter, bequeathing her his many plantations and material goods. The family, upon hearing of this outrage, spirits the girl away and tells the probate court she has died. Although author Henry Wiencek, who spent seven years researching and writing The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, maintains that the book in the end is a “parable of redemption,” he does not shy away from telling this and other true stories of greed, cruelty, and torture. Nor does he pretend, despite the black and white Hairstons’ continued friendly interaction, that slavery’s legacy has not made “simple human gestures…fraudulent and corrupt.” Wiencek reads from and signs copies of his book at 7 p.m. at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272. (Caroline Schweiter)