REGINA E. MASON is an international Speaker, Author, Executive producer, and Storyteller who believes in the extraordinary will of the human spirit. Through artistic storytelling, she challenges audiences to recast painful stories of America’s past in a light that empowers, inspires, and transforms our thinking.
She has spent 15 years researching the life and times of her great-great-great-grandfather—pioneering fugitive slave autobiographer William Grimes. The seed for her search was unwittingly planted in a 5th grade class assignment on “origins” and “ancestry” where she thought she didn’t have a history worth trumpeting. She has spent nearly a lifetime turning a negative into a positive that would one day culminate with a new edition of her ancestor's book.
Her essays have appeared in The Race Card Project, various blogs, and The Root. She, along with literary critic and expert, William L. Andrews, is co-editor of the authoritative 2008 Oxford University Press edition of Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. Regina has shared her amazing work with the general public and a host of students on college and university campuses from Mansfield College, Oxford, England to the University at Buffalo in New York to Yale University in Connecticut to the University of California at Berkeley, and to Middle and High School students in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She has presented to educational organizations such as Words That Made America; corporate and professional organizations on Diversity and Equity & Inclusion at The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and American Cultures division at UC Berkeley. She has appeared on C-Span’s Book TV; RTE Radio of Ireland; NPR affiliate Cross Currents (KALW) radio of San Francisco and PBS affiliate KQED Television. In addition to performing The Raw Truth: A Slave Descendant's Soliloquy as narration and film, she currently serves as Executive Producer of the film documentary Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes. Regina resides in Oakland, California with her family.
Misery’s Voice Spoke Directly To Me
by Regina Mason
I discovered my great, great, great, grandfather’s narrative, Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave, following clues my Aunt Katherine [had given me in my childhood] about an ancestor’s connection to the Underground Railroad. No one in the family knew that a relative had written his life story. It would take me years corroborate his words and to link William Grimes to my family’s linage, but I, like his example, persevered.
The language in his book astonished me. Unrelenting misery plagued his life leaving him a profoundly embittered man. Never before had I imagined the depth of the slaves’ sufferings until I read this man’s story. The slave system that William Grimes described was far more cutthroat than any I could have imagined. He was ten years old when he was sold away from the arms of his grieving mother to a far off plantation. He grew up like a wild weed, friendless and motherless, with apparently no surrogate slave family or loved one to embrace him, no one even to look after him, as Fiddler in Alex Haley’s Roots had cared for the boy Kunta. Defenseless, he was repeatedly forced outside the house servants’ circle by those obliged to look out first for their own interest. I was numb.
In my quest to discover everything I could about this man, I also learned just how pioneering his narrative is. Actually, it is the first fugitive slave narrative in American history. Some historians say he unwittingly initiated a new genre of American Literature—The [American] Slave Narrative, yet he remains essentially unknown today.
The story of William Grimes was my birthright and having recovered it for my family has been the greatest gift. I cannot imagine life without his legacy. I am empowered in ways I never knew I could be. The story of who we are—past and present—is not only central to our individual survival, but to our collective understanding and appreciation of each other.
(The above essay appears in The Race Card Project and can be found here:
Regina Mason has a gift. I have seen a zillion and one speakers and have come to the conclusion that
people are either great speakers or not. Regina is a great speaker. She is passionate, personal, historical, global, and articulate. She is able to educate and inspire. Regina leaves the audience breathless with the knowledge of reclaimed history. She has a wonderful speaking voice that audiences could listen to forever.
Amy Cheney, Write to Read Librarian, Alameda County, CA