What is the historical context in Octavia Butler's novel Kindred?
Octavia Butler’s 1979 novel Kindred takes place in two periods of time, 1976, when the protagonist, Dana, has just turned 26 years-old, and 1819, decades before the Civil War would finally put an end to slavery. Dana resides in Altadena, California, which is in Los Angeles County. On that day in 1976, she is for the first time mysteriously transported back in time to a plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where slavery was very much a part of the local industry. As Dana notes with respect to the peculiarity of her situation,
“Time travel was science fiction in nineteen seventy-six. In eighteen nineteen - Rufus was right - it was sheer insanity.”
The Rufus to whom Dana refers is Rufus Weylin, the son of a slave owner, and a troubled boy whose survival, Dana discovers, is essential to her eventual birth. Not unlike the film “Back to the Future,” but of considerably greater moral weight, Dana discovers that she must ensure not only Rufus’ survival, but that of Alice, the daughter of a free black who becomes enslaved as a consequence of helping another slave escape the plantation. Alice is impregnated by Rufus, beginning a lineage that eventually produces Dana.