Archive for the ‘American South’ Category

Aside from reading all books Atlantic World oriented, I’ve been digging through the evidence for a murder from back in 1821.  Well at least it started out as a murder investigation.  It was like a CSI script in many ways.  A body washes up on shore, the man appears to have had his throat slit.  He was wrapped in a blanket that appeared to have been attached to several rocks to ensure the body wasn’t found.  Moreover, several witnesses reported that he was in possession of a large amount of cash and had been (quite stupidly) flaunting it.

The man boarded a ship to go from Virginia to Camden, North Carolina.  He never reached his destination and his body washed up on shore near Pasquotank County, North Carolina.  The local justices of the peace put out a warrant for his arrest and the story in the local paper about the “MURDER!” was published in over 15 papers from North Carolina to Maine. (more…)

A Short Excerpt from

Chapter One: Life on the Plantation

Betsey was awoken by the sound of Susan’s voice, “Get up sleepy head!” Susan playfully pulled the pillow out from under Betsey’s head and yanked the bed sheet back. The young slave girl responded groggily, “Give me a minute” as she rubbed her eyes. “Daddy’s taking us into town today, I just can’t wait. Do you think he will let us see the ships again?”

Betsey sat up, “You know he will. He lets you do anything you want.” Susan smiled, “Of course, I am his only daughter. Now get ready, I don’t want him to leave without us.” Susan skipped out of the room as Betsey finished the slow process of waking up.

The room itself was both rustic and grand. The oak boards that covered the walls and ran across the floor came from trees felled not far away by Betsey’s father and the other slaves on the Bryant’s White Oak Plantation. While the walls and floor were of simple but fashionable design, the adornments of the room were elegant and possibly gaudy. Overly elaborate wooden designs weaved their way through the legs and drawers of the dresser, nightstand, and the young girl’s bed. It made a stark contrast with the simple sheet laid out on the floor next to the finely carved bed. (more…)

I’ve been working on my first book for the last two years now.  I am trying to write it for a 6th to 8th grade level and in such a manner as to fit within a curriculum on runaway slaves in particular and slavery in general.  The story is inspired by real people- two slaves named Betsey and Welcome– although I have taken liberty with the facts (let us call it artistic license) to fill in large gaps in their story.  In many ways I’ve tried to include modern scholarship to show what the experience of an average slave was like.  However, such is near impossible for the average experience of a slave was quite different depending on where they lived (Mississippi vs. North Carolina), their job (field vs. house), their individual master (a whole gamut running from benevolent to malicious), and a host of other reasons.  Consequently, I decided on writing a story that would accurately reflect the conditions, choices, and struggles that many slaves faced during the antebellum period in the American South. 

I’ve tried to include as many aspects of slavery as possible- the well known and the not so well known.  Also the contradictions and the competing loyalties take center stage quite often as characters negotiate difficult relationships: friendships that exist within the boundaries of the slave system’s social order, a master who considers himself benevolent but learns otherwise when his authority is challenged, familial bonds that kept some slaves from running away while others who chose to runaway fought with and lived with the memories of family members left behind, and the pain of loss at the extreme cruelties of the slave system that led many to choose deprivation, hunger, and even death over a life of enslaved misery.  The story is difficult to read at times, but it is important to know and understand how the slave system impacted the lives of everyday men, women, and children.  Why?  Because it is easy to get lost in statistics.  As Joseph Stalin once said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”  Through some odd quirk the death and suffering of many is easier to understand, process, and push aside than the death of one person.  Perhaps it isn’t an odd quirk though, since we usually come to know and understand the one person better.  We can hear about their life, their accomplishments, their dreams.  The million dead merge into one tangled mess that we often don’t have the time or energy to explain or understand.  Their dreams, hopes, accomplishments, and loves are lost with them.  Part of my goal in writing this story is to resurrect some small part of those great hopes and deep anguishes in a way that allows modern readers to connect with a slave girl who isn’t just a statistic.       

Let me know what you think in the comments section.  I haven’t done a lot of editing yet as I am still writing my way through the first draft.  So don’t be too surprised if you catch a typo or even a dozen.  I’ll post the first chapter on Monday.  Here is the Introduction which will hopefully catch your interest.  And be honest.  Most books gain or loss their reader’s interest in the first paragrpah or page, so let me know if you were left wanting more or not.  Thanks!

 

On Toward Freedom

Or

The Reluctant Rebel

 

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I was reading the local paper online and came across this interesting story. Of about 21 foreign students (18 from Germany, and 3 from France) visiting the U.S. the one idea they all seemed to hold about Americans, was, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“There are fat people in Germany…but not so many, and not so fat as here.”

And

“There are a lot of fat people in America[.]”

So, the one idea they seemed to all share was that we Americans are quite fat. But to illuminate and illustrate the quality of their assumptions and preconceptions, they also thought Americans:

  1. Own lots of pets (guilty as charged, I own four pets not counting fish).
  2. Live in “huge” houses (well does 1,300 square feet count as big?).
  3. Southerners were more open-minded than Northerners.
  4. Less stressed out.

So judge for yourself.

For my part, I think they have hit the nail on the head. They are observers with a fresh perspective, observers that- with child like candor- have shed light on our peculiar problem as a nation- obesity. What are we going to do about it?

Here is an example of an average day during the typical Two Week Total Transformation. I have also included plenty of links and info for those interested in starting their own stretching or running programs.

7:15 –Stretch. About 10-15 minutes is great for your mind, body, and spirit. I am amazed at how much better my day goes when I start off with a good stretch. It is the small things that change. Your steps seem lighter, picking up those keys you dropped on the floor is easier, and simple twists and turns are easier on the back. The Mayo Clinic offers some great examples (with pictures) for those of us who need the visuals.

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Tomorrow will be a very full day.

I have several projects for tomorrow- not including updating this blog.  I have…

  1. To write an encyclopedia entry on slave patrols,
  2. A guest blog post to write
  3. To complete a journal article (or at least get close to completing it) that I would like to have published before the end of this year.
  4. 300-400 pages to read (some fun American History stuff).
  5. Read as much as I can online about adoption.
  6. A hard workout to kickoff this new Two Week Total Transformation Challenge,
  7. Two very big dogs that need a long walk. Altogether, it means a long and most likely fulfilling day.

In addition, I have three blog posts planned for tomorrow. One will clear up some issues on our adoption plans. The second will be, well, the topic is up in the air at this moment. I will see where God leads me during my morning quiet time. And the third, well let’s just say God came through big on several fronts.

See you then. Until then, God bless.

Even as a boring researcher who spends days on end in dusty old archives, every now and again something shocks you. I came across this ad not long into my research regarding runaway slaves in Eastern North Carolina. [The full size image can be found below the page break].

Runaway Slave Ad

Why is an old advertisement so shocking and interesting? The above advertisement’s five simple (although surprisingly verbose) paragraphs are short hand for a much larger and even more interesting tale. Their story includes enslavement, betrayal, yearning for freedom, fatherhood, rebellion, courage, anger, and half a dozen other compelling emotional angles that should perk the ears and tug at the heart.

Beyond that, the characters are laid out in a detailed manner (considering the space allowed for an advertisement), but in such a way that you are left desiring to know more about them.

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