Thursday, December 15, 2016

History nuggets …

Hello, history mate.

You'll find some good news below about Embattled Freedom, my forthcoming book about the Underground Railroad and "black soldiery." But first, two history nuggets:

"He separated the races." Have you seen the new film Loving? Catch it if you can. It's a graceful treatment of the mixed-race Virginia couple whose lawsuit prompted the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 to invalidate state bans on interracial marriage. For centuries interracial love had been referred to by the ugly term miscegenation.  Pennsylvania,  the focus of my book, ended its ban on miscegenation back in 1780 -- but throughout the 1800s the state experienced plenty of open fear-mongering over miscegenation by another ugly term of the era: "racial amalgamation." My book covers that. So it resonated when, in the film, we hear this quote from the Virginia trial judge's 1965 opinion: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." At least Earl Warren's Supreme Court had the wisdom to finally sweep this ugliness into the juridical dustbin.

The "untamed" Maroons. A recent article in The New Yorker about current Underground Railroad scholarship made a passing reference to the Maroons. Who again? I must say I was clueless. If you, too, have never heard of the Maroons, you're missing something. They were escaped slaves, many thousands of them across generations since the 1500s, who managed to band together into self-reliant, armed communities in pockets of the South and Caribbean. They often allied with native groups in remote highlands or swamps, and their periodic raids on plantations made them feared and hated by the whites. Could  the old fugitive-slave settlement I researched in Northeastern Pennsylvania could be considered Maroon? Probably not. Although it had a degree of autonomy, and some weaponry as needed, the settlement was quite intermingled with the white village that harbored it. If you're African American or a historian, you already might be familiar with the so-called "untamed" Maroons. For the rest of us, they're one more eye-opening piece of history missing from our education. Fortunately, plenty is available about them on the internet.
Book progress. The editor for Sunbury Press is plowing through my manuscript right now. The webmaster is cooking up prototype pages of the book website. My first author talk is slated for Feb. 21 in Scranton. And with any luck my next newsletter will have info about advance book orders. Meanwhile, feel free to visit my author website,, for a taste of Embattled Freedom and my previous book, Visions of Teaoga.

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