Black Indie Readers: African American Historical Fiction is Important Too

Kanye West, Waffle-House, Childish Gambino, Roseanne, and elderly Black women being manhandled by police is but a snippet of what’s going on. I can turn on my television or more precisely, open my computer, and see a similar scene as a 1960s protest march. I see people sitting in again at restaurants, I see people marching down the streets, I see cops fighting young black boys, and I hear of black bodies being found hanging from trees again (often ruled as suicides.)

This is America.

They say a people without knowledge of its past are doomed to repeat it. I wonder how many of us realize that the past is repeating itself? And I am reminded this is why I write the kinds of stories that I write and why I think Black Historical Fiction is important (and also maybe a tad bit underrated). Often, I see Romance, Urban Fiction and Street Lit praised as the epitome of Black Literature among many Self-Publishers / Indie Authors and Indie readers. But let’s not forget that black history is important too, and should not be left out of the Indie Author revolution.

After my most recent book release, I was amazed at how many people (Israelites, so-called African Americans, Blacks) didn’t know who Marcus Garvey was, what the Universal Negro Improvement Association was, or could make the Marcus and Malcolm connection in the book. (More on this later but briefly, Malcolm X father was a follower of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm’s nickname was Red among other names. I named Nora’s boyfriend after Malcolm X in his honor and gave him some of his characteristics.)

I know that many of us have been awakened to the true knowledge of who we are and have reclaimed parts of our lost, ancient and biblical heritage. We are waking up in droves and understanding the important role that identity plays in the state of Black America today. I am talking about the Hebrew Israelite movement and the number of people returning to the bible as a source, not of religion, but of black history and instruction on how to live on the earth. But that does mean we should toss aside our history in this land as unimportant since it has all played a role in who we are and where we stand today.

To be a true educator, you must first be educated and with extensive knowledge of what you’re teaching and if this is history, it’s even more critical to understand it all. (I am no one special and I don’t know everything. I am only repeating what I have already told myself about how important it is that I study history. All of it.)

Yes, it’s important to know who Moses was, King Solomon, Queen Esther, King David, and all the prophets, prophetesses and servants (who were all Black). But, it’s also important to know who Mansa Musa was and his influence in Timbuktu, Queen Yaa Asantewaa (Phonetic spelling Yah asante wah), Haitian Revolutionary, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Hannibal, Nat Turner, Marcus Garvey, Ida B. Wells and so on. These are the people whose shoulders we stand on and knowing their stories are still important. As well as other facts. If we talk about the European Slave Trade let’s also talk about Islamic slavery. If we talk about white slave owners, let’s also discuss Jewish and Native American slave owners as well.

History is important in general because if you don’t know what happened before, how can you properly arm yourself against ensuring that the bad things do not happen again? You cannot focus on repeating only the good things if you don’t know what is good.

Dear Black Indie Readers, African American Historical Fiction is important too.

“Once you change your philosophy you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern. And then you go on into some action.” – Malcolm X

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey
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For more Black History Fun Facts, be sure to visit the Black History Fun Fact Friday page and to follow this blog for Black History all year around! Revolution, part 2 in The Nora White Story is also now available on Amazon. Free with Kindle Unlimited.
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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Anna Murray Douglass

Today, we are taking a look at a woman whose husband we know well. Frederick Douglass is well-known but his first wife is not. For the sake of time, I am combining sources from various articles since I have not had the chance to put something together for you this week. Enjoy.


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Anna Murray Douglass

Frederick and Anna met in 1838, when he still went by the surname Bailey and she by Murray. The daughter of enslaved parents in rural Maryland around 1813, Anna was the first of her siblings to be born free after her parents were manumitted (set free). She lived with her parents until the age of 17, at which point she headed for Baltimore and found work as a domestic helper. Over the years she managed to earn and save money; the vibrant community of more than 17,000 free blacks in the Maryland city organized black churches and schools despite repressive laws restricting their freedoms. When she met Frederick—historians disagree on the when and where their acquaintance occurred, but it may have been in attending the same church—she was financially prepared to start a life with him. But first, he needed freedom.

By borrowing a freedman’s protection certificate from a friend and wearing the disguise of a sailor sewn by Anna, Frederick made his way to New York City by train (possibly spending Anna’s money to buy the ticket, says historian Leigh Fought). Once there, he sent for Anna and they were married in the home of abolitionist David Ruggles. According to Rosetta, Anna brought nearly everything the couple needed to begin their life together: a feather bed with pillows and linens; dishes with cutlery; and a full trunk of clothing for herself.

– Source: The Hidden History of Anna Murray Douglass

In 1837, Frederick met a free Black woman, Anna Murray, who was born in 1813. Her parents had been freed before she was born, and Anna worked as a laundress and a housekeeper. Anna used her savings and sold a bed to pay for train tickets for Frederick, which he used to escape to freedom. She also sewed a sailor outfit for him, which he wore as a disguise. Fredrick had tried to escape before, but it was not until Anna helped him that he escaped successfully.

Once Frederick got to New York, Anna joined him and they married and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. They had five children together. When they moved to Rochester, New York, she turned their home into an Underground Railroad stop, providing shelter for runaway slaves en route to Canada.

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Frederick Douglass

As Frederick became more involved in activism, their relationship became more strained. Anna could barely read and write, and felt out of place among Frederick’s friends. His friends, most of whom were highly educated and intellectual, openly looked down on Anna (to his credit, he vigorously defended her against any who suggested she was not a worthy wife). Anna enjoyed being part of the Black community in New Bedford, but in 1847 Frederick moved the family, and as his circle of friends widened, hers diminished. Anna was also tormented by rumors that Frederick had affairs during his many travels. On two occasions, Frederick had women he was rumored to be sleeping with move into Anna’s house, causing controversy between the couple and within Frederick’s political community.

-Source: Real Life Romance: Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray, and Helen Pitts

While Frederick began his climb as an abolitionist orator, Anna cared for their children, born between 1839 and 1849: Rosetta, Lewis, Frederick, Charles, and Annie. In 1847, they moved to Rochester, New York, where Frederick began publishing his newspaper, the North Star.  The gulf between Anna and Frederick widened over the years; she could barely read and write and was rarely a part of his activist life and growing circle of prominent white and black abolitionist colleagues.  After the death of their youngest child, Annie, in 1860, Anna’s health steadily deteriorated. She died on August 4, 1882 at their home, Cedar Hill, across from Washington, D.C.  She was carried back to Rochester, New York, where she was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

– Source: The Black Past Remembered

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Helen Pitts Douglass

One year after Anna’s death, Frederick remarried. His second wife was Helen Pitts. She was born in 1838. Her parents were abolitionists, and she was an ardent abolitionist and suffragette. In 1880, her family moved next door to the Douglass family, and Helen assisted Frederick with his work. She also worked as a clerk and co-edited a women’s rights magazine.

Their marriage was quite a scandal. Helen was white and twenty years younger than Frederick. His children felt the marriage disrespected their mother. Frederick and Helen’s friends were shocked because they felt the marriage was too sudden and because they were worried about the race and age differences. Helen’s family cut off contact with her altogether, and their local society was appalled that a black man and white woman were married at all.

Helen Pitts’ response: “Love came to me, and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color.”

Frederick’s response: “This proves I am impartial. My first wife was the color of my mother and the second, the color of my father.”

-Source: Real Life Romance: Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray, and Helen Pitts


EC thoughts: I feel kind of sad for Anna and I can’t help but to wonder why Frederick, intelligent as he was, did not teach her to read and write. Did she not want to learn? Or did he not want to teach her? We can only speculate.

Who’s Your Favourite Black Author

Do you have a favorite Black Author? You can show them some love by voting for them!

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The African American Literature Book Club, which has featured me and my books in the past (thanks to them for that), has asked me to remind readers and fans in my network about the open poll (yes, remind, because I’ve plugged it before so I hope you’ve already voted. I have!).

The poll is for Your Favourite Black Author of the 21st Century. They noted in their email to me that so far it’s been pretty US-centric (and though I did remind them that we in the Caribbean claim Haitian-American writer Edwidge Dandicat and I think Nigeria would have something to say about America’s claim to Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie), I do think we could mix it up some more. That said, I can’t argue with the names currently in the lead; people like…

Bernice McFadden whom I met and co-facilitated a workshop with at the BIM Lit Fest in 2016

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Lucy Terry Prince

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Aside from the renowned Phillis Wheatly, Lucy Terry is another black poet recognized as one of the first African American poets. Born in Africa, her village was raided when she was a girl and the institution of slavery brought her to America. She was sold to Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Her one and only poem, “Bars Fight” is about the traumatic raid on her village by both white and Native Americans before her enslavement. As is one of her lines: “Eunice Allen see the Indians comeing….And hoped to save herself by running.”

Read the Entire Poem Here

Francis Johnson Webb

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Francis Johnson Webb, newspaper editor, is the second published African American novelist. He was born free on March 21, 1828, in Philadelphia to Louisa Burr and Francis Webb. His father, Francis Webb, served as founding member of the Philadelphia distribution agent for Freedom’s Journal*, the first black newspaper in the nation.

Freedom’s Journal was the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. Founded by Rev. Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men in New York City, it was published weekly starting with the March 16 1827 issue.

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