The Stella Trilogy: The Research (Book One)

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016.

Since the meat of book one focuses on what life was like for a little girl, and then a young woman, growing up in slavery, the bulk of my research had to do with reading slave narratives and studying enslavement through the eyes of women and children.

Between Slavery and Freedom centers on Stella’s enslavement on The Saddler Plantation in Louisiana. As I introduce us to the first Stella, she is a six-year-old girl enslaved with her mother, Deborah. At this age, she is not aware that she is living property, which was typical for some enslaved children in their early years. She plays with the other children, including the slave owners’ daughter, but she does not yet understand the value of her flesh, that she could be bought, sold, traded, transferred, deeded, and gifted. Stella describes the plantation as a “big family.” She loves running through the dirt and the way it feels on her toes. She talks of childish things like eating sweet cakes, playing with Miss Carla, and trying to convince Mama, she touched the sun.

“One time, I made it where I touched the sun. It wasn’t even hot either. It didn’t feel like nothing but air. I told Mama the sun was tricking us. 

“And how it do that?”

“Cause Mama. I touched it, and it ain’t burn my finger none. It feels hot, but it ain’t really.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

Historically, enslaved children who had a “childhood” in this way realized their status gradually. Their awakened consciousness may have been signified by seeing a family member sold for the first time or being sold themselves. The research points to ten as the age where the enslaved child knew and understood that he or she was property, except in the circumstances, as I have mentioned. As soon as they were old enough, the enslaved child’s life changed, and they realized that their lives as enslaved differed greatly from the lives of the white children they once played with as small children.

Slave-owners raised southern white youth as enslavers in training. Sometimes slave-owners gifted their children an enslaved person as a pet (sometimes it was the same child they played with). Literature also played a role in the training of southern youth to not only accept slavery as a regular part of society but to prepare them to own slaves of their own. Examples of such books is The Child’s Book on Slavery; or Slavery Made Plain. In a chapter called The Duty of Learning about Slavery, it states:

“if slavery is good, we ought to help it forward…”

In a chapter called Does Color Make Slavery, it states:

“Moses and all his people, I have said, were slaves in Egypt, but they were not colored people.” 

This explanation was to try to explain to the children that slavery wasn’t based on skin color, and it is a lie. Egypt is in Africa. Moses and his people were “people of color.”

In a chapter called What is a Slave, the author compares the enslaved to a horse, saying:

“Perhaps your father has a horse. That is his property. He has a right to make the horse work, only he should treat him kindly and give him good food. If the horse is his, nobody has a right to tell him he must not use the horse so. And then, if he thinks it best, he has a right to sell the horse to somebody else. Nobody has a right to forbid him. He need not go and ask even the horse, if he may have him plow the garden, or draw the wagon, for the horse would not understand him, and could not speak to him, and will never grow so old or so wise, that he can understand our words, and talk himself.”

Source: https://archive.org/details/ASPC0001969600/page/n5/mode/2up

Speaking of literature, another part of writing book one was reading many slave narratives, including Frederick Douglass An American Slave, and Up from Slavery. Other books included When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative CollectionBullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember, and Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation.

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016.

“Some people have to take the cotton and pick out the seeds, and others have to spin and weave. They don’t do nothing but spins and weaves. Some people even had to turn the weaves into threads.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

More profound than this is my visit to a former slave plantation at The Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

You might ask yourself why anyone would want to visit such a place. I was writing about people living on a slave plantation and what better way to get inside their heads than to visit one.

Originally called Bermuda, the founder of Oakland was Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud’ Homme, who began farming the land in 1785 and received a Spanish land grant in 1789. The land’s first cash crops were tobacco, indigo, and cotton. The Prud’ Hommes were the first family west of the Mississippi River to farm cotton on a large scale.

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016. Slave Quarter turned home of Sharecroppers

“Down in the quarters, every family had a one- or two-room log cabin. Mostly one room though. We had mattresses filled with corn shucks. Sometimes the men build chairs at night. We didn’t know much about having anything, though. There were a lot of cabins for the slaves, but they weren’t fitting for nobody to live in. We just had to put up with them.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

After the Civil War, sharecropper and tenant farmers continued to live on the land until the 1970s, and slave quarters became homes to sharecroppers later. The people worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. Seeing this with my own eyes put it into perspective how the south had reconstructed slavery by returning land to former slave owners and putting former slaves back into the fields under another name. Slave codes designed to control the enslaved became black codes intended to control freedmen, and cotton pickers became sharecroppers.

Martha Ann, an enslaved Laundress, worked in this wash house in the 1850s. In the 1940s, her descendant, Martha Helaire, earned $4 an hour working here as a Laundress. All we have to do is walk a few steps to the washer and dryer.

I blogged about this visit years ago. Get the full picture and see more pics by revisiting that post here.

Living on 40 Acres of Land

Finally, part of my preparation for book one also included where I was living at the time I started writing these books.

At the time I released the first book in this trilogy, my husband and I lived in an old house owned by our elderly cousin on 40-acres of land. Over the years, we planted a garden on the property, built a chicken coop and raised chickens, owned several dogs, goats, and even a horse. My grandmother-in-law also recounted stories of when she and some cousins picked cotton on this land.

The elderly cousin and her father built the house we rented many years ago. It was an old house and an old land. It was easy for my overactive imagination to envision what it would be like if we were not renting this house from our cousin; if we were not free to live life on our own terms; if this was not the 2000s, but the 1800s, and if we were not free but enslaved. I walked the property, breathed the air, and looked up at the trees. I had dreams of black people hanging from those trees and visions of people trying to escape.

We lived on that land for five years, eventually moving away in 2015, and I had a completed manuscript.


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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Research Links and Book Recommendations

 

I’ve been swamped in schoolwork which is stopping me from living my best life on these black history posts. Today, I compiled a list of links I found throughout the week and books I recommend since I did not get to complete a full post on one topic. The books are what I really encourage you to look into. Unlike the internet, they provide more detailed and in-depth research and citations from scholars and others useful for deep research.

Descendants of Last Slave Ship Still Live in Alabama Community

The story of the Clotilda and the people who built Africatown.

I spoke about “Africa Town” once before on this blog (See post here). This article shares some insightful information on the descendants of that town. (You may also remember the book recently released on behalf of Zora Neale Hurston of the Clotilda).

https://www.history.com/news/slaves-clotilda-ship-built-africatown

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South, by Barbara Krauthamer (2013)

This is important. Europeans were not the only people to sell Blacks into slavery but so did the Natives, so did Jews and so did Islam.

https://notevenpast.org/black-slaves-indian-masters-slavery-emancipation-and-citizenship-in-the-native-american-south-by-barbara-krauthamer-2013/

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Unlike the northern free states, Mexico didn’t agree to return fugitive slaves.
I found this story interesting and would like to do more research for an entire post. For now, check it out at the link below.

South African paramilitary unit plotted to infect black population with Aids, former member claims

Group said to have ‘spread the virus’ at the behest of Keith Maxwell, eccentric leader of the shadowy South African Institute of Maritime Research, who wanted a white majority country where ‘the excesses of the 1960s, 70s and 80s have no place in the post-Aids world’.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/south-africa-apartheid-aids-saimr-plot-infect-hiv-virus-black-cold-case-hammarskj-ld-documentary-a8749176.html?fbclid=IwAR024DMZjTNgRWorLKuN1Y6FyNn2vifEkDelnnxJSPs0AP0eDDd1f1YGcEs

Don’t let February be the only time you are interested in your history. From the shelf, here are some of my favorites. I recommend them all:

  • They Came Before Columbus, Ivan Van Sertima
  • Jews Selling Blacks: Slave Sale Advertising by American Jews
  • The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson
  • The Valley of Dry Bones: The Conditions that Face Black People in America, Rudolph Windsor
  • From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of the Ancient Black-Races including the Black Hebrews also by Rudolph Windsor
  • Negro Slave Songs in the U.S. Miles, Mark, Fisher
  • Israel on the Appomattox: A southern experiment in black freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War, Melvin Patrick Ely
  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Harriet A. Washington
  • Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps
  • The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther
  • Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, James H. Jones
  • Understanding the Assault on the Black Man, Black Manhood, and Black Masculinity, Wesley Muhammad
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander

There are so many others but this should be enough to get your started! Be sure to check out the other Black History Fun Facts on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page.

Have a great weekend!

Do Your Own Research – A Warning to Indie Authors – Guest Post by, Yecheilyah Ysrayl…

My Guest Blog Post on The Story Reading Ape Blog. My message is simple: Authors, please do your OWN research, FACT CHECK, and experience this journey for yourselves. Don’t let someone tell you something is a waste of time or money. Double check everything for yourself first and ask questions from those who have been where you are trying to go and who actually know what they are talking about.

*Comments disabled here. Please meet me on the other side.*

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Hey Guys! Wow. It’s been a long time. I miss you all!

*waves to readers and sits on virtual sofa*

This article started out extremely long but then I realized how necessary it was to keep this short and simple.There is so much information out here for Independent Authors and so many made-up commandments it isn’t funny. Everyone has an opinion on what the new author should and shouldn’t do. Everyone has a piece of advice to give or stones to throw. If you move this way you are doing it wrong and if you move that way you are still doing it wrong. There are more laws for the Self-Publisher than there are in the bible. There is something to say about everything. This is why I humbly advise each person to experience everything for themselves and to do their own research. Sometimes you don’t need to…

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Writers: Are You Ready To Sign With An Independent Publisher? Read This First #AmWriting

Yes Yes and Yes! I was just working on a guest article covering this same subject. Please, authors, do your research. Don’t let the perceived prestige of “being signed” get you scammed! Times have changed and there’s a lot you can do yourself.

Rosie Amber

Please welcome review team member Terry Tyler, with some important thoughts on Independent Publishers

Please note: I am aware that there are plenty of good independent publishers around, who work hard for their authors and maintain good standards. The purpose of this article is to warn writers to do their research, and find them. It’s a warning not to fall prey to either the blatant conmen, or the inept.

Ten years ago, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing was launched.  Since then, thousands of scammers and cowboys have emerged from the murky corners of the internet to make a quick quid out of the millions of writers who’ve been tapping away at the keys for years, and are delighted that they can finally get their work in front of the reading public without a contract from a traditional publisher. These scammers include: proofreaders who don’t know how to punctuate, editors…

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Then and Now – Writing 1920s Fiction in 2017 – Guest Post by, Yecheilyah Ysrayl…

My monthly Guest Post with Chris. Writing 1920s Fiction in 2017 has its challenges. It is also a lot of fun. (I’ve been away from the blog lately but I’ll be returning soon.)

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

One of the important pieces of research I must do for my books is to look at the differences between how we live today and how we lived in the early 1900s. In writing book one of The Nora White Story, for instance, I found myself researching some strange things, such as how the people bathed back then. It may sound funny but such details can make or break a work of Historical Fiction. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself doing weeks of research just for a single scene. Here’s an excerpt from The Nora White Story:

Sunday night baths were the norm but the boys got so dirty in the field that mom was bathing them every night. Nora and Walter would take turns drawing the water up from the well on the land, Nora would set it to boil on the stove and let sit for cooling…

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Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing – Uncovering the Truth about Vanity Publishers by @CuriouserEdit

Must watch video. I really dislike being used and I hate scams so I am sharing this info.

I think the key problem with this situation is that most authors don’t know much about Book Publishing. I don’t mean far as publishing our own books, I mean the publishing industry itself, how it works (I’m still learning myself). It’s easy for someone to pay someone to publish their book for them if they are interested in someone doing all the work but they don’t know that paying publishers is not how it works. Publishers invest in the author by providing everything (Book Cover, Editing, Formatting, ISBN, everything), and they make this money back in Royalties. As Shayla explains, that’s why it’s difficult to get accepted by a Traditional Publisher. If they are going to invest in your work they need to know your book can sell, otherwise they don’t get their money back. Of course, I’m not saying it should be all about the money but this is a business and that’s how it works. Anywho, here’s Shayla. (You can read the script HERE for the vocab.

 

This week in Indie Publishing

This week in Indie Publishing…

Author Don Massenzio

art1Literary Agent Breaks Down How to Win in Self-Publishing

The facts don’t lie. Everyone who publishes a successful book doesn’t have a deal with a major publisher.  Over the last two decades self-publishing has flourished and the books sold by independent authors have done amazing things in the industry, including winning awards, becoming national bestsellers and even landing television or movie option deals.  Whether you are working on a children’s picture book, a romance novel, a photography or business book, or writing your memoir, if you are choosing to self-publish the following tips will help guide your endeavors.

Read the rest of this story HERE.

art2

4 Steps to Create a Blog or Podcast That You and Your Readers Will Love

If you’re a self-published author, in addition to writing and producing your books, you must take on the responsibility of marketing them. The most successful author-marketers foster strong relationships…

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