Sunday, June 18, 2017

Juneteenth: A day to celebrate

As an author of historical fiction, particularly fiction set in Texas during slavery times, June 19, 1865 has become a date I won't soon forget. On that date, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, General Gordon Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3", announcing the total emancipation of slaves:

Ashton Villa, Galveston, Texas
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
What amazing words those must have been for over 250,000 Texas slaves still in bondage to hear! Freedom! After a lifetime of slavery, they were free! Of course it would be weeks and even months before all the slaves in Texas heard those life-changing words. Union Army troops carried the message across the state to plantations, farms, and towns, but without our modern means of communication, it was a slow process.

In the book I Was Born in Slavery, the research book I relied upon most heavily while writing The Planter's Daughter, nearly all of the former Texas slaves recalled that historic day. Lu Lee, a woman whose grandparents came from Africa, remembered how the plantation owner, Master Davy, had all the slaves gathered to hear the proclamation read aloud. A man named George cried out in a powerful voice: "Free, free my Lord! Oh, free, free my Lord!" Wow!

Book 2 in my historical series The Women of Rose Hill brings Juneteenth to life. The Widow of Rose Hill begins on a hot June day in 1865 with the residents of Rose Hill plantation tending to their normal daily drudgery. The war, to their knowledge, continues to rage in the east, bringing death, financial loss, and hardship even to the residents of Texas. When Union troops arrive on the plantation bearing a proclamation that will free the slaves, nothing will ever be the same.

Our hero in The Widow of Rose Hill is Colonel Levi Maish, a Union Army officer who loathes slavery and slaveholders. Here is a tiny excerpt from the scene where he happily delivers the proclamation to the owner of Rose Hill:

Levi removed his gloves and took the folded sheet of paper from his pocket. He’d read these same words to slave owners many times over the past week, but each time they brought a sense of satisfaction to his very soul. This is what he’d fought for. This was why men had died. He cleared his throat. “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

May we never take for granted the freedoms we enjoy and may we never forget the precious people who lived in bondage nor the men and women who fought for freedom!

If you haven't grabbed a copy of The Planter's Daughter yet, click HERE to find out why readers say they can't put it down! And stay tuned for news about The Widow of Rose Hill, set to release in February 2018! I can't wait to share Levi's story with you!



No comments: