In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

African Americans in 19th-Century Vermont: Fresh Resources

Rokeby's new and exciting exhibit opens May 19, 2013.
Rokeby, Vermont's principal verified "Underground Railroad" historic site, will open its new exhibits on May 19, inaugurating the freshly constructed building that the site's team will use for group visits, teaching, and especially making history accessible to young students (say, fourth grade). I'm a fan -- and here's a news interview with director Jane Williamson as the space gets its finishing touches: http://www.wcax.com/story/21390215/a-new-exhibit-at-rokeby-museum

Williamson has quipped that the Vermont version of the decades just before the Civil War should be called the "above-ground" railroad years instead, and her exhibit title is "Free & Safe" -- a good description for Black Americans who arrived in the Green Mountains in the 1830s through 1850s. Elise Guyette's book "Discovering Black Vermont: African-American Farmers in Hinesburgh, Vermont 1790 - 1890" won a 2010 Award of Excellence from the Vermont Historical Society and offers an extensive exploration.

I just realized that there's a phenomenal hour-long presentation by Guyette available on the Net, thanks to Marlboro College: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GCGu0AsDgk -- a great way to catch up on her work and catch some of the flavor of this lively presenter.

If you're teaching or gathering in Vermont and want to check whether a site near you with an Underground Railroad reputation is historically significant, I recommend the State of Vermont report "Friends of Freedom: The Vermont Underground Railroad Survey Report." This 1996 document peels open the evidence for (and against) 174 of the 19th-century individuals and sites that have been mentioned in this context. I still have a few copies available at $15 each (postage included); let me know if you'd like one.

This year Vermont provides a heritage trail to explore the lives and impact of Black Vermonters of the 19th century, too -- as noted in this Burlington Free Press article (I contributed information on the Coventry location). With this comes fresh attention to Alexander Twilight, probably the first mixed-race Vermonter to graduate (in a remarkably short time) from Middlebury College in 1822. There's a good VPR interview on Twilight and his "race" in Vermont's Census records: http://www.vpr.net/episode/55438/groundbreaking-history-alexander-twilight

These are great resources for classroom use and for a break from books and paper, as spring makes the classroom -- or home office! -- seem a bit confined.

PS -- If you're new to this blog: One reason my writing-room reference shelves keep filling with more materials about Vermont's Black residents is my 2011 novel, THE SECRET ROOM. Signed copies are at several Vermont bookstores or you can order them at www.BethKanell.com; video support on this history-mystery set in North Danville, Vermont, can be found here: http://www.thesecretroombook.com/the-author.html

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