A cover reveal and updates on the Migrations of the Heart series

On Tuesday, A Virtuous Ruby will be published.  I started this blog about two and a half years ago to discuss Ruby’s story and those of her sisters.  It’s hard to believe that the moment has come, but here it is! I appreciate any support you can give to bring this historical story to light.  In the meantime, because of my grandmother’s death, I have been behind.  So I would like to give you an update on Mags’s story, and officially reveal the cover for Nettie’s story.

A Most Precious Pearl is available for pre-order on all platforms: Amazon, Nook, Google Play, Kobo and iTunes.  The blurb:

Mags will be released on September 8, 2015

Mags will be released on September 8, 2015

Asa Caldwell returned from the Great War with nothing to show for it—as in nothing below his left knee. Forget about the journalism career he loved. His story is over. Done.

Yet he finds the strength to journey to Winslow, Georgia, to get Ruby Bledsoe Morson’s sister out of trouble. Before he can bring Mags Bledsoe home, though, a spate of mysterious attacks reawakens his investigative instincts.

During the war, Mags did her duty to God and country by stepping into a management role at the textile mill. Now she’s been shuffled back to the rank and file—and Asa has her hard-earned job. Not only is the infernal man doing everything wrong, her plan for revenge against the mill owner who lynched her childhood sweetheart is farther out of reach than ever.

As they clash over almost everything, Mags begins to set fire to Asa’s soul, bright enough to dim the memory of the killing fields of France. Enough to give him a new mission in life—to make her feel the same way.

 

 

And now for Nettie, the middle sister.  A Treasure of Gold, Nettie’s story, will release in November.  Her is her cover and the blurb:

Nettie will be out in November.

Nettie will be out in November.

 

Trusting in the One who orders her steps, Nettie Bledsoe is determined not to deviate from her route to the charity kitchen. Don’t stop for anything, her sisters say. Pittsburgh isn’t like Georgia, they warn.

Yet when low moans of unholy suffering drift from an alley, she can’t help but investigate. It’s a man. The most beautiful man she’s ever seen. Despite his scandalous reputation, something within her responds to his sinfully rich voice.

Jay Evans is trying hard to stay on the straight and narrow, and doesn’t want help from any church do-gooder. But until his wound heals, he needs help caring for his young daughter, Goldie. Especially since Nettie saw fit to fire Goldie’s barely competent nanny.

Despite their mismatched backgrounds, Nettie and Jay fight a losing battle against their growing attraction. But it’s only when Nettie is kidnapped that Jay realizes that if he doesn’t get her back safe and sound, his heart will shatter into uncountable pieces.

 

No links for Nettie yet.  I will keep you posted. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for following this blog and for your support!  I appreciate each and every one of you!

A Virtuous Ruby, Rachel Dolezal and the value of blackness

Ruby will be available on all platforms and in print exactly one month from today!

Ruby will be available on all platforms and in print exactly one month from today!

In the flurry of discussion about the Rachel Dolezal story, people have overlooked one big issue. I haven’t though. This issue has made me think of how much, in one hundred years time when I set A Virtuous Ruby, how little has changed. Dolezal is clearly a pathological liar, but the reception of her deception is what interests me. Many have gone out of their way to treat blackness with complete and utter contempt.

Media figures have postured that the blackness that Dolezal sought to appropriate could not possibly be something that a sane person would want to take on as worthwhile. I witnessed this treatment in the quizzical voices of journalists as they interviewed her parents. Their treatment reminded me of how my light-skinned character, Ruby Bledsoe chose to work and live as a black person in 1915 and of how she convinced her man, Adam Morson, to do the same.

When Ruby was on the contest circuit about three years ago, I would get comments saying things like, “Why shouldn’t she choose to be white?,” and “She should be proud she can pass.” And whenever I would express my surprise at these comments to other African Americans, sometimes they would say things like, “Yeah, Ruby had to be a little crazy.” Or “Why not pass as white if you can get away with it?”

So the overall narrative we are supposed to swallow from the Dolezal case seems to be, when in doubt, choose white. Never, ever choose black. That’s the losing team. Except Ruby knew a few things. She knew that the world she lived in would punish for choosing to be something she wasn’t. She knew that choosing white would mean distance from the family that she loved and was raised in. Ruby also knew that choosing whiteness would not help at all in her desire to stop lynchings from happening in the south. As a Christian, most importantly, she also knew that choosing the path that God put before her in the way she was perfectly knitted from Him , was the best way to accomplish those goals.

Part of A Virtuous Ruby was inspired by the soul-killing struggle of the main protagonist in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Johnson’s point, way back in 1912 allowed his protagonist to suffer throughout that novel to find a meaning and a purpose in life. When he thinks he’s found it at the end, by melting into the white world, he’s done. Johnson’s point was that blackness was not the bad, evil punishment from Ham that the larger world claimed for it to be.

Rachel Dolezal, bless her heart, knew the value of blackness, but she’s going to be made to pay for choosing the unpopular team. She could have done all of the work she wanted in her God-fashioned form. But I have a feeling she’ll be alright.

For real black women, this way that blackness is treated in the larger society is the reason why, at my institution, students have to take a year long class. The class prepares them, and indeed, arms them for with all of the good, positive, wonderful things that blackness is about, so that today’s young black women don’t have to waste one more moment wishing or hoping to be someone else. There are some who would say that my school is crazy for teaching such a class, but for those of us who teach the class, we hope that the students spread the word. That they talk to their parents about it. That they teach their little cousins and nieces, nephews and future children about it. From such a class, they can walk into the world as fully-armed Rubys—ready for anything and proud to be who they are.

Last night, I won the 2015 Breakout Author of the Year award from the AAMBC Literary Awards. Thank you all for your incredible support. I appreciate it so very much!

The nerd has to clean up every once in a while!  Thank you for your support!

The nerd has to clean up every once in a while! Thank you for your support!

My Second Birthday

Two years! Time has gone by so fast!

Two years! Time has gone by so fast!

This first blog post of April represents the second birthday for this blog.  A lot has changed since then.  The main reason that I started to blog was to provide a platform to build awareness for my novels about the Bledsoe sisters set during the years of the Great Migration.  Well as some of you may know, that series will be published later this year by Samhain Publishing. The first book,  A Virtuous Ruby, went up for pre-order sale this week on several platforms. It will be available on July 14, 2015.

So as I celebrate my second birthday and look forward to the third, I’m listing the places interested people will be able to order Ruby before it’s published (it will come to your e-readers on the morning of July 14). If you are able to, please pre-order. It will help me look good with the publisher! I’ll update this list when I know more about the print version.

I’m also listing the blog posts that directly involve Ruby and her history to help some of you become acquainted with her.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Virtuous-Ruby-Migrations-Heart-ebook/dp/B00VORJIIS/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-virtuous-ruby-piper-huguley/1121695102?ean=9781619227415

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-virtuous-ruby

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Piper_Huguley_A_Virtuous_Ruby?id=cAbQBwAAQBAJ

A Virtuous Ruby is also available in the iTunes store.

Some history of Ruby:

The Cover Reveal: https://piperhuguley.com/2014/12/18/meet-ruby-cover-reveal-of-a-virtuous-ruby/

Ruby as midwife: https://piperhuguley.com/2014/03/30/african-american-midwives-and-ruby-bledsoe-a-shining-pride/

The Great Migration: https://piperhuguley.com/2013/05/05/what-was-the-great-migration/

Thank you so much for all of your support!  I’m looking forward to the next year!

Education and The Great Migration – Part One

English: Farm Security Administration: School ...

A picture of an elementary classroom in Alabama in the 1930’s.  If this is where white children went to school, the kind of classroom where my heroine, Delie Bledsoe had to teach in was probably similar–or worse. English: Farm Security Administration: School in Alabama. (53227(585), 00/00/1935, 27-0699a.gif) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s back to school time.  Over the next few columns, I am going to discuss how education was another reason for why migrants were motivated to leave the agricultural South for the unknown cold North.  One thing that the migrants knew about “up North”, besides that it was cold, was that there were more chances for their children to go to school more steadily, and beyond the eighth grade.  Truly, it doesn’t take much of a generational reach back in time to find optional high school attendance.  My mother-in-law (MIL), the migrant who moved twice from Alabama, once to Washington D.C. and then on to Pittsburgh, was proud of her high school diploma.  Beyond proud.

When I tell this to my students who sit comfortably privileged in a private college classroom, they are shocked.  But in MIL’s time in the South, people were expected to go to the eighth grade and then get a job.  Even with a learning disability, my MIL was proud to have beaten this expectation. She knew that in Alabama any kind of high school education in the late 1950’s was a rare and recent phenomenon.

When high schools were first built in the early part of the twentieth century, they were not paid for by the tax base of the community, but were tuition-paid.  And the initial public high schools built were for the white students in the community.  The work of creating a secondary education experience for Negroes was left to private schools.  Many HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) started out as secondary schools and only branched into college education much later. This was the case for Spelman College where I teach.  Spelman did not become a college until some thirty plus years after its founding in 1887.

Some rural communities in the south did not have high schools of any kind for Negroes to attend until the 1930’s.  Only until employers began to see the benefits of a more educated work force were public high schools built and they began to require teenaged youth to attend. The Great Depression meant fewer jobs and high school kept cheap, young labor out of the workforce for four years, another plus. Still, for my MIL, public high school had only existed for a generation, and she was glad to go, even if it meant she had to study in a different way and work harder than a number of other students. Indeed, signs of a learning disability typically meant those students were pulled out of school and brought into the work force even sooner.  No wonder she was so proud.

By contrast, my parents, both born and raised “up North” went to Pittsburgh public high schools and there were no questions about their attendance.  My mother skipped a grade and my father skipped two.  He graduated from high school just a month and a half shy of his sixteenth birthday.  I always wonder if he would have had that same unquestioned opportunity in the South if he had not been a migrant “in utero” to Pittsburgh.

A Migrant’s Story – Part One

The Mall at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsb...

The Mall at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Hamerschlag Hall in the foreground and Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1921, a little girl was born.  She made no sense to her family.  She was a little girl, but liked to play with games with her three brothers and other little boys the town.  She loved her four sisters very much, but was not interested in the things they liked to do in the house.  Children like her in the Negro race in Alabama were able to go to school through high school, but she was a math whiz. How could a little Negro girl like math so much?  So the little girl lived a lot of her life doing things that no one else did.  Though her family thought she was strange, they all loved her very much.

One day, while playing baseball with her brothers, she met a player on the opposing team. He was a pitcher and he thought he would be able to strike her out.

He was wrong.

He admired the spunk of the girl and in no time at all, they fell in love.  There was one problem.  The pitcher man was on his way to bigger and better things.  He did not want to stay in Alabama and endure the cruelty of life there.  And he wanted her to come with him.  He proposed to her, of course, and the girl had a decision to make.

No one, no one in her family had left Alabama.  There was a lot of fighting, and a lot of tears from both sides.  Her family wanted the couple to stay.  They married and the girl had a baby boy, but her husband still wanted to go.  Finally, when the girl was pregnant with her second baby, they left and moved to Atlanta.   She was only twenty years old.

In Atlanta, they lived across the street from a college. The girl who had been a math whiz always wondered what went on behind the gates at the beautiful college with the perfectly manicured lawns.  She didn’t have long to wonder though.  Her husband heard of a place with better opportunities. Pittsburgh.  Even though she had just lost her second baby in a heartbreaking way, she found herself pregnant with her third and dared to feel hopeful.  Pittsburgh it was.

Life in the big city was not easy.  Her husband got sick working in the steel mills and couldn’t work.  She had to take a job in a hospital decorating pastries, the very kind of thing that her sisters did that she tried to avoid.  But she did it.  She worked that job for more than twenty-five years.  Working that job, she was able to put that third baby through an expensive private school—Carnegie Tech, now called Carnegie Mellon University.

Her third baby was my father. And because she decorated pastries, she gave her son opportunities that were not available to her. He became a principal.

When I was born, she understood that I was strange too.  Since I always had my nose in a book, she nicknamed me “Professor.”  And because she decorated pastries, even though she might not have wanted to, she gave her son a good education.  His good education gave me one, and I became a professor at the college in Atlanta at the beautiful college with the perfectly manicured lawns. Because she sacrificed, I know exactly what goes on there.

The girl was my grandmother—Ida Mae Heard Huguley.

 

The Jungle and The Great Migration

Cover of "The Jungle (Enriched Classics)&...

Cover of The Jungle (Enriched Classics)

The Jungle was a novel that I was required to read in high school and I have loved it ever since. However, it wasn’t until I began doing the research about the Bledsoe sisters series that I began to understand the tie that the striving Lithuanian family had with the African Americans of The Great Migration.

Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906 to complain about the working conditions that existed in the meat-packing houses in Chicago in the first part of the twentieth century. Sinclair’s hero, Jurgis Rudkus, have very little influence on the horrific conditions that he—and his large family—have to live in and work in. Only by grabbing his own power through politics can Jurgis come to full American citizenship. Until he understands the role he plays in politics, he is always on the fringes of society, even after all of his family is taken from him by death, starvation and prostitution.

In the first part of the twentieth century in the South, African Americans were required to pay taxes and yet could not play a role in the political process. This powerlessness was another factor that drove people to leave the South for still-difficult lives in the North. Over the trajectory of The Great Migration (1915-1970), African Americans gradually gained a foothold in political power as they were able to vote and influence elections. And once African Americans in the South saw the possibilities for political power, they began to demand for more—right where they lived.

The Jungle reminds me of the determination of European immigrants. Their participation provided a road map for African Americans of the Great Migration to step forward and demand to be a part of the political process in their own country—a legacy that lasts into the present day.

Have you ever read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle?

Traveling on – Part 3

The short stretch of U.S. Route 30 in Breezewo...

The short stretch of U.S. Route 30 in Breezewood, Pennsylvania is one of the few gaps where a portion of I-70 built as a non-tolled interstate highway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter what transport travelers took as they went north during The Great Migration, they had to be prepared to take their own food.  Money was green, but the indignity of having to purchase food “to go,” or to purchase food through the back door of an eating establishment was intolerable for many of those who traveled by car.  Champ and Delie run into this issue when their bus breaks down and they have to figure out a way to feed their traveling group of hungry children.

Later in the story, when they cross the Mason Dixon line, they are able to go to the newly built traveling town of Breezewood, Pennsylvania. There are able sit at a table and be served their  hamburgers, French fries, Coca-Cola and apple pie in a restaurant. Delie understands that Champ did not exaggerate, and  there is a different way of being treated outside of the South.

But for the sisters who traveled north before her on the train, the shoebox lunch existed as the way to avoid any indignity that travelers might face.  Really, the shoebox lunch was a sign of love and well wishes for the traveler.  Foods that did not easily spoil were put into the box: fried chicken, a sturdy layer cake or pound cake, hard-boiled eggs, maybe some cut-up raw vegetables.  Each item would be wrapped in wax paper and laid in the box.  Sometimes a message of well-wishes would be included  there or  some surprise trinket.

For train travel or car travel, traveling north or for visitors returning to the south, families would pack these lunches until the start of the 1970’s.  In a recent documentary on PBS about soul food, the director/producer spoke about his childhood and being excited about the lunches they would pack before they traveled South to visit relatives in the late 1960’s.

It didn’t occur to him as a child that these lunches were a way for his family to avoid stopping in places where they might not be welcome.  His parents’ attempts to keep the family safe and to avoid an unpleasant confrontation or situation were all a way of showing love and good wishes as well.  Regardless of the means or direction, the packed shoebox lunch helped many travelers maintain their humanity and dignity.

When you travel by car, what road food do you take with you?

Traveling On – Part Two

English: Painting "During World War I the...

English: Painting “During World War I there was a great migration north by southern Negroes”. Panel 1 from Migration of the Negro, 1940-1.http://stage.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/artwork/Lawrence-Migration_Series1.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, we completed another one of our quarterly road trips – twelve hours in all.  Straight through.  And as I suggested yesterday, we never gave a thought about where we had to eat or use the restroom.  The reality of life in 2013 is that green –money–speaks and allows for smooth uneventful travel–for the most part.

This was not always reality for African Americans who might have chosen the road over the rail in the early part of the century.  And an enterprising man in the 1930’s, Victor H. Green, a postal worker, used his connections to come up with The Negro Motorist Green Book, also known as The Green Book. The Green Book gave Negroes peace of mind to allow them to know where they might stay overnight and find places to eat as they were on the road.  Traveling musicians and players in the Negro leagues made great use of the informaiton, but it was for everyone. On the cover of the 1949 edition, it comes with the tagline “Carry your Green Book with you. You may need it.” There was no need to explain to Negroes who lived at that time what going without such a useful guide meant.

The characters in my Golden Heart nominated story, A Champion’s Heart, don’t have The Green Book available to them and serves as part of the difficulty, as well as a bonding force for my hero and heroine.  Victor Green did not start publishing this guide until 1936 and Champ and Delie made their trip northward in 1935.  They had to rely on Champ’s contacts from his vagabond days as a ham and egger boxer to find shelter and food for themselves and four orphan children. Victor Green knew that the whole point of his publishing the guide was to put minds at ease.  But his whole purpose was to be put out of business.  He felt travel helped with that end goal, which happened thirty years later when he stopped publishing the book. He wanted to encourage travel, because, as it says on the cover “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

The existance of this travel guide is not discussed often as part of African American history, but  should serve as a reminder of the difficulties of early road travel.  There has been an adult play, a children’s book and even a puppet show, but more people should know about The Green Book so that they can appreciate how smoothly twelve hours can pass on the road.

Here’s a link to the 1949 version.  http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Race/R_Casestudy/87_135_1736_GreenBk.pdf

Does the existance of such a travel guide surprise you?

What was The Great Migration?

Very-Old-Shoes__23644-480x244As I’ve been writing about The Great Migration, it has occurred to me that potential readers may not know what it is.  Everyone pretty much knows that when the Civil War ended in 1865, the newly freed slaves were an agriculturally based population.  Yet, within fifty years, these African Americans began to explore other options in their lives, and began to leave the southern United States for the northern United States, and places West as well—The Great Migration.

Why didn’t the former slaves leave their former plantations and farms in 1865 for the big city?  As a newly freed slave, you can do what you want to do, why would you stay?  Many of them tried to find their families, but wanted to stay to do what they were good at doing, farming the land.  And so the sharecropping system developed.  Reconstruction, although short-lived, provided an opportunity to achieve some dignity as politicians and health care professionals.  The years of Reconstruction created educational opportunities for African Americans and they tried to take advantage of them.  But Reconstruction only lasted until the mid 1870’s and but even then, they stayed in the south.  But then 1915 came.  What  made the year 1915 such a special year?

That is the mystery that I explore in the first book of The Bledsoe Sisters series—A Virtuous Ruby.

In reality, the Great Migration started in a perfect storm of years of poor crops, World War I and technology.  But  the loss of dignity that was the last straw.  When the North looked the other way after Reconstruction, de facto slavery was reinstated in the South.  Having had a taste of dignity in those few years after the Civil War, African Americans were not willing to go back.  In her wonderful book exploring the later portions of the Great Migration, The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson gives an important statistic:  “Across the South, someone was hanged or burned alive every four days from 1889 to 1929.”  Stunning.  Imagine raising your children in such an atmosphere where lynching was that common and widespread. The most widespread reason for lynching was the show of disrespect, in some way, toward a white person—sexually, theft of property, by appropriating the speech, mannerisms or ways of someone—it could be anything.

And what if there was a feisty young woman who seemed to go out of her way in her young life by continuously disrespecting the white power structure in a small Southern town.?

That’s Ruby Bledsoe—the heroine of A Virtuous Ruby.

I hope you will get to meet her some day soon.