Why aren’t you watching Underground?

12924591_1292654777415820_7618641586492328670_nOk. I’ve been quiet about it long enough. Now, here comes the question. Why aren’t you watching Underground? My sincere apologies to those of you who do not get WGNA to watch it—June and the DVDs will be here soon.  However, for the rest of you, I hope that you use the comments to post your answer. Call it market research on my part as a historical fiction author who writes about African American characters. I’m also asking because I really want to know.

Underground is not a “slave movie”.  I’m a little weary of people saying that they are tired of seeing “slave movies”. I do not count Django because Tarantino made it (don’t get me started on him). Twelve years a Slave is relatively recent but that was released years ago now.  So unless you have the old Roots miniseries on a continuous loop (and I sympathize if you wish to forego watching the remake), I’m not sure what people mean when they say they are tired of watching “slave movies.” So if this is a standard response of yours, I would appreciate the time that you take to clarify. Thank you.

If these are other reasons people don’t watch a show that features the enslaved (since that is what we say now) population as full-fledged complex individuals with agency and who make choices, I need something more. I need specific reasons. I need evidence. This is a show we have needed for a long time and now it is here. It needs support. Now.  Not when it’s over and it’s on DVD or Netflix.  Now.  Even if the producers choose not to make a Season 2, then we to show support for stories that show the complexity of the horrific and impossible situation of enslavement.

Sometimes I wonder if watching what people endured during this horrible time makes some realize all that someone in their past endured.  Maybe that’s too much pressure, or too much to take in at once. Maybe you feel as if you aren’t doing your part in making your own history.  Maybe you realize that the horrors that they show are only a fraction of what really happened. Well, getting the ratings of this show to rise is a way to help with visibility. It is a way of showing the powers that be in television, movies and yes, in publishing (where I do have a stake) that we want to see more shows like this. We need to see more movies where the enslaved make choices for themselves and their families, like Ms. Ernestine. We need to read more books with wide distribution that show emerging, brave heroines like Rosalee. If you feel guilty for not living up to their bravery, fine. However, let’s not miss this moment in time where, by giving a show an hour a week, that portrayals like this can increase and not diminish.

So, I’m just going to say it.  The enslaved lived these lives of inhumane horror so that you can sit in your living room or bedroom each Wednesday at 10 p.m. and watch television. You can go get your bowl of popcorn or sit with your phone in your hand and live tweet to friends. You can post your outrage on Facebook. All in comfort. All because they took it all on. For you. For all of us.

So watch.

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: http://piperhuguley.com/2014/12/18/meet-ruby-cover-reveal-of-a-virtuous-ruby/

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

The Great Migration: http://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!

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?

Commencement is just the first step

Time to suit up today!

Time to suit up today!

It’s Commencement Day at the college where I teach.  This means I have to go to work on a rare Sunday. Graduations always mean work, but they also mean work for those who are in the ceremony as graduates.  Graduation means that they have completed a certain course of work and they are deserving of a credential. However, we so often forget these days that, for African Americans, graduating from college is still an unfortunate rarity.

The high school drop out rate is still too high. Not enough African American young people are preparing for the more technical work available now. Our present day transition into a technical work force reminds me of how African Americans had to transition from agricultural work in rural areas to other types of factory-based employment in the cities almost one hundred years ago.

The Great Migration meant that many African Americans understood that there was no more opportunity for them in the land and that their skills had to change over time.  Many of the young people who will walk across the stage today understand that the world is changing now.  But I worry for the ones who aren’t there.  There are approximately 70% of African Americans who are only completing high school–or less.  For too many, college seems like the impossible dream when still in today’s world, a bachelor’s degree is rapidly becoming a  basic entry level job credential.

The heroine of my story A Champion’s Heart, Delie Bledsoe, was the first one in her family to attend college. By the time she came to her schooling as the youngest child, the Bledsoes understood that even a young African American woman needed more than high school.

Today, as I watch commencement, I remain prayerful that more young people will draw on the strength of their ancestors and see education as the benefit it is. They will need to study harder, work more and continue to prepare themselves for a changing world. The lands that these new generations must migrate to now are virtual, but the landscape is vast.  They must be ready to “travel” in new and expansive ways.  Their ancestors left their homes for the unknown as part of the Great Migration. These ancestors laid the groundwork, and young people must disrupt their own comforts to continue on the path laid out for them. Commencement is just the first step.

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.