0349 Sheriff Curtis & Officers 1920

Sheriff R. K. Curtis

How excited I was when I found the photograph of the six men above! Why? The man standing at the far right is the historical Sheriff R. K. Curtis, who arrested and held Virginia Christian in the Elizabeth City County jail in Hampton. Sheriff Curtis’s deputies accompanied the girl to the courthouse the days of […]

No White Man

The Appropriate People

Republican primary candidate Ben Carson claims he doesn’t believe new voter identification laws passed in the South are racist, saying such restrictions are necessary. “Voting is an important thing,” he said. “Obviously, you want to make sure that it’s done by the appropriate people.” Ah, the appropriate people. Who they are has always been a tricky […]

Edward Williams Clay (1799-1857) lithograph, cover to sheet music of “Jump Jim Crow,” a song popularized by American minstrel Thomas Dartmouth Rice about 1832.

The Legend of Jim Crow

“Jim Crow” is clothed in ambiguity and irony. I first came across the term in a University of Virginia class. On the syllabus was C. Vann Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow, a series of lectures at the University published in 1955. It’s likely there was a real, historical Jim Crow, an African American, […]

Virginia Christian

Mug Shot

The African American girl Virginia Christian was photographed once in her life, on June 3, 1912, when she was transferred from the jailhouse in Hampton, Virginia, to the state penitentiary in Richmond. So this day was a fateful one in Virgie’s life a century ago. And we know almost nothing about it. In fact, although […]

“You can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson growls as Col. Jessup in “A Few Good Men.” But my narrator Charlie Mears tries to.

Can We Handle Truth?

From the first chapter of the novel Forsaken, its young narrator, newspaper reporter Charlie Mears, is preoccupied with truth. He wonders if the tale an old neighbor spun about the 1831 slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia, is true. He even wonders if his own story of Virginia Christian’s trial and execution is true. Sometimes […]

Sirens_Odysseus

The Sirens’ Song

A goal I set for the novel Forsaken was to have it be as accurate historically as I could make it. This became an obsession. I’d caution anyone interested in writing historical fiction against the sirens’ song of research. There’s so much information! As writers, we want to listen to what history has to say. […]