Letter From Ann DeWitt
Entangled In Freedom: A Civil War Story
The Street Life Series Youth Edition
Enjoy the Story in HistoryTM
Thank you for your readership. Blessings abound because of co-authoring with Kevin M. Weeks the historical fiction novel titled Entangled In Freedom: A Civil War Story. While Weeks provides the mystery elements of the novel, my contributions are centered on southern African-American customs, values and attitudes which were passed down in my family from generation to generation since antebellum. Entangled in Freedom is written in first person to provide one of many African-American viewpoints as to why an African-American would serve with the Confederate States Army during the War Between the States.
My life in South Carolina does not align perfectly with most publicized historical accounts of the African-American experience in the Deep South. Slavery, Jim Crow, and prejudice existed in the south; and my family was indeed impacted. My point is the following. How each southern African-American family responded to these social pressures over the ages was sometimes different.
My family is not stereotypical. Collectively, my family includes Democrats, Republicans, Independents, liberals, conservatives, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals. We are, perhaps, a reflection of the diversity in America. As a result, let me share three of my lifetime tipping points which propelled me into further exploring the subject matter of black confederates. They are as follows:
Lifetime Tipping Point One:
The public school system was vastly different when I was a child. Students at an early age were encouraged to participate in the political process beginning at the elementary school level. Studying political candidates and casting a vote in mock elections were the norm.
While in elementary school, I cast my first presidential mock vote for Richard Nixon. When I returned home, I voluntarily shared the news with my family. Then I received a warm embrace because learning the importance of voting was more critical than the candidate I selected. Also, I remember many children cheering at school when the election results were announced.
In other words, diversity of thought and active participation in life runs rampant in my family.
Here is another example.
Lifetime Tipping Point 2:
During the 20th Century, my mother travelled to Washington, D.C. with a delegation to attend a Childrenís Defense Fund Conference. When she boarded the plane from South Carolina, she was on the same flight with Senator Strom Thurmond who was seated in first class. Holding up the boarding line, my mother stopped, shook Senator Thurmondís hand and announced that she was from his district.
When she reached her seat in coach, my motherís mind turned to other things. Once the plane touched down in Washington, D.C. and she deplaned, Senator Strom Thurmond, himself, offered my mother and the delegates a ride to their hotel as a way of thanking them for their community service with the Childrenís Defense Fund. They accepted his offer and rode with Senator Thurmond and his staff.
This is the side of the south in which I am most familiar.
Lifetime Tipping Point Three:
While conducting research for this first novel in The Street Life Series Youth Edition, I shared yet another personal moment with my father. My speaking of the historical sites I was visiting prompted my father to recall a memory which he never shared with me before.
During my daughterís early elementary school years, my daughter went on a school trip which included an American Civil War tour of the Concord Covered Bridge area in metro-Atlanta. During the school tour, another student told my daughter that "dead soldiers come out at midnight."
Sometime later when my father came to visit us in Georgia from South Carolina, my daughter wanted to show my father the Covered Bridge area at midnight in order to look for the ghosts of the dead soldiers.
Iím sure many grandparents would have dismissed such a notion as child's play. However, my father drove my daughter under the midnight moonlight to the Covered Bridge, and they talked about the Civil War soldiers.
We call these teaching moments in our familyómoments which are passed down from generation to generation.
I do not have a copy of my mock voting ticket from elementary school; my mother does not possess a picture with Strom Thurmond; and my daughter was too young to remember going with my father down to the Covered Bridge. However, these events are as true and factual as any official government document. Since antebellum, inclusion and diversity of thought were passed down from generation to generation in my family. By incorporating these themes in the novel Entangled In Freedom, I have an opportunity to share another point of view on the African-American experience in the Deep South during the War Between the States.
Thus, Entangled In Freedom has already sparked invaluable memories and moments for my family. My hopes are that the novel will likewise (1) remove any remaining southern stereotypes, (2) prompt healthy debates, and (3) bring families and friends closer together as we commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War (2011 Ė 2015).