Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Underground Railroad and WDYTYA

As I continue revising my novel set in 17th-century Ireland, the (American) Civil War keeps popping up everywhere. I started blogging a series about Civil War prisons (told from a southern perspective) after the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and because of some opportune genealogical research on my ancestor, Thomas Maness. Then singer Kelly Clarkson visited the grisly (and more famous) southern prison Andersonville in a July 24 episode of Who Do You Think You Are (told from a northern perspective).

Singers from Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre's drama about the Underground Railroad, Pathway to Freedom, highlighted the annual Mendenhall Plantation Village Fair. Then the August 13 episode of WDYTYA featured an exciting story about runaway slaves, the Quakers who helped them (including actress Zooey Deschanel's ancestors), and a pre-Civil-War battle in Pennsylvania. Guilford College's own chaplain and professor Max Carter had a hand in the narrative. Behind the scenes, yours truly had a hand in the research.

Yes, I was a freelance genealogist last spring for the popular show! Apparently they contract research for the various family lines of each episode's star, then choose the lineage with the most interesting story to highlight in the show. Although my research stopped at the editing table, I really like the story they chose. Let me put it this way — I learned something new about Quaker history. If you get a chance, watch it. The episode is no longer streaming on TLC's website, but previews are still running here.

Just days after I watched that show, Max gave a talk to the Springfield Friends Memorial Association about a Reconstruction project — the Model Farm — in which Quakers from the North came to Guilford County to help Quakers in North Carolina (a future post). That night, I watched the movie Lincoln. Different perspectives and pieces of Civil War history are quilting together in my brain.

Speaking of local Quaker history, the Bush Hill Heritage Festival takes over our little town next week. Tannery Books will help celebrate our heritage by offering Quaker history books at our booth during the street festival. One of the books is Jennifer Hudson Taylor's latest Quaker novel, Path of Freedom. Jennifer, who visited the bookshop last year, begins this Underground Railroad adventure with loads of local surnames and Guilford County settings.

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