28 Mar

“What happened to John Roy’s brother?”

I get that question a lot after talking with students about — and reading to them — The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. And I guess I should have anticipated that question, considering that William figures prominently in the book’s first few pages, not only in my text but also in Don Tate’s art:

But the answer I’ve had for that question must be as unsatisfying as they come: “I don’t know.”

A slightly more elaborate answer would be, “I never did learn much, and it’s been long ago enough since I researched this book that I’ve had time to forget a lot of things I knew.” Which, let’s face it, isn’t any more satisfying to a kid with a burning — and, at least to them, obvious — question.

So, I’ve dug back into some of my research materials, and here’s what I can tell you about William Lynch.

John Roy Lynch’s autobiography, Reminiscences of an Active Life, mentions William by name only three times.

After his father’s death, John Roy Lynch recounts an initial conversation between his mother, Catherine, and the family’s new owner, Alfred Vidal Davis, at Tacony Plantation. In that conversation, Davis tells Catherine, “Upon my return I shall have you and your children live with me and my family — you to be one of our housemaids and your oldest boy, William, to be a dining-room servant, and the other boy, John, I shall take for my own valet.”

In Natchez after the family’s emancipation, John Roy writes, “My brother had secured employment at army headquarters, as an attendant upon General W. Q. Gresham, the general in command of the Union troops there at that time. … My mother was an excellent cook and in that capacity she frequently earned a good sum of money in the course of a month, but the employment was not continuous and permanent, hence the income from that source was uncertain and doubtful. It was absolutely necessary, therefore, that my brother and I should do something to assist in meeting the expense of the home.”

The other reference is in historian John Hope Franklin’s introduction to the book, when discussing John Roy Lynch’s real-estate transactions in the Natchez area between 1869 and 1905: “Lynch’s brother, William, was involved in some of the transactions and perhaps served as his attorney and business manager.” A footnote explains further, “In several of the transactions William Lynch is the grantor, the ‘agent and attorney’ for John R. Lynch, or the plantation lessor.”

I don’t see a US Census record for William Lynch after this one from 1880, in which he was listed as an unmarried, 36-year-old planter in Natchez.

But if I were going to research The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch all over again, knowing how curious many readers are about William Lynch, I would want to know how far his trail extends beyond 1880. My first step would be to spend some time with those property purchase and sale records. And for that, I would start with the office of the chancery clerk in Adams County, Mississippi.

If any student projects result from that tip, I’d love to hear what they find.

04 May

My Twitter chat with an 8th grade class

I’ve done in-person school visits and Skype presentations, but this past Friday School Librarian of the Year finalist Colleen Graves and I tried something new: a Twitter chat between me and a roomful of eighth graders needing some help transforming their research into a story:

How did it go? I thought it was terrific, but you can see for yourself in this handy Storify recap of our conversation. I’ll be back soon with some additional thoughts on the experience.

03 Feb

Bibliography for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

bookcover-johnroylynchThe back matter for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch includes a historical note, a two-page timeline, my author’s note, Don Tate’s illustrator’s note, suggestions for further reading, and a couple of maps.

With all that Eerdmans Books for Young Readers did squeeze into those final pages, it’s not surprising that there wasn’t room for us to include a bibliography of the sources I consulted for the book. So, I’m presenting them here (along with a shout-out for Douglas R. Egerton’s 2014 book The Wars of Reconstruction, which came out after my text was finished but which I’m currently reading and finding fascinating):

The American Experience: Reconstruction: The Second Civil War. Produced and directed by Llewellyn M. Smith and Elizabeth Deane. DVD, 2003.

Bell, Frank C. “The Life and Times of John R. Lynch: A Case Study 1847-1939.” Journal of Mississippi History, Volume 38, February 1976.

Campbell, Tracy. Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition — 1742-2004. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005.

Carey, Charles W. Jr. African-American Political Leaders. New York: Facts on File, 2004.

Christopher, Maurine. Black Americans in Congress. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976.

Clay, William L. Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress: 1870-1992. New York: Amistad Press, 1992.

Davis, Jack E. Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez since 1930. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

Davis, Ronald L. F. The Black Experience in Natchez, 1720-1880. Mississippi: Natchez National Historical Park, 1993.

Dray, Philip. Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. New York: Harper Perrenial, 1990.

Foner, Eric. Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Gerteis, Louis S. From Contraband to Freedman: Federal Policy Toward Southern Blacks 1861-1865. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1973.

Graham, Lawrence. The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

Holzer, Harold. Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

“John R. Lynch and the Reconstruction,” The Chicago Defender, November 18, 1939.

Jordan, Winthrop D., editor. Slavery and the American South. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.

Kennedy, Randall. Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.

Knox, Thomas Wallace. Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field: Southern Adventure in Time of War. Life with the Union Armies, and Residence on a Louisiana Plantation. New York: Da Capo Press, 1969.

Lemann, Nicholas. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.

Lemire, Elise. “Miscegenation”: Making Race in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Lynch, John Roy, “Speech on the Civil Rights Bill,” accessed at http://www.blackpast.org/?q=1875-john-r-lynch-speech-civil-rights-bill on May 3, 2013.

Lynch, John Roy, edited by John Hope Franklin. Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Lynch, John Roy. Letter to Dr. William R. Johnston, December 27, 1937. William T. Johnson and Family Memorial Papers, Mss. 529, 561, 597, 770, 926, 1093, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge.

Lynch, John Roy. Letter to Dr. William R. Johnston, September 16, 1934. William T. Johnson and Family Memorial Papers, Mss. 529, 561, 597, 770, 926, 1093, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge.

“Major Lynch Buried with Military Rites,” The Chicago Defender, November 11, 1939.

“Major Lynch Will Be 89 on Thursday,” The Chicago Defender, September 12, 1936.

Mann, Kenneth Eugene. “John Roy Lynch: U.S. Congressman from Mississippi.” Negro History Bulletin, Volume 37, April/May 1974.

Martis, Kenneth C. The Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts, 1789-1983. New York: Free Press, 1982.

McLaughlin, James Harold. “John Roy Lynch, the Reconstruction Politician: A Historical Perspective (Thesis).” Muncie, Indiana: Ball State University, 1981.

Menn, Joseph Karl. The Large Slaveholders of Louisiana, 1860. New Orleans: Pelican Publishing, 1964.

Middleton, Stephen, editor. Black Congressmen During Reconstruction: A Documentary Sourcebook. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Montgomery, Frank A. Reminiscences of a Mississippian in Peace and War. Cincinnati: The Robert Clarke Company Press, 1901.

Morris, Robert C. Reading, ’Riting, and Reconstruction: The Education of Freedmen in the South, 1861-1870. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1976.

Nelson, Stanley. “Black, 15 & free in 1863: John Roy Lynch & Mary Reynolds,” Concordia Sentinel, May 4, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Civil War in Vidalia: Views of 1863 battle from Rosalie mansion, Tacony quarters,” Concordia Sentinel, April 27, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Despite deathbed promise, Lynch & family return to slavery,” Concordia Sentinel, April 6, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “John Roy Lynch: Love at Tacony, heartbreak at Whitehall,” Concordia Sentinel, March 30, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Natchez in Union hands; John Roy Lynch leaves Vidalia to reunite with mother,” Concordia Sentinel, April 13, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “Plantation life, burning cotton and slavery’s end in 1863,” Concordia Sentinel, May 11, 2011.

Nelson, Stanley. “The Greshams come to Natchez; Lynch is free at 15,” Concordia Sentinel, April 22, 2011.

Newton, Michael. The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: A History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2010.

Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008.

Oliver, Nola Nance. This Too Is Natchez. New York: Hastings House, 1953.

Power, Steve. The Memento: Old and New Natchez, 1700-1897. Natchez, Mississippi: Myrtle Bank Publishers, 1984.

Rabinowitz, Howard N., editor. Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction Era. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

Roberts, Evangeline. “Major Lynch Tells of Days in Congress,” The Chicago Defender, May 12, 1928.

Rose, Willie Lee. A Documentary History of Slavery in North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Scarborough, William Kauffman. The Overseer: Plantation Management in the Old South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1966.

Schafer, Judith Kelleher. Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, 1846-1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003.

Schafer, Judith Kelleher. Slavery, the Civil Law, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.

Sewell, George Alexander. Mississippi Black History Makers. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984.

Townsley, Luther. “Major John R. Lynch,” The Chicago Defender, April 29, 1939.

Turkel, Stanley. Heroes of the American Reconstruction: Profiles of Sixteen Educators, Politicians and Activists. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005.

Wayne, Michael. Death of an Overseer: Reopening a Murder Investigation from the Plantation South. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wayne, Michael. The Reshaping of Plantation Society: The Natchez District, 1860-1880. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1983

Winters, John D. The Civil War in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963.

05 Mar

Heck, my mother should know…

…that I’ve been published in The Horn Book!

The absolutely stellar March/April special issue focusing on “Fact, Fiction, and In Between” includes contributions from Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Erica Zappy, Matt Tavares, Marc Aronson, Steve Jenkins, Elizabeth Partridge, Monica Edinger, Tanya Lee Stone, Laurie Halse Anderson, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Candace Fleming, Katerine Paterson, Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, Margarita Engle, Deborah Heiligman, James Cross Giblin, Viki Ash and Thom Barthelmess, Marthe Jocelyn, Steven Herb, Leonard S. Marcus, Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer … and me.

Here’s a bit of my short essay “Your Mother Should Know,” about a last-minute twist in my research for Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities:

By the time the U.S. Navy got around to fulfilling my Freedom of Information Act request, I’d forgotten that I had requested it. But even though my text for Can I See Your I.D.? was finished, I couldn’t help but take a look at the documents pertaining to one of my subjects, serial impostor Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr.

One document referred to “a letter from [redacted] dated 14 August 1944, in which she requested information concerning the whereabouts of her brother, Ferdinand S. [sic] Demara, who had been A.W.O.L.”

This was trouble.

And as if that wasn’t enough to liven up my week, I received the First Big Review of Can I See Your I.D.? from Kirkus Reviews:

Barton’s use of the second-person point of view gives these stories dramatic tension and a sense of immediacy. Hoppe’s graphic panels enhance this effect. … Teens in the thick of creating identities themselves will find this riveting.

April 14 is the book’s official publication date. I’m starting to get a wee bit excited.

21 Nov

I’d like to be in San Antonio, but something(s) came up

Photo by Hank Walker, 1958

I won’t be among the litfolk romping in San Antonio this weekend at NCTE, but I’m happy with my alternative plans:

  • Playing around with the book’s worth of sketches (and then some) that I just received from S.V.T. illustrator Tom Lichtenheld
  • Attending the wedding of my middle school and high school literary collaborator J.B. Smith (perhaps someday I’ll post our Sophocles-meets-Three’s Company script, Janetigone)

Wherever you’ll be and whatever you’ll be doing, I hope you enjoy it.