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Archive for the ‘Muhammad Ali’ Category

I know all families have oddities–unusual happenings, skeletons in the closet–but the thought has been nagging at me that my family has more than its fair share.  Tell me I’m wrong.  Tell me my family is normal and I’m writing down my family stories for no bona fide reason.

Tell me everyone is related to a famous person–mine happens to be an American president. And most African-American families have Buffalo soldiers in their background–especially one who stowed away on a ship leaving Haiti for the U.S.A.  By the way, grandpa was six and he was running from a rival pirate family.  And, of course, there’s the Ali connection and a father who was a show horse champion.

I don’t think I’d be so confused if I hadn’t married into a family that had it’s own major oddity.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention when my in-laws claimed descendancy from the premier aristocratic family in England.  And then there were the stories about oil land and…   Well, let’s just say, my in-laws ongoing fears and anguish about the generations-long events plaguing their history compelled me to give voice to their pain.

I know many African-American families have stories about oil land but what struck me as odd is the English connection.  And from that oddity, sprang The Daughter of Union County.   No, it is not a family documentary.  It is fiction.  But the family’s fear remains and fuels the heart of the Daughter of Union County.  :Love, greed, betrayal, murder, the American art form of racial passing, and oil all play out in the lives of Henry Hardin, his wife Bertha, his black servant Salome, and his daughter, Margaret.   The first question in Daughter hinges on Margaret.  Who’s her mother?

Tell me, please, does my family have more oddities than most?  If you’re not quite sure, I’ll drop in a few more tantalizing bits about Margaret Hardin, The Daughter of Union County in the next few days.

 

 

 

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Yes, I know, it’s been a long time.  But, I have not been idle.  I am truly excited about the upcoming release of my newest novel, The Daughter of Union County, but first I’ve got to say a few words about Muhammad Ali.  I know the man is receiving all kinds of accolades today from those who knew him and those who didn’t.  I never knew him but one of my fathers did.

Frank Thomas was an African-American trainer of saddle bred horses–the kind that perform dressage, not run around the racetrack.  By 1964 Frank had  worked his way up from groom to trainer of a major show horse.  That horse, Storm-the-Castle, was in his enclosure with Frank readying for a championship competition in Louisville when Cassius Clay, the newly crowned heavy-weight champion of the world appeared in the company of the governor of Kentucky.  Here’s how Frank told the story to me.

Mr. Clay (yes, the name was still Cassius Clay back then) reached the enclosure where Frank and the horse stood.  Mr. Clay asked Frank if that horse, Storm-the-Castle, could take the title.  Frank turned away from the governor, lowered his voice and whispered to Mr. Clay, “If I was riding him he could, but you know how that is.”

Muhammad Ali in-the-making nodded did know how it was.  He turned to the governor and the race officials accompanying him and pronounced, “You can play this anyway you want but tomorrow, if this man is not allowed to ride that horse in the contest, I’ll make sure the story is front page news in every newspaper in the country.”

My first father put on his formal togs, mounted Storm-the-Castle, entered the ring, took the horse through his elaborate paces and WON the championship!  Now do you see why I’m a writer?  With stories like this, I’ve got material for three lifetimes!

Frank’s story of racial discrimination and Muhammad Ali’s generous intervention remind us of a painful period in American history.  It paints an ugly picture where race, not talent nor skill, was the only thing that counted.  Muhammad Ali and Frank Thomas were black.  So was the heroine of  my next novel, The Daughter of Union County, but she didn’t know it, and no one was allowed to tell her.

Margaret Hardin spend the first twenty-one years of her life living the existence of a privileged Union County, Arkansas belle.  The white skinned girl with the blue eyes and frizzy hair had no idea the standoffish Bertha Hardin was not her biological mother.  How could that be, you ask?  Well Margaret’s father–a man self-styled as the Duke of Union County–understood his legacy.  He carried his family history–descendants of the English Dukes of Norwalk–on his shoulders.  Without an heir from his barren wife the line would die out.  So a desperate Henry and his reluctant mixed-race servant Salome…

Well, you’ll get the idea when you read more of The Daughter of Union County coming out August 1.  Go to my Amazon site and take a peek at the cover.  I’m excited to get your reaction to this very American story.  Maybe I’ll give you another hint or two in a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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