Friday, January 4, 2013

Underground Railroad And The Path Of Freedom

My guest today is historical author,Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Now, I've seen dozens of books featuring the Amish but very few fiction stories set around the Quakers. So I asked Jennifer why she chose that particular group?

My mother’s ancestors were Quakers, and while I did not grow up Quaker, we still have our family reunions in the Quaker church, and I believe many of the Quaker values that came from my great-grandparents were passed onto me through my grandmother and mother. I wanted people to have a better understanding of our American Quaker roots. In the last few years we've learned so much about the Amish and Mennonites through fiction, but have had very little opportunity to learn about the Quakers and how much they have given to our modern society.

Few people understand how much Quakers impacted the movement to abolish slavery, advocated for women’s rights, and fought the justice system to change laws in favor of civil rights. For a quiet, peaceful group of people, the Quakers made history to remember and helped shape us into the America we are today. They were most definitely ahead of their time.

Path of Freedom is about Quakers who commit themselves to helping a pregnant slave couple to freedom on the Underground Railroad in 1858. While the hero and heroine are Quakers who should be devout in their faith and strong mentors, they face many perils that test them.

I named the heroine in my story after my great-grandmother, Flora Saferight, and I set the story in my hometown where Flora also lived. Still, I needed to give my characters personality and life. I never knew my great-grandmother. All I had were the stories my mother had shared with me during childhood, and so I decided to make up the rest. The truth was enough of a basis to get started.

Bruce, the hero, and Flora, the heroine, share a conflicted history that leaves them arguing often and untrusting of each other’s motives. Secondary characters are Marta, a 15-year-old pregnant slave girl who has been through so much, but who wants her baby to grow up in freedom. Marta’s faith becomes a shining beacon to Flora in a time of weakness, in spite of her young years and the hardship of her burdens. Marta and her husband Jim are uneducated slaves, but they have much to teach Flora and Bruce about true love and relationships.

Photo credit
High Point Quakers provided refuge for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. Quakers transported fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad in this false bottom wagon, now on display at the Jamestown Historic Museum at the Mendenhall Plantation House. The wagon in Path of Freedom was a covered wagon, with a false bottom.

Jamestown Historic Museum
In my story, Bruce begins to teach Jim how to read by using the Bible. I enjoyed studying the Underground Railroad. I used the basis of the wagon in which my characters traveled to a real wagon now on display at the Jamestown Historical Museum in North Carolina. The original was actually donated from Center Friends Meeting, where my great-grandmother attended and is buried.

When I discovered the new Quilts of Love line opening up at Abingdon Press, I knew my Quaker story would fit the series. Quakers are known for quilting as much as the Amish, in fact, we have a quilt my grandmother passed on to my mother that means a great deal to us. Quilting has been in my family for generations, and I only wish I had inherited the skill. I remember my mother working hard to finish her mother’s quilt when I was a little girl.

In Path of Freedom, I use the basis of a quilt map for my characters’ travel. I've written a letter to readers at the beginning of the book to explain that there is no historical fact proving that map quilts were used on the Underground Railroad, but I also point out that there is also no evidence to disprove it either. I love the idea as a fiction premise and freely use it in my fiction novel. I hope readers will enjoy Path of Freedom and learn a great deal about Quakers.

Jennifer Hudson

When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple. With only her mother’s quilt as a secret guide, the foursome follows the stitches through unknown treachery. 

As they embark on their perilous journey, they hope and pray that their path is one of promise where love sustains them, courage builds faith, and forgiveness leads to freedom.

Book Trailer

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, won the 2011 Holt Medallion award for Best First Book. Jennifer's work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Romantic Times Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency and co-owns Upon the Rock Publicist. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications. When she isn't writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Quakers are people I don't know a lot about, so good for you for tackling them.

nutschell said...

Great post! I loved getting to know a little more about the Quakers :)

Jennifer Taylor said...

I'm glad this post was informative. It's on of the reasons I love writing in historical eras.

Jo said...

I must read this book. I too know little or nothing about the Quakers.