Monday, February 28, 2022

Frederick Douglass' Irish Book Tour

Black History Month is coming to a close, and many, including me, wonder why the month of February was  chosen to celebrate it. Well, it's because the birthdays of the great black abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln fall during this month.

Speaking of Frederick Douglass, I found an interesting article in The Irish Examiner that discussed his lecture tour in Ireland back in 1845 to promote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I never imagined him going on a book tour, let alone to Europe! 

Irish author Colum McCann used this part of Douglass' life in his novel TransAtlantic, a National Book Award Winner. Here's more from The Irish Examiner:

The renowned Irish novelist Colum McCann emigrated to the United States in the mid-1980s. He spent almost two decades publishing big, imaginative novels about characters like ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev as well as the high-wire artist Philippe Petit in his masterpiece Let The Great World Spin before returning to write about Ireland and its history in his novel, TransAtlantic.

At the heart of TransAtlantic is Frederick Douglass’s story. Douglass visited Ireland for several months on a lecture tour to promote his best-selling autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, and to raise awareness and money for the abolitionist movement in the United States. The timing of his visit is noteworthy – Douglass arrived in Ireland in autumn 1845, just as the Great Famine was sweeping through the country.

“I thought it was an incredible story – and one we needed to hear, especially in Ireland,” says McCann about the spark for his novel. “Here was the story of a man, 27 years old, a visionary, an abolitionist, yet still a 'slave', arriving in Ireland just as the Famine began to unfold. He had already published his memoir but there was an Irish edition forthcoming. And he landed among the gentry of Ireland, largely the Anglo-Irish. He toured around the country. His few months in Ireland were among the happiest in his life. ‘I breathe,’ he said, ‘and lo! the chattel becomes a man.’ ”

Douglass, who was born in 1818, escaped a live of slavery in Maryland by making a break for the north where he became an anti-slavery activist. Interestingly in later life, he was on the ticket as a vice-presidential nominee for one of the candidates in the 1872 US presidential election race, a century and a half before Kamala Harris became the first person of colour to get the job.

His Irish lecture tour was a success: he spoke to packed crowds in several cities, including Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Waterford.

In Cork, he spoke at the Imperial Hotel to an audience that included John Francis Maguire, the founder of this newspaper (The Irish Examiner). The hotel has a plaque commemorating his visit. Douglass did not, however, critique the handling of the Famine during his lectures, which is perhaps a surprise given he was a human rights activist.

“At first I was surprised that he did not speak out about the Famine and the conditions that the Irish were forced to suffer under British rule,” says McCann. “He remained largely silent about it. But gradually I began to understand why – he was in Ireland in order to further the cause of the three million of his people still enslaved in the United States."

For the complete article click here:

I found this fascinating! Did you know Frederick Douglass toured Europe to promote his autobiography? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, February 21, 2022

The History of Presidents' Day

 Happy Presidents' Day! Hope you're enjoying a day off. My two college students are not. But they're managing to cope.

If you've ever wondered about the history of Presidents' Day, here's some information from

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

For more on the history of Presidents' Day, click here.

Are you off for Presidents' Day? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 14, 2022

How Did You Meet the Love of Your Life?

Happy Valentine's Day! Ah, February, the month of love. If you're a romantic like me, I'm sure you enjoy reading about how people met and fell in love.  My story sounds like fiction, but it really happened!  I’ll share in a moment, but it wasn’t until after I got married that I became an author, and my marriage is what inspired me to begin writing in the first place.

I create tales of forbidden love, and my next book, Escape, due out this spring, is a story about a slave girl who is helped to escape from bondage by a young abolitionist who falls in love with her.  I came up with the story idea when I began thinking about how sad it would have been if my husband and I had fallen in love 200 years earlier.  Then, we wouldn’t have been able to marry, because he’s white, and I’m black.

Interracial love isn’t forbidden nowadays, but sometimes it still tends to be a sticky topic, so let me tell you how I met my husband. 

I started running in 1993.  It was a little hard at first, but I finally built up my endurance.  After a few months I was running 5-7 miles every day after work.  About a year later, my future husband Richard, noticed me.

But he’d only see me one day a week, and that was Thursday mornings, when my work schedule (as a librarian) was 12 noon to 9 p.m.  On those days I’d run at 7 a.m.  He couldn’t figure out where I’d come from, and he’d only see me sporadically.

Then one Friday evening during the summer, Richard was on his way to meet friend.  He saw me running and took that opportunity to pull over his car and talk to me. “Excuse me,” he said.

I assumed he needed directions, but instead Richard said, “I’ve seen you running.”  Well at that remark, I figured he was some know it all jock who wanted to tell me my technique was all wrong.  I was prepared to thank him and be on my way.  I’d read Jim Fixx’s book on running, and I knew all I needed to know about running (Jim Fixx died while running, so we won’t go there).  The next thing Richard said caught me completely off guard.  “I just want to tell you that I think you’re extremely attractive, and I want to ask you to lunch.”

The eyes are the mirror to the soul.  Richard has beautiful green eyes and they look honest, plus he’s handsome (okay, he's hot) and having just met him, he seemed like a genuinely nice person (and he is).  But despite all this I joked, “Okay, as long as you’re not a rapist or an ax murderer."  He adamantly assured me that he wasn’t.

After two dates, we really liked each other.  His mother, who lived three hours away, asked what I looked like.  To this Richard replied, “She’s an—extreme brunette,” and left it at that.

We met in July, and by September we were talking about getting married.  Now, around this time, he’d gotten information about his 10th high school reunion and he’d invited me to go. This meant I’d get to meet his parents.  However, he still hadn’t told them everything about me, like that I’m black, for instance.

So, unbeknown to me, the day before we were to arrive, Richard called his parents. “By the way,” he said, “More than just Maria’s hair is extreme brunette—she’s black.”  I’m sure there were a few long moments of stunned silence, but whatever else he said must have put their minds at ease, because our first meeting was a very pleasant one!

Richard and I met in July of 1994 and married in July of 1995.  In addition to a wonderful husband and two amazing kids, my interracial marriage has given me a brand new career as a writer!

How did you meet the love of your life? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 7, 2022


I'm working on my second Tracy Black Black Ops Detective Agency Mystery and couldn't help but think about one of my favorite showslong ago. I loved the P.I. series Mannix that starred Mike Conners as private investigator Joe Mannix, and Gail Fisher, who played his trusty secretary Peggy Fair. 

Gail Fisher was one of the first black women to have a substantive part in an American TV series, and for her role in Mannix, she won two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy AwardMannix aired from 1967-1975, and perhaps one of the reasons I enjoyed watching it was because of Gail Fisher. I was just a kid back then, and there weren't too many women who looked like me on television.

If you're not familiar with the series, here's some information from Wikipedia:

Mannix worked on his own with the assistance of his loyal secretary Peggy Fair, a police officer's widow played by Gail FisherHe also has assistance from the L.A. police department, the two most prominent officers being Lieutenant Art Malcolm (portrayed by Ward Wood) and Lieutenant Adam Tobias (portrayed by Robert Reed). Other police contacts were Lieutenant George Kramer (Larry Linville), who had been the partner of Peggy's late husband, and Lieutenant Dan Ives (Jack Ging).

While Mannix was not generally known as a show that explored socially relevant topics, several episodes had topical themes, starting in Season Two. In Season Two alone, there were episodes featuring compulsive gambling, deaf and blind characters that were instrumental in solving cases in spite of their physical limitations, and episodes that focused on racism against blacks and Hispanics. Season Six had an episode focusing on the effects the Vietnam War had on returning veterans, including the effects of PTSD.

Joseph R. "Joe" Mannix is a regular guy, without pretense, who has a store of proverbs to rely upon in conversation. What demons he has mostly come from having fought in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he was initially listed as MIA while he was a prisoner of war in a brutal POW camp until he escaped. Unfortunately, over the length of the series, a sizable percentage of his old Army comrades turn out to have homicidal impulses against him, as did his fellow running back from his college football days. 

During the series, it is also revealed that Mannix worked as a mercenary in Latin America. Like the actor who plays him, Mannix is of Armenian descent. Mannix was shown to speak fluent Armenian during the seriesas well as conversational Spanish. Mannix is notable for taking a lot of physical punishment. During the course of the series he is shot and wounded over a dozen separate times, or is knocked unconscious around 55 times. 

Mannix frequently took brutal beatings to the abdomen; some of these went on quite a long time, particularly by the television standards of the era. Whenever Mannix gets into one of his convertibles he can expect to be shot at from another car, run off the road by another car, or find his vehicle sabotaged. Nevertheless he keeps his cool and perseveres until his antagonists are brought down. 

The excitement was non-stop! Did you watch Mannix and enjoy it as much as I did?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!