Dawn Comer Jefferson (L) and Dr. Rosanne Welch (R) present on their book, The Promise
On Friday March 21st my co-author, Dawn Comer Jefferson and I had the pleasure of making a presentation on “Slavery and the Oregon Trail” based on our book The Promise to the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades of Carpenter Avenue Elementary School as the guests of the non-profit Parents For Carpenter.
Thanks for having us. My name is — like Arlene said — Dawn Comer Jefferson and I have a 5th grader here. I am a writer/editor for television and also for books and I wrote this book, called The Promise, with my friend, Rosanne Welch, who is a college professor and also a television writer. The Promise is based on a radio show that I did for National Public Radio and it is based on a true story. Now some of the kids in the last discussion had already read it. Have any of your read this? Ok, then I will tell you a little bit about it. it’s based on a true story and it’s about a family in the 1850’s in Louisiana — a family of slaves — and it’s told from the point of view of the nine-year-old daughter in the family. And because the father can read and write, he was asked by his master to go on the Oregon Trail. It was a promise of freedom when they got to Oregon, but after traveling on the trail and having all sorts of hardships happen to them, when the master got to Oregon, he freed the parents, but kept the children. In 1854, the salve parents took the master to court and sued him for custody of their children and won. It’s a true story which basically influenced whether Oregon — which at the time was a territory, not a state — whether Oregon would come into the Union as a free state or a slave state. Because Oregon came in as a free state, so did Washington, so did California, and it really shaped the way we live today and the way the war went, as well. We thought the story was interesting because it all hinged on the story of this little girl.