“Blood and Indigo” — that’s my working title for a novel about slavery and planters taking place in the mid-eighteenth century in South Carolina. I wasn’t planning to be so open about the project just yet (though I am now more than two years into it), but there is an indigo workshop being held in September just outside of Charleston and I’ve launched a kickstarter campaign to try and garner the cost of the class and a rental car (I have miles).
It would be so perfect! I traveled to Charleston this past April, as some of you know, but was only there for a short while — I took tons of pictures and did two plantation tours and visited the Chalmers Street former slave auction site and spent two afternoons in the Charleston Museum, but this would be fabulous — I’d get to see the area in the fall (and take tons more pictures) and the indigo!! Well, check out Sea Island Indigo!!
It all started with a book by India Flint called “Eco Colour”. In it, she devotes a page to the colonial settler, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, and her work with indigo. Next came Eliza’s letters. Once I started asking myself, ‘what were the lives of her slaves like?’, I was off and running.
For more than two years now, I have been writing, writing, writing, and researching, researching, researching (there’s an example of great writing right there!). I have learned so much about American history that I feel like a different person than when I started out. Reading history about the enslaved changes you. Details about the slave trade, the slave codes, the brutality, the labor practices, the attempts at rebellion, the words used by the elite to describe “their” African Americans — all change you. The most recent and best thing I have read about racism (I cannot recommend this article enough) was published in a recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly, and it’s called “The Case for Reparations”. Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, it is hard-hitting, incredibly full of examples of ongoing harm, and it will make you shake your head in sadness and wonder at what we are — we Americans, this America.
An African American crafter, as part of the weekend, will be teaching participants rag quilting and talking about Gullah culture. I cannot say how perfect this event feels as a boost for my writing project!
Even if a donation does not make sense for you at this time, please share my excitement for this work! And now that the cat is out of the bag, I will feel freer to discuss what I am learning here on the blog, and hope you will gladly come along for the ride.
hello..this is cynthia..from the diaries and lurker like from weaving…kickstarted campaigns have been so amazingly important to my kids and their friends..it is how breezy meadows raised the money to have the rice paddies terraced..so i happily donate to you..may you have an equal amount of success …and pleasure in your journey..
Oh my goodness thank you so much Cynthia.
this sounds amazing..i only wish i could do more…so many good thoughts sent your way..
Dee–this is very exciting news. Two topics dear to my heart as well. I share your fascination with this era—- when i lived in Georgia outside of Savannah I spent time on Sapelo and it seemed that everything i read this summer seemed to focus on either slavery or its aftermath including “the invention of wings” and “someone knows my name” as well as rereading Isabel Allende’s “Island beneath the Sea”–and then the movie “Belle” which helped flesh out the culpability of the rest of the world.
I understand that you’re taking a factual approach to the material and can’t wait to read your finished product. Put me on the waiting list.
Patricia — thank you for your interest AND your donation!! I think the wave of movies and books about slavery is part of a need to update our consciousness in this country. I have “The Invention of Wings” on my ‘to-read’ list, but am holding off because it sounds very similar to what I am attempting to do — though 100 years later — and what a difference those 100 years make! Thank you again… I will look up ‘Someone Knows My Name” and Sapelo to see what you are talking about.
“The Invention of Wings” is an interesting read, I really enjoyed the story cloth connection and the historical aspects of the abolitionist movement also just finished reading “The Help” set in in the 60’s which I am ambivalent about recommending as it treads the dangerous line of the white writer trying to write from the maid’s perspective & can recommend reading it as a good way not to write your book!
Hi Dee, how exciting! have you read the very well researched “Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans” by Jenny Balfour-Paul ? Also enjoyed reading “Indigo: in search of the colour that seduced the world” by Catherine E. McKinley & “Colour- travels through the paintbox” by Victoria Finlay is a favourite that I have reread many times.
THANK you Mo! Your support means the world to me!! I have read the McKinley book, which I found a great testament to how long-standing the art of indigo in Africa is… it was an important building block in my thoughts about what happened in Eliza’s life. The other two I have not heard of, and appreciate the referrals.
oh so cool Dee, I’m in!
Thank you so much Jude… it really means a lot to me.
Woo Hoo! Go to Town, Dee! I mean go to CharlesTown. I second The Invention of Wings recommendation. The Kitchen House was another good one. You are brave. The mental images are so haunting. I know you will do great things with your work.
Thanks Lisa. I am keeping my fingers crossed! Haven’t heard about The Kitchen House. I love getting all these book recommendations!
And thank you!! Your pledge brings me very near the halfway mark!!
Dee…i hope you can leave extra time while you are there to speak with family of those
who worked those plantations, the children of those slaves. Not sure how you would
be able to set this up, would need to do it ahead of time…but that would be invaluable…their stories they were told by grandmother, grand father…
That is such a great idea Grace and not sure how I would pull that off esp in such a short amount of time. That’s one reason I’m so psyched they have a presentation on Gullah culture as part of the workshop.
Dee! I’m blown away by your project and wish you all the best….I’m in with the indigo workshop and only wish I could go too. Keep us posted…I know you will. I can hardly wait.
Thank you so much Dana! More than half way to my goal already! It’s only Day One.
OMG this is big; I am not at all surprised that you’re writing, ‘cos that’s what you are, a writer;
I am excited Dee, it’s going to happen, you started it!
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