‘Voices of Cherokee Women’ ring loud and clear in new book
by Bettie Marlowe
Nov 06, 2013 | 1515 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Presenting 'Voices' to the public
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Carolyn Ross Johnston

The Bradley County Historical and Genealogical Society will present well-known author Carolyn Ross Johnston, a former resident of Bradley County, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Community Room at the library.

She will discuss her new release, “Voices of Cherokee Women.” Also, on Sunday, Debbie Moore, Sue Summers and Johnston will be at the open house at the Cleveland Creative Arts Guild. After her presentation and book signing in Cleveland, she will be going to Cherokee, N.C., to give a presentation there.

Prior to her appearance at the library, Johnston will be on the radio show with Moore on Saturday — Old Town Cleveland on WOOP-fm 99.9, 10 a.m. until noon (can also be seen on www.woopfm.com).

Born in Cartersville, Ga., Johnston grew up in the South. Her father was in the military, so she had the opportunity to live in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, California — and Taiwan.

Johnston began writing at a young age and had her first story printed in the San Francisco Examiner when only 10. In her story, she shared her excitement at seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from the ship as she was returning to the United States from Taiwan.

Since that first story, she has written several books and articles including her newest, “Voices of Cherokee Women,” “My Father’s War: Fighting with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II,” “Jack London: An American Radical?,” “Cherokee Women in Crisis: Trail of Tears, Civil War and Allotment, 1838-1907” and “Sexual Power: Feminism and the Family in America.”

She attended college at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., where she was involved in the Civil Rights Movement. After graduation, she attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, where she received her doctorate in history. For two years, she taught at Colorado College, then moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where she is now a professor of history and American studies at Eckerd College. A Pulitzer-prize nominee, Johnston is a recipient of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a Danforth Fellowship. She has served as the chairman of the Letters Collegium for 10 years and is on almost every major committee of the college.

She has taught courses including Rebels with a Cause; Making History: The Sixties, Women in Modern America: History of Ideas, Becoming Visible: Sex and Gender in America and Introduction to American Civilization. The multilingual writer and teacher can boast of four languages in addition to English — Latin, French, Spanish and German.

Her latest release, “Voices of Cherokee Women,” includes authentic letters, photographs, diaries, newspaper articles and personal interviews, as well as history — oral and written — and stories told by travelers, traders and missionaries who encountered the Cherokees — 52 accounts.

Written in seven parts, “Voices of Cherokee Women” begins with the stories of the Cherokees and the origins of their spiritual and social culture — even of foods — pointing out the importance of the Cherokee woman in history.

The chapters are rich in history as the reader encounters the actions of men and women in history — where they went, what they wrote and what they said. Among the stories told are those of Rebecca Neugin being carried as a child on the Trail of Tears; Mary Stapler Ross seeing her beautiful Rose Cottage burned to the ground during the Civil War; Hannah Hicks watching as marauders steal her food and split open her beds, scattering the feathers in the wind; and girls at the Cherokee Female Seminary studying the same curriculum as women at Mount Holyoke.

Johnston said her purpose in compiling Voices of Cherokee Women was to “give voice to the voiceless.” Often, Cherokee women’s history has been erased in traditional narratives. This book seeks to correct that by celebrating their special vantage point. “I wanted to share these very rare accounts in order to honor their memory and history,” Johnston said.

The book features accounts of Cherokee women from the Eastern Band of Cherokees and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. This collection represents both the acculturated Cherokee women and traditional women.

“Voices of Cherokee Women” recounts how Cherokee women went from having equality within the tribe to losing much of their political and economic power in the 19th century to regaining power in the 20th, as Joyce Dugan and Wilma Mankiller became the first female chiefs of the Cherokee Nation. The book’s publication was timed for the commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears, which midway in the volume, gives personal interviews of Cherokee women and those who were connected to the Trail of Tears.

In a circular addressed to Benevolent Ladies of the United States in 1829, Catherine Beecher pleaded for the Indian. A paragraph read: “You who gather the youthful group around your fireside, and rejoice in their future hopes and joys, will you forget that the poor Indian loves his children too, and would as bitterly mourn over all their blasted hopes? And, while surrounded by such treasured blessings, ponder with dread and awe these fearful words of Him, who thus forbids the violence, and records the malediction of those, who either as individuals, or as nations, shall oppress the needy and helpless. ...”

Experience the raw emotions as you read from Evan Jones Journal, the Petitions of Ross’s Landing prisoners and the interviews of women such as Lilian Lee Anderson, Eliza Whitmire or Elizabeth Watts — just a few of who are included in “Voices.”

The book moves the reader through situations brought on by the Civil War. Letters from Civil War military leaders to their families and wives are a revealing source of what was going on with the Cherokee tribes. The women were a strong, reckoning force before, during and after the Civil War.

In the last pages of “Voices of Cherokee Nation,” the Aggie Ross Lossiah article titled, “The Story of My Life As Far Back As I Can Remember,” is included. The article appeared in the Journal of Cherokee Studies. It is her own words, beginning when she was 3 years old. The daughter of Joe and Cornelia Ross and great-granddaughter of Principal Chief John Ross, Aggie Ross was born Dec. 22, 1880, and grew up in East Tennessee. If this were the only narrative in “Voices,” it is well worth obtaining this book.

To give the proper perspective to “My Father’s War: Fighting with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II,” one must begin at the ending, as in the first paragraph of Carolyn Ross Johnston’s book: “The bus pulled up to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 9, 2004. One by one, the veterans of the 92nd Division, the Buffalo soldiers, stepped out. They moved slowly toward the memorial, some carrying canes. To one side in the distance, the Lincoln Memorial sits on the horizon; to the other side, the Washington Monument pierces the sky. Entering the arena of the shining new World War II Memorial, unveiled just six months earlier, the black soldiers surveyed the Atlantic and Pacific Pavilions and the pillars representing the states of those who served. They stopped at the wall that is resplendent with a field of four thousand gold stars, representing the over four hundreds thousands Americans who died in the war. The stars recalled to them a wartime practice, when families would place a blue star in the window if one of theirs was in the armed forces, and a gold star when a family member had been killed. They thought of those who lie buried in Italy where they fell, and those who have died since. As they passed the four American eagles holding a suspended laurel wreath, some spoke softly to their fellow veterans. Together, they slowly circled the memorial.”

Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and author of “Night,” said, “You will not know the full scope of America’s military role in World War II until you read this absorbing book. She describes the heroic black soldiers on the battlefields in stories too little known until now.”

You will have to agree as you turn the pages of this enlightening book. These are true stories of brutal courage, valor, persistence and determination that you will only read from the personal knowledge of Johnston, stemming from accounts from here father, Capt. Eugene E. Johnston, and others who played their part in the drama of that historical war.

The 92nd Division of the Fifth Army was the only African-American infantry division which went into in combat in Europe during 1944 and 1945. It suffered more than 3,200 casualties. Known as the Buffalo Soldiers, the men endured racial violence — both on the home front and abroad. This is segregation as you probably don’t know. Read how they survived to help change the nation.

“My Father’s War: Fighting With the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II” was published in 2012 by The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

For information about Johnston’s books, visit the website www.carolynrossjohnston.com. Her books are available online and at most bookstores.