Today’s Wednesday Writers’ guest is Tamara Kraft. Tamara will be talking about the setting of Red Sky Over America, the first book in her historical series Ladies of Oberlin. I must admit using the setting of a college founded in the 1800s is an interesting place to set a novel. Welcome, Tamara!
Oberlin College: A College Ahead of Its Time
by Tamara Kraft
My current novel series, Ladies of Oberlin, is about 3 women roommates who graduated from one of the most amazing colleges in American history, Oberlin College. Book 1, Red Sky Over America focuses on America, a woman attending Oberlin who is an abolitionist studying to become a missionary. The problem is her father is a slave owner. Here’s a little bit about this amazing college.
(Oberlin College Picture used with permission)
Oberlin College, founded in 1833 in Northern Ohio, was a college ahead of its time in many ways. In 1835, it became the first college in the United States to regularly admit African Americans. It’s also the oldest co-educational college in the US. In 1837, it admitted four women, three of whom graduated and earned a college degree. Mary Jane Patterson, another Oberlin graduate, became the first African American woman in 1862 to earn a Bachelor of Arts college degree.
One of Oberlin’s founders once bragged that “Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good”. Oberlin was peculiar in many ways in advancing the causes of the time. Charles Finney, the second president of the college, helped it earn its controversial reputation. He was the fiery evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, a Christian revivalist movement in the early and mid 1800s.
Oberlin College was the hotbed of abolitionist activity and a stop for the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. It was once called “the town that started the Civil War” because of its participation in the Oberlin Wellington Rescue in 1858. Slave catchers came to Oberlin to capture an escaped slave and return him to Kentucky. Most of the town came to the slave’s aid and rescued him. For their trouble, over twenty were arrested and put on trial for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. During the raid on Harper’s Ferry by John Brown, three men from Oberlin participated.
Oberlin College was also well known for the women who graduated from the college and participated in the suffrage and prohibition movements. Lucy Stone, considered a pioneer for the women’s movement, graduated from Oberlin College in 1847.
(Picture of Arch taken by me)
Oberlin was also very well known in the missionary movement of the late 1800s. Between 1860 and 1900, 90% of missionaries sent overseas by the American Missionary Society were graduates of Oberlin College. Between 1899 and 1901, thirteen missionaries from Oberlin were martyred during the Boxer Rebellion of China. An arch in Tappan Square at the center of Oberlin pays honor to their sacrifices.
Red Sky Over America
Ladies of Oberlin, Book 1
by Tamara Kraft
William and America confront evil, but will it costs them everything?
In 1857, America, the daughter of a slave owner, is an abolitionist and a student at Oberlin College, a school known for its radical ideas. America goes home to Kentucky during school break to confront her father about freeing his slaves.
America’s classmate, William, goes to Kentucky to preach abolition to churches that condone slavery. America and William find themselves in the center of the approaching storm sweeping the nation and may not make it home to Ohio or live through the struggle.
Red Sky Over America tackles the most turbulent time in history with thorough research and fascinating characters. Tamera Lynn Kraft has woven a tale about the evils of slavery that should never be forgotten. — Mary Ellis, author of The Quaker and the Rebel, The Lady and the Officer, and The Last Heiress
America Leighton’s hands trembled as she read the letter. It was worse than she thought. She stood frozen in place, staring at the words, hoping somehow they would change.
The grandfather clock chimed, and she glanced up. Five o’clock. She didn’t want to be late. Placing the envelope in her book, she tucked it in the pocket of her hooded cloak, pushed open the post office door, and rushed outside. As she passed the historic elm on the edge of College Park, the wind burned her cheeks, just what she needed to get her thoughts off the mail she’d received.
Two riders on horseback galloped toward her, rustling the yellow autumn leaves and stirring up a cloud of dust and brown grass. Dirt clung to their long wool coats buttoned tight against their chins. They wore their wide brim planters hats low on their brows. If their attire wasn’t enough, the revolvers holstered around their waists and the shotguns perched in their gear showed what they were.
America drew in a short breath. She diverted her attention and walked on to Ladies Hall a bit faster than usual, but the hope they would leave her alone trampled under horses’ hooves as the men rode across the grassy lawn and stopped in front of her.
The older man tipped his hat. “Ma’am, we’re deputies from Maysville.”
Cold air turned her breath to steam. Remember to act natural. She forced her voice to keep an even tone. “You’re a long way from home.”
The younger man wrinkled his forehead. “Aren’t you Miss Leighton?”
America pressed her tongue across the back of her teeth and nodded. She didn’t recognize any of them.
He turned to the other man. “George, this is Colonel Leighton’s daughter.”
The older man smiled, and his front gold tooth glimmered. “Ma’am, the name’s George Mills. This is my partner, Pete Fowler. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I’ve had the occasion to buy horses from the colonel in the past. He has a good eye for horse flesh.”
“So why are you gentlemen clear up here in Northern Ohio?” She didn’t need to ask.
“We’ve been hired to retrieve some property.” Mr. Mills adjusted in his saddle. “What about you? You’re a long way from Kentucky.”
“I attend Oberlin College.”
Mr. Mills raised his eyebrow. “I didn’t know Oberlin was a ladies’ school.”
“It’s not. I attend classes with men.”
He leaned back in his saddle. “Didn’t think the colonel would allow his girl to attend one of those schools.”
Mr. Fowler cleared his throat. “Maybe you could help us, Miss Leighton, you being a Kentuckian and all. Have you seen any fugitive slaves around these parts? We’re looking for an ebony skinned girl about sixteen with a scar across her right cheek, and a copper colored young buck, tall and thin.”
Taking a couple of steady breaths to keep her tone even, she gazed straight at them without flinching. “No, can’t say as I have.” They couldn’t have given a better description of Chance and Milly. If only they would ride off.
“Don’t fret about it,” Mr. Mills said. “We’ll find them. Ma’am, if you do see any Negro runaways, you’ll let us know? We’re staying at the hotel.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “I’ll do that.”
Mr. Fowler tipped his hat, and they rode off.
America leaned against the elm and watched them. Everything inside urged her to dash off to the boarding house where Milly and Chance stayed, but she waited until the men were out of sight. As soon as they disappeared from view, she hoisted her skirts up and ran to warn the couple to hide.
Want to read more? You can purchase Red Sky Over America at these online sites:
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About the Author:
Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novels and novellas in print. She’s been married for 39 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and three grandchildren.
Tamera has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire for Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist and has written children’s church curriculum. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.
You can contact Tamera online at these sites.
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