Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"Eliza - A Generational Journey" - Morton City - an exoduster community

 Crystal Bradshaw's book chronicle's her five-great grandmother, who was a slave for 40 years. Eliza Bradshaw was part of an exoduster group in the late 1870s that helped the now defunct town of Morton City in Hodgeman County.

Courtesy of Crystal Bradshaw

It seemed, at first, that Eliza Bradshaw’s life was long buried beneath her tombstone in the town cemetery – which just marks her birth and death.
Crystal Bradshaw knew her distant grandmother was born into slavery. She knew Eliza was an exoduster who came to Hodgeman County with her family and 100 others in search of a life free of racism and poverty after the Civil War. On the sparsely populated, windswept prairie, they began building a small community they called Morton City.
But when Crystal was tasked to research her family history for one of her high school classes at Hodgeman County High School, she found few answers.
Courtesy of Kansas Memory
“A lot of people in my high school class knew about their family members but not many in my family knew where the Bradshaw side came from,” said Crystal, 21, now a junior at the University of Kansas.
For the past five years, Crystal has been combing newspaper articles and research papers to learn more about her family’s past. She compiled her information into her first nonfiction novel – “Eliza – A Generational Journey,” which she self-published this fall.
She saved her money from her three jobs to publish 50 of the 133-page books. Crystal works as a resident assistant in a college dorm and as a communications specialist and office manager for The Project on the History of Black Writing – part of KU’s English Department. She also earns money as a writer.
In the book, Crystal preserves the highs and lows of Eliza’s life journey – which parallels a harsh time in history.
Eliza was born a slave, growing up in poverty in a one-room cabin with no windows. At age 7 she was sold to another planter. At 17, she was sold again to a cruel slave owner. There were beatings. There were sorrows.
Courtesy of Crystal Bradshaw
And, even when freed, Eliza and her family faced more challenges because of their race and their new found freedom.
Crystal was shocked when she began delving into Eliza’s story, but was also disappointed that it had nearly faded away as the years went by.
“How do you let this rich history just slip away?” Crystal asked, adding. “That is why I didn’t want to just compile my research. That is why I wanted to write a book to preserve it so future Bradshaws can go and see where they came from.” 
To read more of Crystal's story, click here.

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