A child’s view of the Oklahoma Land Run is the subject of “Pappy’s Handkerchief,” a new book by award-winning author Devin Scillian, released Sept. 1 by Sleeping Bear Press.
The Oklahoma Land Run – which took place April 22, 1889 – provided freed slaves one of the first opportunities to own land. The author’s preface informs readers that when then-President Benjamin Harrison announced the run, it was widely believed that if enough African-Americans staked claims in Indian Territory, Oklahoma could become an all-black state. Though that did not come to pass, Oklahoma could, at one time, boast more all-black towns than any other state in the union.
“Pappy’s Handkerchief” tells the story of an African-American youth, Moses, and his family as they travel far from their home in Baltimore, Maryland, to Indian Territory for the promise of free land to any American, regardless of color – provided that they farm the land for five years. A family friend, Liberty, accompanies Moses, his mother and father, his grandmother and grandfather, and his two brothers and two sisters on the long, westward journey toward what they hope will be a better life.
The family finally reaches the line of settlers and joins the camp of other Negro families, but as the day of the land run dawns, the family’s circumstances seem dark when it is discovered that Moses’ grandfather, Pappy, and Liberty are gravely ill.
Further complications develop when the family’s wagon, hurtling forward after the start of the land run, tumbles into a dry creek bed, and in a chaotic moment of desperation, young Moses must take to horseback – alone, save for his grandfather’s handkerchief – to stake his family’s claim.
“Pappy’s Handkerchief” is Scillian’s tenth book for Standing Bear Press. Other titles include “Brewster the Rooster,” “A is for America,” and “One Nation.” Scillian is also an accomplished country music artist, claiming two albums and a Detroit Music Award.
In addition to his writing and music pursuits, the author is a hardcore newsman whose assignments have taken him around the world. Scillian’s day job finds him anchoring Detroit’s highest-rated newscast, and his Sunday morning news program, Flashpoint, is a popular roundtable for politics and current events.
Scillian anchored Oklahoma City’s KFOR-TV during the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, and his marathon coverage of the event earned the station the distinguished Peabody Award. He also earned an Edward R. Murrow Award, one of the highest honors in television news, for his documentary, “The China Syndrome: Where Did All the Jobs Go?”
Scillian and his wife, Corey, live with their four children in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
The book is richly illustrated by artist Chris Ellison, who has illustrated works of historical fiction for more than 15 years. “Pappy’s Handkerchief” is the third picture book Ellison has produced for Sleeping Bear Press.
Ellison’s art realistically conveys the hope and the adventure of Moses and his family as they make their way west.
Ellison received his formal training at the Harris School of Art in Franklin, Tennessee, and later at the Portfolio Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He resides with his wife and young son in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“Pappy’s Handkerchief” is part of the Tales of Young Americans series.
For additional information or for a free downloadable Teacher’s Guide, visit www.SleepingBearPress.com.