During the process of writing Again, I had to research the elite black society of the late 19th century for the historical sections. In one chapter, I refer to the African-American Freedmen's Sourcebook, and specifically to the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was incorporated by statute as a banking institution in Washington, DC, for the benefit of freed slaves and their descendants. From 1865 through 1870, additional branches were established, including an office in New York in 1866. The document page featured in the novel is identical to the Register of Depositors used by the institution. As a matter of record, the depositor's complexion was used as an identifier. To see an actual record, click the logo below.
Click the picture below to visit Digital Schomburg, a wonderful online source on 19th Century African Americans hosted by the New York Public Library.
Another resource I used was the compendium, The Black New Yorkers - The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology, 400 Years of African American History. It is an interesting and informative read.
The infamous section of 19th century New York known as Five Points serves as one of the backdrops to a later section in Again. Known for its vice, crime and debauchery, Five Points was a magnet to the highest and lowest of New York society. The mystique of Five Points even drew the likes of President Lincoln and Davy Crockett, who expressed a fascination and repugnance at the teeming poverty and decadence. Click the pic below to read more about Five Points.
Here is a clip I created showing places in 19th century New York that I feature in Again. Most of the photos of the Five Points section were taken by noted photographer Jacob Riis who captured the grit and spirit of the place and the people who lived there. (Please allow time for the clip to load.)
The picture above is entitled "Black-and-Tan Dive" and is included in the movie clip. The label is explained in Riis' own words in an essay he did on New York race relations entitled "The Color Line in New York - 1890", a very uninformed and simplistic view of the dynamics of race relations as he saw them. See quote below:
The border-land where the white and black races meet in common debauch, the aptly-named black-and-tan saloon, has never been debatable ground from a moral stand-point. It has always been the worst of the desperately bad. Than this commingling of the utterly depraved of both sexes, white and black, on such ground, there can be no greater abomination. Usually it is some foul cellar dive, perhaps run by the political “leader” of the district, who is “in with” the police. In any event it gathers to itself all the lawbreakers and all the human wrecks within reach. When a fight breaks out during the dance a dozen razors are handy in as many boot-legs, and there is always a job for the surgeon and the ambulance. The black “tough” is as handy with the razor in a fight as his peaceably inclined brother is with it in pursuit of his honest trade. As the Chinaman hides his knife in his sleeve and the Italian his stiletto in the bosom, so the negro goes to the ball with a razor in his boot-leg, and on occasion does as much execution with it as both of the others together. More than three-fourths of the business the police have with the colored people in New York arises in the black-and-tan district, now no longer fairly representative of their color.
During the scene at Delmonico's where Joseph Luce and his friends are having lunch, one of them passes around an issue of a magazine called "The Pearl: A Journal of Facetive and Voluptuous Reading" which features erotic pictures and prose. This magazine actually existed and was published in London in 1879. Only 18 issues were published before it shut down. The magazine featured serialized fiction, baudy jokes, ballads and limericks that sought to "inflame and amuse." More information about the magazine can be found at Libido.
To give the readers an idea how I envision Joseph's home, I include pictures of the famous Vanderbilt mansion in New York - full of grandeur and gilt and more than a little ostentation.
I found this pic over at Vintage Images. The caption reads Beautiful Black woman wearing fur coat, hand resting on elaborate Art Nouveau vase.. I couldn't help thinking of the photo Rhea was given of Rachel and Sarah so I thought I would include it. Yes, she could be Rachel, I think (except her hair is not cork screws).
FACTS BEHIND GOLD MOUNTAIN
My historical novella GOLD MOUNTAIN features the romance between Quiang, an Asian immigrant working the Transcontinental Railroad, and Leah, an enterprising black woman who moved west to start a business in 19th century Sacramento, California. As with AGAIN, I researched the era to incorporate details in the story. Below are a couple of links about the Chinese laborers who worked the rails:
CHINESE-AMERICAN CONTRIBUTION TO TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD
The Transcontinental Railroad
Eventually, Quiang becomes involved with the Tong, an arm of the Triad, the infamous secret society that began in dynastic China and came to the states as a benevolent group formed to aid the many Asian immigrants. Eventually, the society began trading in drugs (mainly opium) and prostitution. Below are a couple of links on the Tong and Triad:
The Six Companies
Below are pictures that I used for inspiration for certain scenes:
Members of the Six Companies
This pic is a prototype of the shop run by Wao, a member of the Triad and a trader in opium. Behind the curtains would be the area where "guests" could partake of opium and women.
Buildings from Old Sacramento have been restored and renovated for tourists. This would have looked like the typical street my protagonists would have walked.
A dismal look at what Sacramento's Chinatown might have looked like in the Old West.
I enjoyed writing the historical parts of Again so much that I began another novel set in the 19th century, this time in 1863 Chicago. In the story, an African-American female detective named Livia Delacourt runs her own agency, but routinely works undercover with the Pinkerton Agency. She is confronted with a case that threatens to unravel the tenuous peace of a city already beset by political divisions and the fall-out of the Civil War when a former slave is accused of murdering his former owner. In order to find the truth, she reluctantly has to rely on the help of bordello owner, Damien Abers and his Chinese partner, Wu Long, both of whom stir unsettling but provocative feelings in her.
Read the first chapter of my untitled
work in progress. Feel free to email your comments.
The story above features the infamous Delphine LaLaurie of New Orleans. I wrote an earlier story on LaLaurie some years ago. Read
Horror on Royal Street