I became interested in the 1918 time period while researching my family’s history. My grandfather, Martin Evenson, was one of the survivors of the ill-fated Tuscania–a British luxury ocean liner ocean refurbished to carry troops to Europe to fight in France. On February 5, 1918, the ship was torpedoed by the German U-Boat UB 77 in the North Sea between Northern Ireland and Scotland. As the ship sank, survivors escaped in lifeboats or tried to swim to shore. Many were picked up by fishing boats, but others soldiers were killed by rough waves and the rocky coast of the Island of Islay. Over 200 lost their lives.
My great uncle, Private Arthur J. Evanston (9th Infantry, 2nd Division) was killed in action November 8, 1918–just 3 days before the Armistice was signed. Arthur is buried at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, near Romagne-sous-Monfaucon, in France. My grandfather did not learn of his brother’s passing until Martin returned to Wisconsin.
As I read more about the history of WWI and the events taking place in America between 1917-1920, I became fascinated. It was a period of great change and turmoil. The U.S. had reluctantly entered the war in 1917, helping the allies defeat the Germans. Suffragettes marched on Washington, some women being beaten and jailed. The “drys” won support for Prohibition–our nation’s “grand experiment.” The Great Influenza killed thousands–sometimes in a single day. The Red Scare grew as anarchists and communism appeared to threaten the American way of life.
But more disturbing to me were the stories of African Americans. Particularly in the Deep South, their rights had been stripped by “Jim Crow” laws. As black sharecroppers fought for fair treatment and payment for their toil, many were threatened or killed, with little recourse for the white perpetrators. In defiance, thousands fled north to Chicago and Detroit, in what is now known as “The Great Migration.”
The violence and injustices against blacks in this time period are not fully covered in our history books or fully known about by most Americans. I felt compelled to tell the stories of these forgotten victims and heroes.
I am writing a series of historical novels based on this time period, focusing on the little-told stories of black injustice. My first novel, (working title of The Secrets of Slow Creek), follows two women–one white and one black–who share the same town and the love of one child.
My current project is based on the Race Riots of Chicago in July-August of 1919. It follows three characters–an Irish female office worker, a black worker recently immigrated from Mississippi, and a black soldier who fought with the 370th Regiment in France who defends his neighborhood during the riots with other men from the Chicago National Guard. I am seeking representation for both novels.
Tamara Tabel is a poet, novelist and copywriter/marketer, operating her own “virtual” advertising agency. Her award-winning poetry had appeared in several literary journals, including Poetica Magazine Holocaust Edition and The Journal of Modern Poetry, where her poem “Arbeit Macht Frei: Dachau 2012” received the Silver Prize. Her non-fiction article “Journaling Through Grief” appeared in Writer’s Digest. She is an active member of the poetry community in Chicagoland, speaking, teaching and appearing at poetry readings. She was recognized as her community’s “Expert Writer in Residence.” Her education includes a B.A. in Journalism/Advertising and a Masters in Literature Certificate from the University of Chicago for completing its “Great Books Program.”