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 many were killed by rough waves and the rocky coast of the Island of Islay. Over 200 lost their lives.
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 threatened 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.
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. Recently, 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.”