Images of Slavery – Laura Smith Haviland

boat-151887_1280The power of images. Our minds think in images – not words, not ideas, but the visual images behind those words and ideas.

These past few months I have been meeting the challenge of crafting an original story out of historical research. One of these stories involves the life of Laura Smith Haviland, arriving as a young child in the Michigan territory in 1820. A women that mobilized people, changed institutional policy and forged ahead on her personal belief’s in her work on the underground railroad and participation in the Civil War.

Early in life, once her family moved to the Michigan Territories, no longer being able to attend school, she began to read everything she could, including the books of her parents. One book specially seems to have profoundly impacted the course of her life. A book written by John Woolsworth on the middle passages of the slaves.

Throughout her autobiography, Laura Haviland speaks of the images of slavery; the shackles that held humans together in terror, trauma and degradation. She talks of the sharks following the slave ships cleaning up the dead and dying that were being overboard. Though out her life’s work, the words and images from his book and the images within the stories of the freed slaves she risked her own life to assist further shaped the course and purpose of her life’s journey.

Another image impacting me is her vision. When she still lived on the her family’s farm, she opened a school. A school that was available to all children, including African-American children and Indian children. During this time in her life she was running the school as well as helping to raise their 8 or 9 children and actively working with members of the underground railroad. On night she had a vision. In this vision, she saw an angel riding a horse, then stopping in front of their barn. At the bottom of the Angel’s feet was a fresh grave. Her youngest child, approximately 1 1/2 years old, was standing on the edge of the grave. In her vision she cry’s out, fearing her youngest child will join the dead. The Angel spoke to her saying “Let the dead be buried, you have much work to do.”

Within two weeks Laura’s husband, Mother, Father, sister, oldest child, youngest child and another family member died. Still in the early stages of grieving, she somehow met the challenges of meeting the needs of escaping slaves and their unimaginable needs and escaping the bounty hunters who held a high price tag on her own life.

What images are impacting us as we develop our stories? Allow these images to come forward in your story’s story-line as they already have a great deal of meaning for you in why you choose this story or this story-line. Then allow other characters, adventures and the physical reality of the story’s location come in and round these main images or main points of view.

In story as in live, maybe too you might ask yourself: What images are impacting the life living reality of my life.


Until next time . . . Let Your Storyographer’s Journey Begin!

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