port of harlem magazine
nubia k essentials
Book Review: Elizabeth’s Field - Of Freedom and Bondage on Harriet Tubman's Eastern Shore
Jul 28 – Aug 10, 2022
peter h michael

In 2012, writer Barbara Lockhart encountered the usual brick walls of disinterest from agents and major publishing houses when she sought to have her recently completed novel, "Elizabeth’s Field: Of Freedom and Bondage on Harriet Tubman's Eastern Shore,published. So, Lockhart self-published her book, had it listed on Amazon, and began letting people know about it. The book has drawn raves and was recently republished in a second edition.

When Lockhart purchased her farm in 1970, her writer’s inquisitiveness led her to delve into county land records to learn the history of what she had bought. There she uncovered the rare situation for the time that the farm had been owned from 1852 to 1857 by a mixed free Black and Native American woman—Elizabeth Burton, the Elizabeth of the book title—and that then the title passed suddenly to a White family that owned the farm for three generations before selling it to the author.

But how did Elizabeth and her family lose their land wondered Lockhart? As the author told us in a recent interview, she “had to find out why.” Nine years of research later, with "Elizabeth’s Field" Lockhart turned out a page-turner based on the free Black woman who owned Lockhart's farm in Harriet Tubman country of Maryland’s Eastern Shore of the 1850s, then had it essentially schemed from her by a White neighbor.

"Elizabeth’s Field" is related through the character Mattie, based on the author's 84-year-old African American neighbor who told Lockhart the intact oral tradition of the property. Lockhart deftly weaves past and present into the revealing lesson of how wrongs can echo down through generations. Technically fiction, "Elizabeth's Field" precisely recounts the racist aggravations that the actual people who lived on Lockhart's farm and nearby endured 165 years ago. Harriet Tubman, who was from the same county, makes multiple appearances in the book.

This gem of a story, which any major publisher should have been glad to back, received its due when "Elizabeth’s Field" won a national book prize for fiction with an Independent Book Publishers award, an IPPY as this honor is called.

Barbara Lockhart is a retired educator who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and is the recipient of multiple Maryland Arts Council awards for her works. In our opinion she is as good an example as any of the self-published author who deserves a much wider audience.
Underground Railroad Free Press

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