What others are saying about the books:
When my childhood friend, Joyce Salter Johnson, first told me that she was writing a one-hundred year history of the early Black settlers of Stephenson County, Illinois, I thought: What could she possibly find? Wherever would she get the information? Did any documentation even exist?
Then she asked: Would I help her edit her findings? She is a problem-solver, and I love her persistence, diligence and fairness. I could think of no one better to write this account, and I could not resist her invitation to be a part of this project.
What she ultimately found has resulted in this insider’s look at the impact of Black migration on a small Midwestern county, in this case, Stephenson County, Illinois, and its county seat, Freeport. Her findings reach beyond what is often written about the impact of The Great Migration of Negroes from the South to other areas of the United States. Joyce describes the impact of this social change in a real, sometimes gritty way. Joyce documents the amazing and often heartbreaking results of this migration and how these families survived, and even flourished, despite overwhelming odds. Frankly, I do not know how they or their descendants have managed to overcome their many obstacles and for that matter, how many of them continue to persist despite continuous attempts to block their progress.
Once I saw it, I knew right away that this was a worthwhile project. From her research, I have learned much about my Black neighbors and the prejudices that they faced.
Thus, her book has become an opportunity for me. This experience has empowered me to make up for the powerlessness that I felt as seven-year-old child on the East Side of Freeport, Illinois. Because of Joyce’s efforts, the stories of these families have become my stories, giving me the chance to etch these families into the history of this country in a way that was denied to them in their lifetimes. So, my dear friend, I salute you and your documentation.
Kaliopee “Topy” Malagaris Fisk-Chicago, Il.
Retried Senior Editor, Los Angeles Times