Author Mike Jordan calls them the unforgettable interviews.
It was 1998, and the curator of the Museum of Chicot County, the late Dorothy Douglas, said she knew of great-granddaughters of the slaves who toiled at Lakeport and other nearby plantations and offered to set up some interviews.
The stories the four elderly women relayed to Jordan, passed down through the generations, became the inspiration for storylines in his novel, The Freedom Song, set at Lakeport Plantation in the 1850s.
Now Jordan is visiting Lakeport Plantation for an author talk and book signing Saturday March 4, noon to 2 p.m. The mansion at Lakeport, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Chicot County, has been restored and is a museum operated by Arkansas State University.
The story of Jordan’s research and writing of The Freedom Song is a dramatic tale of perseverance and discovery that resulted in the award-winning journalist and professor emeritus at Pepperdine University traipsing all over Tennessee and Arkansas
The Freedom Song is the second book in the author’s “Lost Heroes” series. Crockett’s Coin, the first installment that launches the story, was released last year.
Jordan’s novels will be available for sale and signing at the March 4 event, or can be purchased at mikejordanbooks.com, at Amazon.com, or at any book outlet around the world.
On his blog, mikejordanbooks.com/the-mike-jordan-blog/, Jordan tells the story of how two of the women met him at the Lake Village museum and then how he drove to the town of Eudora to meet the other two. All of the women have since passed away.
One of the women, Herxia J. Scott, was a wealth of information, Jordan said, and the others related pieces of stories that, once Jordan expanded them and weaved them into his novel, became memorable scenes in The Freedom Song.
In one scene, for example, the slaves at Lakeport secretly make drums and, while Lakeport planter Lycurgus Johnson and his wife Lydia were away, sneaked down to the river and beat the drums as loud as they could so they would be heard at nearby plantations in Arkansas and Mississippi. Jordan was so moved by the story he asked his publisher to put the drum-playing image on the cover of the novel.
Reviewer Stephanie Baker, the first professional reviewer to read “The Freedom Song,” gave it her highest ratings (A+) in overall readability and content, and a letter grade of “A” for writing and story line.
“I was particularly moved by the main female characters, one white and one slave,” Baker wrote. “Winnie is a strong matriarch who is loving and loyal . . . a strong force and lifesaver to many in the community. Mary is somewhat of a mixture of virtually every woman: she is at times a part of the white plantation owner’s realm because she serves as a model, literally, for the plantation owner’s wife.
“Mary is also part black, so there is her African heritage, which ties in with the novel’s title, ‘The Freedom Song.’ She is young, yet has an old soul due to her past experiences as a young orphan. She is feminine, yet has strength and convictions.”
Jordan’s next novel in the series, The Runner, also set at Lakeport and also filled with storylines related to his “unforgettable interviews,” is due in 2018.