By Josette Keelor
After a vow made to her students, Barbara Frank found her opportunity to write historic fiction when she found a $330 bill of sale for a little girl named Aggy among documents in the attic of her historic plantation house.
A Warren County resident since 1997, Frank said she's trying through her books to raise awareness of a long stretch of American history many haven't studied to great extent.
Her "Princess" series spans over 200 years, telling the story of three members of the same family affected by slavery. The second book, "Aggy of Zion," takes place in Warren County.
"It's a walk through the history of slavery," she said.
Aggy is the descendant of the fictional Anna, a black girl kidnapped from a rural area of Africa in 1715 and transported on a slave ship to Corotoman in Lancaster County. In the second book, Aggy is sold in 1836 to the real-life Earle family of Warren County in 1836. She was sold away from her mother, and her daughter is later taken from her and sold.
In the third book, Ferolene, a laundress living in rural Georgia during the Civil Rights era, learns about her ancestor Anna, bringing the stories full circle.
While researching her books, Frank, a former literature professor, spent time at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton and the Clarke County Historical Association learning about slavery in Virginia to collect data for stories she stressed are historical fiction. She also drew on knowledge gained from four years working as a project officer in the Africa Bureau and in the Sudano-Sahelian Office of the United Nations Development Programme, based in New York.
The plotlines rely heavily on denominations of the real-life animist religion of Africa that Anna brings with her to America.
"The religion, if you follow it, is a theme all the way through," Frank said. "It's just fascinating how strong it is."
On Amazon, she published "Anna of Corotoman" through her own company Marsh Books of White Post in March 2013. "Aggy of Zion" was published on Amazon in September and her third, "Ferolene of Tincup," on Jan. 20. The books are available in print and for e-reader, through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, and at Royal Oak Books in Front Royal.
Frank will give a presentation on the three books at the Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville from 5:30 to 7 p.m. today. She'll also read from "Aggy of Zion" and do a book signing.
Today's event is free, and she plans to speak on research that went into her trilogy -- like the court-documented murder at Rock Hill in Warren County.
"Slaves murdered their master, burned him to ashes in a cabin fireplace," she said. The authorities couldn't determine a definitive motive, Frank said, "so I made the motive the selling away of a child, and that's my invention, but it's a pretty good invention because it was speculated at the time that it could have been the reason."
"The memory of it's very strong when Aggy comes to live here, and it's still strong in this community," she said. "People talk about it today."
Mixed with accuracies she was able to include in the books are some half-truths, like the date the Earles purchased Aggy in the bill of sale Frank has framed.
The Earles didn't move into their Warren County home until 1842, she said, "so I had to fudge by six years, because she was sold, and it's right there, in 1836."
For more information about Barbara Frank's "Princess" series, visit www.marshbooks.com, amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. Her books are on sale at Royal Oak Books in Front Royal and can be ordered from all other bookstores.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or email@example.com