By Rachel M. Anderson, Contributing Writer
(Roseville, MN) – We all reach a point in life where we start thinking about the legacy we will leave behind for the next generation. What will your legacy be?
According to a recent survey conducted by the financial services company Ameriprise, personal values and memories are more important to most people than financial assets. More than one-third of respondents (37%) ranked personal values as most important, followed by memories of experience shared with family (35%), financial assets (21%) and personal items with sentimental or monetary value (7%).
For Terrance C. Newby of Roseville, Minnesota, the legacy he is planning to leave behind hinges more so on making sure future generations know where they came from. His family may very well have a connection to the event that led to the end of slavery in America.
“I had heard through family gatherings, and other things, that we may have had some distant relationship to one of John Brown’s raiders, but it was never discussed in detail,” says Newby.
John Brown was the abolitionist who on October 16, 1859, led a band of 21 men in a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. At the time the small community, located at the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, was in Virginia. It is now part of West Virginia.
Brown and his men intended to seize the arms stored there, then use them to forcefully bring an end to slavery in the South. The first of Brown’s men killed in that raid was Dangerfield Newby, believed to be one of Terrance C. Newby’s ancestors.
Terrance, who is an intellectual property attorney, decided to put his research skills to personal use to learn all he could about the man. He interviewed family members, traveled to Harpers Ferry to study materials in the museum there, and reviewed dozens of books about John Brown and the raid. A key resource was “Migrants Against Slavery: Virginians & The Nation.” The book, written by Phillip J. Schwarz, Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, provided valuable background on Dangerfield Newby’s family and his plight.
Among the facts Newby was able to determine: Dangerfield Newby’s father was a white man named Henry Newby, who owned about 200 acres of land in Virginia. His mother was a black slave named Elsey, and while never married, the couple had several children together and lived as a family in Virginia. He also learned that after his children were grown, Henry emancipated his family and moved them to Ohio.
“All that is true. What isn’t known is why he did it. What his motives were, and what reason he had for giving most of his estate to Elsey after he died are unclear,” says Newby, who has used his imagination to fill in the blanks.
Outskirts Press released Newby’s debut novel, Dangerfield’s Promise, in April 2022. Here is a summary of the plot: Fictional protagonist Michael Turner is a brilliant black surgeon who embodies the late 20th Century
American dream. But his success has come at a high price. He is estranged from his family – he regards them as lacking ambition and innate talent. And his family views him as aloof, arrogant, and neglectful of his responsibilities to his family and the black community.
After Turner’s dying grandmother tells him that he may be distantly related to Dangerfield Newby, he begins to research this possible link with history, and in the process, uncovers dark family secrets unknown to anyone living.
The story is told from both the points of view of Michael Turner and his distant relative, Dangerfield Newby. In the novel, Dangerfield is a newly emancipated black Virginian who wants to buy his wife, Harriet, and all of his children out of slavery and move them into the free state of Ohio. Harriet’s owner, however, refuses to sell Harriet or any of the children.
Outraged but powerless, Dangerfield decides to join abolitionist John Brown, who he has met previously during his travels through Ohio. Dangerfield sees John Brown’s bold plan to capture the armory in Harpers Ferry and eliminate American slavery as his best option to free his enslaved family.
Early reviews for the book have been very favorable. D. Donovan from Midwest Book Review said, “Dangerfield's Promise is a satisfying blend of literary history and contemporary concerns, laced with the atmosphere of magical realism. With so many elements at work, one might anticipate a weighty read, but the saga of Dangerfield Newby, a newly-freed black man who determines to buy his wife and children out of slavery, is a compelling creation that needs no historical familiarity or literary acuity in order to prove attractive to a wide audience…Its literary and historical roots are powerfully wrought and highly recommended not just for individual reading, but for discussion groups that consider the nature of black history.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terrance C. Newby of Roseville, Minnesota is an attorney, writer, and playwright. His first play, "The Cage," was professionally staged in St. Paul in 2016. His play, "The Body Politic," was professionally staged in June 2018.
His short stories have appeared in OurEcho and in Straitjackets Magazine, and his debut novel, Dangerfield’s Promise, was published by Outskirts Press in Spring 2022. Dangerfield's Promise is a story that explores what freedom truly means to two protagonists living in different centuries.
Blending historical events and contemporary fiction with elements of magical realism and psychology, Dangerfield’s Promise weaves the two story lines together as both protagonists search for their families, and ultimately, their souls. The story was inspired by the author’s research into the life of Dangerfield Newby, who is believed to be one of his distant relatives.
Dangerfield Newby was the first of John Brown’s raiders to die in the October 16, 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, which at the time was in Virginia, and is now considered part of West Virginia. It is believed the intent of the raid was to seize the arms stored there, then use them to forcefully bring an end to slavery in the South.
In addition to writing, Terrance C. Newby enjoys spending time at his cabin in Northern Minnesota, a home once owned by Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick. Kraus’ somewhat autobiographical novel in which she shares her thoughts about artists, writers, filmmakers, theory, fiction and politics inspired the Amazon series by the same name.