BOOK REVIEW: Black pioneer's story part of Oregon history

Cover photo Revell Books

“A Light in the Wilderness,” tells the story of Letitia Carson, a freed slave who set out on the Oregon Trail with her husband, a white man, to make a new life in the wilds of the Oregon Territory in the mid-1800s. Based on Leticia’s true story, the book chronicles the extraordinary lengths to which she had to go to earn her freedom and keep it at a time when African-Americans were not even allowed to live in Oregon.

When her husband died, the Carsons’ home and possessions were seized and sold at auction because Letitia had no legal standing. Her triumph in a court of law, in which she was forbidden to testify against the white man who plundered her life, set a legal precedent at a time when Oregon leaders were still deciding whether to enter the Union as a free state or a slave state.

“A Light in the Wilderness” intertwines Letitia’s life with that of a white woman, Nancy Hawkins, who makes the journey to Oregon in the same group as the Carsons, and Betsy, a Kalapuya woman living near the Carsons’ Soap Creek farm. The story illuminates the struggle of women, especially women of other races, to find their place in a country built on the concept of freedom.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the bestselling author of more than 25 books. She is a resident of Central Oregon.

“A Light in the Wilderness,” by Jane Kirkpatrick. © 2014, Revell Books. Release date: Sept. 2, 2014.

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