Robert Carey Freedom Ships
I have come to know Robert Carey as a member of District One of the Kansas Authors Club, where he has been active for the last year (and I have for many years, was State President in 1989), having given a program to the group on the experience of the self publication and marketing of his novel, and having arranged for us to meet in the community center of the retirement home at Aldersgate Village where he and his wife now live.
Dr. Robert D. Carey was trained as an educator, and he and his wife went to Africa in 1950 to serve in mission schools in Liberia, West Africa. They stayed for 26 years. Then they came home and served for seven years in Appalachia--he as Executive Vice President of Union College, Barbourville, Kentucky, and she as Financial Aid Director. They came back to Kansas in 1983 and served several churches here before retiring--to then finish the novel, Freedom Ships.
There are two things I find very special about this book: the handling of its subject matter and the nature of its publication.
The book is based on an historical phenomenon, the colonization of Liberia by blacks from America returning to Africa, "freed slaves who sailed to Africa in ships arranged by the American Colonization Society with the cooperation of the United States Government." It is "dedicated to those brave black pioneers, and to their white friends in the Society who raised funds and supported the pioneers in their efforts to establish a colony, stamp out the slave trade on their newly found shores, and create the first black republic in Africa." But it is written as an historical novel, and a very readable novel, the characters coming alive for the reader, and their fates coming to matter--as years of historical research are transmuted imaginatively into fiction to give the reader a real sense of what the experience must have been like.
Then, after years of trying to find a publisher (three years with the help of an agent), Dr. Carey decided to self publish (a decision with which I identify--though our methods have been very different). He had to teach himself, first, how to see a book through the publication process, then how to market it, through both traditional means and the internet. He established his own press, Af-Am Links Press, and now writes his own publicity and fills his own orders. This is not very different from what we have done for other Kansas authors through the Woodley Press, so we can identify with that much of the experience as a press. But, while we have seriously considered it a time or two, we have never published anything as substantial as this novel, in either the substance (360 pages) or the years of research that inform it.
And what I like best about the book is that it tells a story that even those who are well informed in African-American history are not very likely to know. As Margaret Baker says in her review, "Conflict . . . comes in many forms: differing views of freedom, slavery/abolitionist antagonism, but most of all the way the cultures of Africans who remained in Africa and those who were captured and forced into generations of slavery had diverged in the intervening years." This last is also the most thought provoking aspect of the book, on that time-honored theme "you can't go home again." But they did. On those grounds alone, I definitely recommend the book.
Freedom Ships is credited to two authors, Robert D. Carey and John H. Furbay, both of whom served for years as educators in Liberia, and the two men did work together, John Furbay financing much of the research, for some fifteen years, but then, as his health declined, most of the writing of the book as historical novel fell to Robert Carey.
If you would like to purchase of a copy of Freedom Ships
pp., $14.95, AF-Am Links Press, Topeka, KS, 1999), the address
is: AF-Am Links Press, 3100 SW Bracken Court, # 10, Topeka, KS
66614-6011, and the web site is: <www.Af-AmLinksPress.com>)
and the e-mail address is: <email@example.com>.