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Northern Roots

Valerie Bradley-Holliday, Ph.D. 

Northern Roots


African Descended Pioneers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

What does Sampson Noll, a desperate run-away slave who hit his master over the head with a wagon stave have in common with Charlotte Preston, a young woman, who was in the first graduating class at Northern State Normal School?

The first part of the answer is that both of these individuals lived in a region known as the U.P., the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The second part is that both these individuals were Americans of African descent. What would bring Mr. Noll, Ms. Preston, and other individuals of African descent to an isolated area of the United States where winter snowfalls can reach 200 inches and temperatures can be so cold that they can cause fog to freeze? Can you imagine entering an unfamiliar isolated region during a May passage riding in a steamboat across the choppy waters of the Straits of Mackinac to get to the land mass known as the Upper Peninsula? And once you managed to cross into this region of the United States, enduring early spring to fall’s end, you now have to deal with mosquitoes, no-see-ums,deer flies, stable flies, black flies, wood ticks, and deer ticks. As the months progress, you have to face bitter cold winters with no kinship support(unless your family came with you) to comfort you, and with only your hopes, dreams, and self reliance to sustain you. A variety of individuals of African descent did just that and settled in the Upper Peninsula.

Coming from a perspective of the main opportunities that drew most people to the area, this book discusses people from their areas of interest and employment: lumber, mining, hunting, fishing, education, and sports. In the end, the book reveals what these individuals have inspired by their incredible tenacity.

Author: Valerie Bradley-Holliday, Ph.D.

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