Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current, April 04, 2019, Page 10, Image 10

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Columbia County Reads 2019
Focuses on Historical Account of Oregon Slavery
Authors will appear at the
Vernonia Library on April 26
The six libraries of Columbia
County have selected two books by
authors Phillip Margolin and Gregory
Nokes for this year’s Columbia County
Reads 2019. Both books, one a work of
fiction and the other nonfiction, tell the
historical account of an Oregon slave
who took his former master to court and
won the case in 1853.
Columbia County Reads is a
yearly collaboration between Columbia
County libraries to bring reading to the
forefront of public discourse. If every-
one reads the same book or author at the
same time, it is hoped that it will inspire
discussions, connections, and a shared
perspective among Columbia County
Participating libraries include
Clatskanie Library District, Columbia
City Community Library, Rainier City
Library, Scappoose Public Li-
brary, St. Helens Public Library,
and Vernonia Public Library.
Each library has the two select-
ed books available for checkout.
Gregory Nokes’s book
Breaking Chains: Slavery on
Trial in the Oregon Territory
is the true account of a former
black slave in Polk County who
sued his owner for the freedom
of his children. Phillip Mar-
golin’s book Worthy Brown’s
Daughter is a work of fiction
based on the account described
in Nokes’s nonfiction book. The Colum-
bia County libraries hope that this pair-
ing of a work of fiction and nonfiction
will appeal to a broader range of readers:
those who enjoy the faster paced narra-
tive of Margolin’s story and those who
want to learn the history behind the story
by reading Nokes’s book.
Both authors will jointly give a
presentation at four Columbia County
libraries. Participants are encouraged
to attend whatever library event is most
convenient for them:
• St. Helens Public Library,
April 25, 7:00 pm
• Vernonia Public Library,
April 26, 6:00 pm
• Scappoose Public Library,
April 27, 3:00 pm
• Clatskanie Library District at the
Clatskanie Cultural Center,
April 27, 7:00 pm
Nokes and Margolin will have
their books available for purchase at
each event.
Gregory Nokes wrote Break-
ing Chains after learning that one of
his ancestors from Missouri brought
a slave named Reuben Shipley to Or-
egon in 1853. Nokes, a born and raised
Oregonian, had no idea that his ances-
tors had any involvement with slavery
nor that there were ever slaves in Or-
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egon. This led him on a jour-
ney to discover and write
about the little-known his-
tory of black slaves in Or-
egon. He learned that there
may have been as many as
100 slaves brought by early
settlers to help establish new
farms in the territory. While
100 slaves pales alongside
the national statistic of four
million slaves, the fact that
there were any slaves in Or-
egon was itself a sad revela-
tion to Nokes. Nokes tells
many of their stories. His book helped
inspire the Oregon Public Broadcasting
program Oregon’s Black Pioneers which
aired on February 25, 2019. The pro-
gram can be accessed on OPB’s Oregon
Experience website.
Phillip Margolin spent over
20 years as an attorney, specializing in
criminal defense. He served as an appel-
late attorney, appearing before the U.S.
Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Ap-
peals for the Ninth Circuit, the Oregon
Supreme Court, and the Oregon Court
of Appeals, before he began writing full
time in 1996. His novels, many of which
are legal thrillers, have received numer-
ous awards and nominations. The Last
Innocent Man was made into an HBO
movie and Gone, But Not Forgotten was
turned into a mini-series starring Brooke
In 2018, Phillip Margolin and
Gregory Nokes made a joint appearance
at the Oregon Historical Society’s
Book Club to discuss their works.
Although there are no known in-
stances of slave holding in Columbia
County, the Columbia County Mu-
seum Association is partnering with
the Columbia County libraries to dis-
play images and descriptions of life
in Columbia County around the same
time period as these accounts.
St. Helens Public Library was
awarded a $2,000 grant from the Co-
lumbia County Cultural Coalition to
help fund Columbia County Reads
For further information regard-
ing Columbia County Reads 2019,
please contact St. Helens Public
Library Director Margaret Jeffries
at or
(503) 397-4544, ext. 601.
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