Arts & Leisure

Turner family comic anthology released

The Vermont Folklife Center proudly announces publication of “Turner Family Stories: From Enslavement in Virginia to Freedom in Vermont,” a new non-fiction comics anthology adapted from oral history recordings with Daisy Turner of Grafton, Vt., held in the Vermont Folklife Center Archive.

Daisy Turner, born in Grafton in 1883, was the daughter of formerly enslaved Alec and Sally Turner, who settled there in the years following the Civil War. In 1983 VFC founder Jane Beck met then 100-year-old Daisy and worked with her to record approximately 60 hours of interviews through which Daisy recounted the saga of several generations of her family.

Beginning in West Africa, Daisy’s account follows her paternal grandfather Alessi from his abduction on the African coast to enslavement on a Virginia plantation; her father’s experiences growing up enslaved; his escape during the Civil War, joining up with the First NJ Cavalry; his post-war experiences in the south and New England; his eventual arrival in Grafton, and purchase of the family homestead, “Journey’s End.”

In addition to stories of her father’s family, Daisy shared with Jane rich accounts of her own long life, from her childhood in Grafton, her adult years living and working in Boston, and her eventual return to Grafton after her mother’s death in 1923. Beginning in her childhood, Daisy continually — and successfully — challenged the limits placed on her as a Black woman in New England during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, loudly asserting (even in court) her rights and the rights of her family members.

Featuring the work of six New England cartoonists, “Turner Family Stories” presents two of Daisy’s accounts from the life of her father, Alec Turner, by Marek Bennett and Joel Christian Gill, and two stories from Daisy’s own life by Francis Bordeleau and Lillie Harris. The comics adapted from Daisy’s interviews are linked together through a story by Grafton native Ezra Veitch, based on a childhood encounter he and a friend had with Daisy one afternoon. Center for Cartoon Studies graduate Robyn Smith drew the volume’s cover. The book also features a foreword by Gretchen Gerzina, introduction by Julian Chambliss and a preface by Jane Beck.

In partnership with the Vermont Department of Libraries, VFC will distribute the book free to all public libraries in the state. “Turner Family Stories” is also available at or at The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.

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