Book Review – Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol.I

BOOK REVIEW:  Jesse James, Soul Liberty. Volume I. By Eric F. James. Published by Cashel Cadence House, Danville KY. 2012. 411 pages, $36.95, reviewed by Bobbi King of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, June 23, 2013. Reprinted here by permission.

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter-Dick Eastman

 


Mr. James has conquered the Everest of writing a family history genealogy book that is interesting enough for the rest of us to want to read.


Eric F. James was asked to take on the task of researching and writing the story of the James family, specifically the many members of the family who merited fair consideration distinct from the myth and legend of the notorious outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse.

Bobbi King
Bobbi King

Mr. James succeeds in acquainting us with a family of characters who do deserve to be featured apart from the tarnished brothers. The book’s subtitle, “Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence” offers a not-so-subtle hint on the family’s take on their historical connection.

Apparently, the more well-informed members of the family vigorously sought to put the kibosh on any kinship to Frank and Jesse James when naïve queries arose.

Mr. James introduces the family:

“In the emerging democracy of colonial Virginia, the early Kentucky frontier, and throughout the American heartland, the James were renowned as community builders, public office holders, ministers of faith, financiers, educators, writers, and poets. From these roots shot Frank and Jesse James.

“Following the Civil War, Frank and Jesse James eclipsed the family’s destiny. War may have splintered the family ideologically, but Frank and Jesse James dis-joined the family’s compass and direction, casting a longer and darker shadow on the James family, like no other.

“Like their royal ancestors of old when beset by crisis, the James family turned suspicious and distrustful of its own. The larger James family kept apart from one another, holding in muted reverence what relic of itself that it could. The line of Frank and Jesse James was left isolated, unsupported and abandoned.”

Goaded by family in-laws, the Jesse James family withdrew into a citadel of its own. Their ostracism was enforced by every other family line of the James.

Mr. James’ research appears to be extensive. . .

Jesse James oul Liberty, Vol. I
Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence, by Eric F. James

Mr. James’ book locates the various families’ residences, describes their personal occupations, details relationships and kinship to one another (a six-generation descendant chart is included), chronicles their military service, catalogs their movements about the regions, and quotes a good deal of material from their letters and journals, which always evokes a personality, a spirit, a temperament.

Mr. James’ research appears to be extensive across a wide variety of sources, with references at the end of the book that contain explanatory tidbits adding even more to the story. The photographs and illustrations, even those blurred by age and decomposition, are vivid and well produced, summoning up their subjects and places.

Mr. James, along with Judge James R. Ross, a great-grandson of Jesse James, is a co-founder of the James Preservation Trust. He writes and publishes on the official website of the James family, and is without a doubt the family cheerleader.

His writing is strong. . .

His writing is strong, perhaps a bit hyperbolic for my taste, but this is a good book for fans of Western history who want to know the real story. His research supports a claim to authenticity, and his writing keeps us reading.

Mr. James has conquered the Everest of writing a family history genealogy book that is interesting enough for the rest of us to want to read.

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I just learned of the passing of the Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya on June 28, 2020, who appears prominently in my book Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I.
Anaya was not above human prejudice, nor above holding a public lynching of a white person, as he did with Daniel Lewis James of the James family. Dan James was a Hollywood screenwriter and collaborator with Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. He and Chaplin were blacklisted. When Dan James went underground, he volunteered in the Chicano community in the barrios of Los Angeles as an unpaid social worker. Dan sent Chicanos he met to school at his own expense and he got jobs for their parents in the film industry. From his experiences in the barrios, Dan wrote a novel Famous All Over Town. Since Dan was blacklisted, he wrote under the pen name of Danny Santiago (Dan St. James). His novel won a prestigious national award. When Dan failed to show up to accept the award, the Hispanic literati, of which Anaya was one, held a public inquisition. They lynched Dan for being an Anglo.
Neither Anaya nor any of the Hispanic literati ever apologized to Dan or to the James family for their prejudice or transgressions. Today Dan’s novel is taught in college-level Hispanic studies aside from his films now taught in film schools.
The following excerpt is from pages 253-255 of JJSL.
“Assembled by a ‘kangaroo court of intellectuals’ as one writer called the Hispanic elites who gathered, the inquisition posed the question, “Danny Santiago, Art of Fraud?” Ishmael Reed, himself a non-Hispanic, incited the Before Columbus Foundation of Berkley, California to conduct the inquiry, held at the Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco. Many established Hispanic writers represented the Foundation as peers. The panelists were Gary Soto, Rodolfo Anaya, Thomas Ibarra, Myrta Chaban, and Juan Felipe Herrera. About 120 guests attended. Dan James was branded a fraud. Blacklisted first by Hollywood, Dan James was brown listed now by the Hispanic community he faithfully and quietly had served.”
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I just learned of the passing of the Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya on June 28, 2020, who appears prominently in my book Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I.
Anaya was not above human prejudice, nor above holding a public lynching of a white person, as he did with Daniel Lewis James of the James family. Dan James was a Hollywood screenwriter and collaborator with Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. He and Chaplin were blacklisted.  When Dan James went underground, he volunteered in the Chicano community in the barrios of Los Angeles as an unpaid social worker. Dan sent Chicanos he met to school at his own expense and he got jobs for their parents in the film industry. From his experiences in the barrios, Dan wrote a novel Famous All Over Town. Since Dan was blacklisted, he wrote under the pen name of Danny Santiago (Dan St. James). His novel won a prestigious national award. When Dan failed to show up to accept the award, the Hispanic literati, of which Anaya was one, held a public inquisition. They lynched Dan for being an Anglo.
Neither Anaya nor any of the Hispanic literati ever apologized to Dan or to the James family for their prejudice or transgressions. Today Dan’s novel is taught in college-level Hispanic studies aside from his films now taught in film schools.
The following excerpt is from pages 253-255 of JJSL.
“Assembled by a ‘kangaroo court of intellectuals’ as one writer called the Hispanic elites who gathered, the inquisition posed the question, “Danny Santiago, Art of Fraud?” Ishmael Reed, himself a non-Hispanic, incited the Before Columbus Foundation of Berkley, California to conduct the inquiry, held at the Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco. Many established Hispanic writers represented the Foundation as peers. The panelists were Gary Soto, Rodolfo Anaya, Thomas Ibarra, Myrta Chaban, and Juan Felipe Herrera. About 120 guests attended. Dan James was branded a fraud. Blacklisted first by Hollywood, Dan James was brown listed now by the Hispanic community he faithfully and quietly had served.”

Looking forward to This Bloody Ground, Vol. II of JJSL . . . John M. James entered the Kentucky District of Virginia in 1784, making his settlement permanent. His residence in Logan County would not occur until after 1807 - after his final term in the Kentucky House of Representatives, after his vigorous defense in the House of Judge Harry Innes and their roles in the Spanish Conspiracy to sell Kentucky to Spain, after his wife Clara Nall abandoned their marriage, and after all his personal disgrace. Logan County, known as Rogues' Harbor, became his new home, where he could start a new family, and begin a new revolution. This time, against banks!TODAY IN LOGAN COUNTY, KY – June 1, 1792

Kentucky became a state, barely escaping an earlier planned name of Transylvania. Col. Richard Henderson from North Carolina and in conjunction with the Transylvania Land Company purchased lands in what is now KY and TN, about twenty million acres. On 23 April 1775, he called for election for delegates to the Transylvania colony. In June of 1776, Virginia invalidated his purchases but gave him the area now known as Henderson and the twelve square miles surrounding the present-day town. Kentucky was then Kentucky County of Virginia and later separated into the counties we know today, Logan being cut off September 1, 1792. The diagram shows the area of the colony he planned. Visit McCracken County, KY library’s website to learn more.
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Looking forward to This Bloody Ground, Vol. II of JJSL . . . John M. James entered the Kentucky District of Virginia in 1784, making his settlement permanent. His residence in Logan County would not occur until after 1807 - after his final term in the Kentucky House of Representatives, after his vigorous defense in the House of Judge Harry Innes and their roles in the Spanish Conspiracy to sell Kentucky to Spain, after his wife Clara Nall abandoned their marriage, and after all his personal disgrace. Logan County, known as Rogues Harbor, became his new home, where he could start a new family, and begin a new revolution. This time, against banks!

It's taken me 5 years to do it. Last night at 2 am, I finally screened the movie Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston. The movie is about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was a personal friend of Daniel Lewis James Jr. of our family. Like Trumbo, Dan James also was unjustly blacklisted by the House on Un-American Activities Committee and the Hollywood movie industry. Both Trumbo & James appear in JJSL Vol I in my chapter "All for the Underdog."
The film's storyline was known to me, in fact, intimately known, based on my research about Dan James for my book. But it sure was fun seeing the story on a movie screen. For years, I've thought Dan James' story would make a great movie. I still think it can, despite the appearance of the Trumbo movie.
If you read their story in JJSL or don't want to wait for a movie about Daniel Lewis James, see Trumbo now. Just imagine the title of the movie is James instead.
... See MoreSee Less

Its taken me 5 years to do it. Last night at 2 am, I finally screened the movie Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston. The movie is about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was a personal friend of Daniel Lewis James Jr. of our family. Like Trumbo, Dan James also was unjustly blacklisted by the House on Un-American Activities Committee and the Hollywood movie industry. Both Trumbo & James appear in JJSL Vol I in my chapter All for the Underdog.
The films storyline was known to me, in fact, intimately known, based on my research about Dan James for my book. But it sure was fun seeing the story on a movie screen. For years, Ive thought Dan James story would make a great movie. I still think it can, despite the appearance of the Trumbo movie.
If you read their story in JJSL or dont want to wait for a movie about Daniel Lewis James, see Trumbo now. Just imagine the title of the movie is James instead.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY fired the soul of Frank & Jesse James' grandfather John M. James just as it does today. When I was writing This Bloody Ground, Vol. II of JJSL, I relied upon John Ragosta (interviewed here) and his book Wellspring of Liberty to tell the story of John M. James and his band of rebel preachers who exiled Virginia for the frontier of the Cain-tuc. Listen to Ragosta's comments in this interview here for a first understanding of the term religious liberty. It may change how you view the topic today. ... See MoreSee Less

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