Book cover of "I Have Walked One Mile After Dark in a Hard Rain"

I Have Walked One Mile After Dark in a Hard Rain

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I Have Walked One Mile After Dark in a Hard Rain is the first book that amplifies the experience of Wisconsin’s Shepard family and the falsehoods built around their slavers

In this work, Midwest History Project amplifies the true story of an American family who arrives in Wisconsin in 1848 with their enslaver. Charles and Caroline Shepard are young adults when they cross the American wilderness in covered wagons and assume their sovereignty. The land they come to has just been taken from Ho Chunk, Osakiwug and Meskwaki nations; in 1804, the Americans secure 50 million acres of Wisconsin territory for $2,234.50 plus $1,000/year every year thereafter. While persecution and displacement of the Indigenous Peoples here is a movement of loss and retreat, the land offers possibility for families like the Shepards who escape slavery’s bondage and gain a foothold in the young American economy. Remarkably, a collection of Shepard family letters has been preserved by a Wisconsin university.

Illuminating these letters, Midwest History Project centers the Shepard correspondence in their own words and within a fusion of American experience, including slavery’s system. The experience of enslavement is entwined with the experience of the enslaver.

In American history, the truth of the enslaver narrative is frequently misrepresented or erased. In this work, Midwest History Project, uncovers misinformation about the slaver who owns the Shepards and produces first-hand accounts from people who knew him. These accounts beg the question; why did Wisconsin re-write the history of the slaver? And, fundamentally, who is afraid to know the truth of American slavery or the persecution of Indigenous People and why has it been rewritten?

I Have Walked One Mile After Dark in a Hard Rain concentrates the Shepard experience across a landscape of generations and American intersections. Threads of influence occurring in the 1700’s directly impact these Americans who find themselves crossing young states and new territories. The lives of these people affect our present day. Events and decisions from 1830-1870 create this American inheritance. A question remains for us today – how will we remember our uncelebrated American ancestors and will we truthfully preserve their memory for future generations?

Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness

― Elie Wiesel, 2002