Ophelia and the Freedmen’s School

Ophelia and the Freedmen’s School is based on an actual school established in 1867 in Lavaca, Texas. The author’s great-grandfather, John Ogilvie Stevenson, was the teacher of the Lavaca school and he left many documents, letters, and stories about his experiences there. (Those documents are now archived at the Rosenberg Research Library in Galveston, Texas.) The protagonist is one of two white war refugee girls at the Lavaca school who were real students of Mr. Stevenson. Ten-year-old Ophelia at first resents her black classmates, whom she perceives as “not like her.” But through shared experiences with them-the joy of learning, a yellow fever epidemic, and fear of the KKK, which threatens the life of their beloved teacher and closure of the school-her attitude changes. This well-researched story is threaded through with the tensions that marked Reconstruction in the South. Who in the community are the malcontents? Ultimately, the real message is one of working together and embracing friendships, regardless of differences.