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New Fort Wayne African-American history book an interesting look at people who had impact on city

Saturday, March 9, 2013 - 12:01 am

Editor's note: This week's Page Turner reader interview is with Maye Johnson, the Democratic member of the Voter Registration board and a former member of the Allen County Council.

“I just this past weekend received a copy of and began to read 'African Americans in Fort Wayne: The First 200 Years.' It's by Dodie Marie Miller, and it's written about people who made meaningful contributions to our community.

“It consists of early Fort Wayne memories — where people settled, with information about the schools and the black churches. She writes about some of the black 'firsts,' like Dr. (Theodore) Borders, one of the first African American physicians. She writes about Mamie Smith, the first dietician at Lutheran Hospital. She mentions Levan Scott and writes about William Briggs, the first attorney, who also served as a Justice of the Peace. Dr. (Roland) Wilson was another physician. She writes about orchestras and Josephine Williams and her son, who made quite a success.

“It's mostly photographs and captions and a very condensed version of Fort Wayne history. She writes about the Dixie family and William Warfield — and it's mostly from oral histories. She gives thanks to the African/African-American Historical Museum here for its cooperation and information.

“I read a lot of fiction, particularly historical fiction. One book I can really rave about is 'Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.' It's by a South American, Jorge Amado. I have read it over and over. It's a love story set in a Brazilian small town back in the 1920s. There's a violent political takeover, and it includes the emergence of women's rights.

“Gabriela is the catalyst. She was a migrant worker who came to this town and, once she was cleaned up, was a beautiful, attractive wife to the owner of the restaurant she makes so popular. He is a businessman who falls in love with Gabriela, who always smells of a spice.

“The restaurant becomes the center for the political arena, so we meet many political people with a lot going on between the races — and a wealthy man who found himself through the love of a woman, Gabriela. It is written so well I could smell what she was cooking! And it has won many awards. It was made into a movie with Sonia Braga — not a bad movie. But it's a very good book.”