Next summer, "A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story," the memoir by the late Dr. James Cameron will be re-published in an expanded edition. It will be available in both paperback and ebook formats.
Cameron, a civil rights activist who founded and ran the Milwaukee Black Holocaust Museum from 1988 until his death in 2006, started writing this autobiography in his late teens after he survived a lynching in 1930 in Marion, Ind. Cameron is believed to be the only person to survive a lynching.
Cameron, along with two teenaged friends, was accused of robbing a store that resulted in the murder of a white man in a "holdup gone wrong." Cameron had been with the friends prior to the crime, but did not take part. The friends were lynched, and although badly beaten, Cameron’s life was spared at the last moment and he was instead sent to prison for five years
While in jail, Cameron began to write his book. When he was finally released from prison, he finished the book and tried to publish it, but could not find a publisher willing to take it on. He finally self-published the book in 1985. In 1995, Black Classic Press republished the book, but it went out of print in 2002.
The new edition of the book is 220 pages long and features five never-published chapters along with a forward by James Loewen, author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and "Sundown Towns." It will also include introductions by Robert Smith and Fran Kaplan and a timeline by Reginald Jackson.
The book will be released on Juneteeth Day, June 19, 2015.
Currently, there is a crowdfunding campaign in place to raise money for the publishing and distribution of the book. The Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation hopes to raise $17,500 for initial printing and eventually a total of $30,000 to cover the cost of marketing, public discussions and book tours.
To make a tax-deductible donation for the book, go here.
Cameron was a prolific writer and the foundation may publish more of his works in the future.
The Black Holocaust Museum was located at 4th Street and North Avenue. It was open from 1988 until 2008. In 2012 it was revived as a virtual museum.
Kaplan serves as the full-time coordinator of the virtual museum and is the driving force behind the re-publication of Cameron's autobiography. She is also working to reopen the museum in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
Kaplan met and befriended Cameron in 2005 when she conducted interviews with him for research purposes. Her interviews with him were his last and he passed away the following year at age 92.
Kaplan says she is most inspired by Cameron’s resilience, optimism and kindness despite the fact he endured a violent and unfair past.
His story, she believes, is extremely relevant today in light of recent happenings.
"Recently, unarmed black people have been killed on a regular basis by police and vigilantes. This is reminiscent of what happened when lynchings were in style – between the 1880s to the 1940s – and there was a lynching almost every day," she says.
Kaplan says Cameron was hopeful for the future of America and, consequently, the end of his book ends on a hopeful note.
Although Cameron felt betrayed by the people of Marion, he returned to the small town after his incarceration and lived just miles from the tree where his friends were lynched.
"He was a fiercely optimistic man," says Kaplan.
Cameron lived in Milwaukee from 1952 until he passed away. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee awarded him with an honorary degree. He also founded numerous chapters of the NAACP.
Cameron's main message was "forgive but never forget."
"He wanted people to understand how the past impacts the present and why are we still undergoing some of the same problems of race relations that we have been for more than a century," says Kaplan. "He believed if you knew the past, you could heal the present."
OnMilwaukee.com interviewed Cameron in 2000. Read the story here.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.