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Journey to Freedom cover

Author Series and Book Signing: Gail Shaffer Blankenau

Honor National Nebraska Day!
Author Series
- CT

National Willa Cather Center
413 N Webster St
Red Cloud, NE 68970
United States

Observe National Nebraska Day by learning more about the complex history of the state's south central region. Author and historian Gail Shaffer Blankenau will join us for a talk and signing of her new book, Journey to Freedom: Uncovering the Grayson Sisters' Escape from Nebraska Territory, at the Red Cloud Opera House auditorium at 1:00 p.m. central time. Blankenau's book tells the story of Celia and Eliza Grayson, two enslaved sisters who escaped from their enslaver Stephen F. Nuckolls in 1858.  

According to the University of Nebraska Press, "Gail Shaffer Blankenau provides the first detailed history of Black enslavement in Nebraska Territory and the escape of these two enslaved Black women from Nebraska City. Drawing on multiple collections, records, and slave narratives, Journey to Freedom sheds light on the Graysons’ courage and agency as they became high-profile figures in the national debate between proslavery and antislavery factions in the antebellum period."

Be sure to stick around after the event to take a guided tour of Willa Cather sites and attend the reception for artist Jonathan Goodding's show Beneath the Wide-Open. The author talk and artist reception are FREE events, but registering for the event is encouraged. 

Funding was provided by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

It's sure to be an exciting day of art, literature, and history!

National Nebraska Day Schedule:

  • 1:00 p.m. Author talk with Gail Shaffer Blankenau
  • 2:00 p.m. Book signing 
  • 2:30-5:00 p.m. Book a guided tour, walk the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, or peruse the American Bittersweet exhibit and bookstore (tour tickets sold separately)
  • 5:00 p.m. Jonathan Goodding artist reception at the Red Cloud Opera House Art Gallery
Gail Shaffer Blankenau

About Gail Shaffer Blankenau

Gail Shaffer Blankenau is a professional genealogist, historian, speaker, and author. She holds an MA degree in history from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and in 2023 she received the James L. Sellers prize for her article about the Grayson sisters in a volume of Nebraska History magazine. Blankenau is from Nebraska and currently lives in Lincoln.