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Novel Uncovers Black History with Local Roots

Author unravels story of Norwalk native and former slave

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Norwalk, CT | Added on February 08, 2015 At 08:58 AM

It's historical fiction novel that has local roots. 

"There were four million slaves in the south and that actually was even though I studied American History in school I don't remember getting into those kinds of details as to how many people were kept in bondage." 

In light of Black History Month, author and Norwalk resident Dorothy Mobilia joined local residents and community leaders at the South Norwalk Branch library on Saturday to shed light on a bit of South Norwalk's history in her novel entitled "How Jimmy John Won His Cloak of Freedom."  

It's based on the life Connecticut native Charley Hallock who leaves home to join the fight for freedom during the American Civil War and on the way meets a young freed slave who travels with him back to South Norwalk.   

"In the process he traveled all over a great part of the country and most of the south," said Mobilia. "And ended up meeting a young man named Jimmy John who was a freed slave who was maybe 15 or 16, he wasn't sure and decided to bring him home so people here in Norwalk would know something about the slaves."  

Jimmy John was a member of Norwalk's oldest African American church, Bethel AME. Members of the church shared on its history as Mayor Harry Rilling issue a proclamation declaring the month of February as African American month for the city of Norwalk.  

"It's just recognizing all the contributions that African Americans have made to us and remembering that and also appreciating that," said Mayor Harry Rilling. 

It's Mobilia's first novel. She says it took her eight years to complete the novel, researching historical information locally and nationally, searching through records and publications like the Norwalk Hour and Hallock's own memoir. 

"I didn't find a lot on the actual history of Jimmy John," said Mobilia. "There aren't that many records except through interviews that were held for the Norwalk Hour the time he passed away and that's where I learned most of the details about his early life." 


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