(Betty Jean DeRamus)
PERSONAL: Born in Detroit, MI. Hobbies and other interests: Piano, traveling.
CAREER: Author and journalist. Detroit Free Press, Detroit, MI, former reporter and editorial writer; Detroit News, Detroit, former columnist.
AWARDS, HONORS: Distinguished Journalism Citation, Scripps Howard Foundation, 1980; first prize for education reporting, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 1980; first prize for commentary, Overseas Press Club of America, 1980; Deems Taylor Award, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, 1983; Eugene Pulliam fellowship for editorial writers, 1986; Pulitzer Prize finalist in commentary, 1993, for reporting on Los Angeles riots.
Also author of short stories.
SIDELIGHTS: Veteran journalist Betty DeRamus turned her attention from current affairs to historical ones in her first book, Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad. The book grew from an article she was researching for Black History Month. The research project took her four years as she traveled along the Underground Railroad, the route slaves once used to escape from the South to the North. DeRamus scoured unpublished memoirs, oral histories, old newspaper accounts, and census and marriage records to come up with her "thirteen heart-gladdening tales of love," as a critic for Kirkus Reviews noted. The book includes the story of a free man from Cuba who willingly became a slave to be near his enslaved wife. One brazen couple managed to escape to freedom when the light-skinned wife posed as a white man and her husband acted as her slave throughout their journey. A Baltimore woman stuffed herself into a trunk and shipped herself to Philadelphia, where her betrothed had earlier arrived.
Robin D. Stone, writing in Essence, found Forbidden Fruit "a rich collection of true slave-era tales that are at times haunting, often riveting, but always triumphant in the end." Similarly, Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, felt that DeRamus provides "a new perspective to the history of American slavery."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2005, Vanessa Bush, review of Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad, p. 935.
Columbia Daily Tribune (Columbia, MO), February 14, 2005, Leonard Pitts, Jr., "Slave Stories Evoke Love's Past Power," review of Forbidden Fruit.
Essence, February, 2005, Robin D. Stone, "Love Unlimited," review of Forbidden Fruit, p. 115.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of Forbidden Fruit, p. 1177.
Betty DeRamus Home Page, http://www.bettyderamus.com (August 17, 2005).