Rose Jourdain, journalist, teacher and now author of a historical novel about six generations of a free black family, gathered her history at her family dinner table. Her grandfather was a colleague of educator William E. B. DuBois. Her Harvard-educated father was one of the first blacks elected to public office in the North.
"And what I wanted to do was to bring those adventures into the tapestry of American history. It was important that the story of free black people be told. We have been motivaters, as well as victims," said Jourdain, just before a book party in her honor last night at the Capital Hilton.
In her middle years, Jourdain has produced her first novel. "Those the Sun Has Loved," the saga of the Claviers, a financially independent and politically bold family.
Doubleday and Co., the book's publisher, made a commitment to Jourdain in 1973, the year she started and three years before the success of another Doubleday book, "Roots." The first printing of 10,000 of "Those" sold out in 11 days. The book is a literary Guild alternate selection.
The book party was the first ever sponsored by the National Football League Players Association, the athletes union whose socializing usually only extends to receptions for the Special Olympics. "John Mackey, a former president of the association, read the book and thought it was exciting. So we are giving a part," explained Ed Garvey, the association's executive director.
During the two-hour reception, Jourdain sat at a table alongside her 11-year-old duaghter, Jacqueline, and signed autographs. Occasionally Jourdain paused to smoke a Salem or chat with guests such as old friends Art McZier, a consultant, an Chester Higgins Sr., a Pentagon information officer.
Her own teaching experiences in the Evanston, III., school system, where she grew up, fueled her determination to finish the novel. "When you teach a certain period of Russian history, you have Tolstoy, the Industrial Revolution, Charles Dickens. But you don't have a corresponding novel for black history," she said.
"When I was writing the book, I got up every morning at 2 a.m., walked the great Dane and the German Shepherd and then wrote until 7 a.m. I never needed an alarm clock. I knew the story had its place."