Shirley Harris-Slaughter is a Michigan native. She was born in Detroit and raised in The Charter Township of Royal Oak. She was baptized into the Catholic faith with her family as a child and attended Our Lady of Victory Catholic School and St. Agnes High School. Her love of history and activism propelled her to write her communities’ story Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African-American Catholic Community. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Cleary University in Howell, Michigan. She is married to Langston and lives in Oak Park.
Loren Kleinman (LK): When did you decide to become a writer?
Shirley Harris-Slaughter (SHS): I decided to write in 2002 when it became clear to me that our catholic communities’ history was not on record. I had been mulling over writing our story for a number of years but I was waiting for someone else to do it.
Three things happened that led me to finally go in kicking and screaming to write this book:
- The priest I met as a child was celebrating fifty years in the priesthood. A big story appeared in the Michigan Catholic listing all the parishes that he was affiliated with. When I searched the list for Our Lady of Victory (OLV), Msgr. Ferdinand DeCneudt, was listed as an administrator not the pastor. I stared at that entry for a long time. We thought he was always a pastor. No one in our church had ever heard of an administrator. But it was to have a profound effect on our church over time.
- The Archdiocese of Detroit put out a 300 year anniversary book called “Make Straight the Path” 300 years of history. I scrambled to find something about OLV. There was just a short blurb under a picture.
- I had the rare occasion to work at a Catholic Church after going back to school and finally getting my BBA. I hired in as an office manager and then became business manager. Working there gave me the rare privilege of seeing the inner workings of the catholic church. There was a church directory so being curious I looked up our church. It was listed under the merged Presentation and Our Lady of Victory with an establishment date of 1975. Are you kidding me? Our church started in 1943 and I know Presentation was established in 1941. With the stroke of a pen they wiped out our history.
SHS: Going straight to my computer (especially when an idea hits) and typing my thoughts out while they are still fresh in my head. Sometimes when I hit a roadblock I will sleep on it and most times in my dreams the answer or idea will come. Then I’ll get right up out of my sleep, turn on the computer and type it while it’s still fresh.
LK: Did you do any research before start or during of the writing of the book(s)?
SHS: I researched and went through old archives and files before I sat down to write. I also did interviews. My most difficult interview took the longest to do. When I sat down to write had to decide if I wanted to take the easy road and just type what was recorded or do I incorporate the story into the book. I did the latter which is not an easy feat. But the interviewee’s voice is weaved throughout the book and I got little nuggets that you will never find in a file. It was quite fascinating.
LK: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
SHS: I’ve met a few who got my attention: Nonnie Jules, Kathryn Treat, Mamie Smith, Glenn Soucy & Mike Squatitro
LK: What is the one book that you think everyone should read?
“Killers of the Dream” by Lillian Smith. I did a review about it on Amazon.
LK: What are your thoughts on ebooks? (i.e. love them, hate them, wave of the
SHS: I cannot ever see myself curling up in bed with an ebook. I think it will be around but will never replace the real thing. I bought an ebook but its sits on my desktop and I can’t bring myself to read but a few sentences at a time. I will never invest in a platform like kindle or nook or whatever. Someone would have to give it to me as a gift.
LK: What is in the works for you next?
SHS: I plan on telling my story on how I overcame a health crisis. It won’t be a great big book, just something simple and to-the-point so I can go out on speaking engagements teaching others how to overcome their health issues.
Where can you find Shirley Harris-Slaughter?
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