The Resources page is a helpful directory of scholarship produced on Letitia and David Carson's story. Made to highlight the Resources collection, this page showcases certain important works and academic publications that teach audiences more about the history of Letitia Carson.
Letitia Carson's narrative has only been briefly studied in history, resulting in a small, but growing number of publications surrounding her journey on the Overland Trail, time in Benton County, Oregon, successful legal battles against Greenberry Smith, motherhood, and homesteading in Douglas County.
Until George B. Abdill wrote of her in the Umpqua Trapper, the history quarterly of the Douglas County [Oregon] Historical Society, Letitia was only offhandedly mentioned in accounts of Overland Trail travels, early Oregon Territory stories, and once or twice in the Oregon Statesman Newspaper. She was all but erased from Oregon history and her story went untold for decades. The following sources present a timeline of resources in which Letitia Carson is mentioned, outlining the ways in which she has been slowly incorporated into Oregon history.
- In 1982, George B. Abdill wrote of Letitia's story in the Fall 1982 issue of the Umpqua Trapper. In his work titled, "Letitia Carson, Pioneer Black Woman" Abdill writes of how he first heard of Letitia, possibly when talking to fellow historian Harriet D. Munnick, who also wrote for the Umpqua Trapper. Abdill goes on to piece together the story of Letitia from many sources, including some of the primary sources we have in the Letitia Carson Digital History Collection. This is the first record of Letitia being written of, explored, and studied in an academic context.
- Nine years later, Dr. Bob Zybach published his first piece looking at the history of Letitia Carson. In a 1991 Gazette Times article titled "Pioneer Woman Confronts Discrimination" Dr. Zybach completed a series of four weekly articles he had published on Black Pioneers in Oregon. This marked the beginning of Letitia Carson being covered in local Oregon historical societies publications, such as the Douglas County Pioneer and Umpqua Trapper.
- In 2014 and 2015, Dr. Bob Zybach published a series of works on Letitia Carson, compiling decades of information he had gathered on every aspect of her life. He had spent decades exploring archival accounts of her lawsuits, homesteading, children, legacy, and life in both Benton and Douglas counties. Now, he had enough information to create a multi-issue series on her history.
Umpqua Trapper Publications
Douglas County Pioneer Publications
- In 2016, the Oregon State Bar Bulletin published an article on Letitia Carson. This is an article written by Bob Zybach. It takes a judicial approach to tell the history of Letitia Carson, specifically her legal battles against Greenberry Smith.
- John, Finn J. D., “Offbeat Oregon History: Neighbor’s Theft of Widow and Orphan’s Home was too much for Jury,” St. Helens Chronicle, 12 December 2019. Popular history piece on Letitia Carson written by OSU New Media Communication instructor Finn J.D. John.
- A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick - In 2014, best-selling author Jane Kirkpatrick wrote a historical fiction book that told Letitia's story. While A Light in the Wilderness was not non-fiction or an entirely factual account of Letitia's story - it still inserted Letitia into mainstream media and her story gained readership.
- Meranda, Janet. Freedom’s Light: The Letitia Carson Story Begins. CreateSpace, 2016. A fictional account of Letitia Carson’s early life.
- Meranda, Janet. Oregon Trail Diary: Letitia Carson, 1845. CreateSpace, 2017. A fictional account of Letitia Carson’s 1845 journey over the Oregon Trail.
- Zybach, Bob. "Using oral histories to document changing forest cover patterns: Soap Creek Valley, Oregon, 1500-1999." Master's thesis, Oregon State University, 1999.
- Following this same vein, Portland State University History Master's student Stephanie Vallance wrote her dissertation on Letitia Carson in 2021. Titled, "Letitia Carson in Court: African American Women," Vallance's study takes a judicial history approach to Letitia Carson's story and implements many primary legal documents to tell the story of Letitia's success against Greenberry Smith.
Online Exhibits + Digital Media
- “Adam ‘Andrew Jackson’ Carson,” in Black in Oregon, 1840-1870, Oregon Secretary of State online exhibit. This is the story of Letitia Carson’s son, born in 1849. He lived much of his life in Douglas County.
- Friends of Letitia Carson Facebook Page
- “Letitia Carson,” in Black in Oregon, 1840-1870, Oregon Secretary of State online exhibit. This is an excellent summary of Letitia Carson’s story. There is a statement about the Carson’s DLC being reduced to 320 acres because they were not married; this could also be because Letitia was Black. The Oregon Donation Land Claim Act prohibited anyone of color from owning land – the exception being someone whose mother was Native American. This was a concession made to southern U.S. Senators in order to get the bill enacted.
- “Life Story: Letitia Carson (ca. 1815-1888),” Women & The American Story, New York Historical Society Museum & Library online exhibit.
- “Martha Jane Carson,” in Black in Oregon, 1840-1870, Oregon Secretary of State online exhibit. Story of Letitia Carson’s daughter, born on the Overland Trail during David and Letitia Carson’s journey to Oregon in 1845. Many of her descendants live in the Pacific Northwest.
- In 2012, the Oregon Bureau of Land Management released a pamphlet titled, "Shaping America's History: The Homestead Act, Commemorating 150 Years, 1862-2012" celebrating 150 years since the Homestead Act. This pamphlet provides facts, resources, and educational tidbits on the 1862 Homestead Act. Issued in 2012, the pamphlet briefly discusses the significance of the Homestead Act and mentions Letitia Carson as one of the first women, the first in Douglas County, and the first Black woman in Oregon to be granted land under the act. This is one of the first instances in which Letitia is mentioned in Oregon history and public history publications.
- Shine, Greg. “From Slave to Landowner: Historic Land Office Records Document Journey,” BLM Oregon-Washington Facebook Page, March 2019.
- Jefferson Public Radio, “As It Was: Black Woman Prospers Despite Closed Doors.” Radio spot on Letitia Carson in Douglas County.
- Oregon Public Broadcasting, “Oregon’s Black Pioneers,” episode in the Oregon Experience series, 2019. Letitia Carson’s story is one of the focal points of this documentary.
Also included in the Resources collection are many compilation documents of various spreadsheets, timelines, censuses, family trees, lists, newspaper clippings, and interviews compiled by Jan Meranda and Bob Zybach.