In 1863, two thirteen-year-old girl laborers meet on a farm south of Wilmington, North Carolina. Aila MacKenzie is a White indentured servant, and Mary Jane Sanders is a Black slave. As the story unfolds, both suffer similar hardship and abuse that over time will spawn mutual empathy and friendship. With historical events as a backdrop, the story depicts the struggle of White and Black families in rural North Carolina during and following the Civil War, 1863-1919. For the Black families, it is an era of continuing repression, bigotry, and violence.
Charles M. Clemmons was born at home in the countryside near Clayton, North Carolina. Growing up in the American South, working on his father's farm, and exploring 300 acres of state forest proved to be formative life experiences.
Retiring from a corporate career in telecommunications in 1994 at age 50, he refocused on his real passions: documentary filmmaking, photography, writing, being a father to his three children, and discovering the history and lifeways of his parents’ families in Brunswick County, North Carolina.
In 2004, he was awarded two Boston/New England Emmys® (writing and production) for the American Public Television documentary, Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War. After 40 years in Connecticut, Charles returned to his roots in North Carolina in 2016.
His inspiration for Aila’s Journal came from his own experiences and aspirations growing up in the American South, his own family's history, and his historical research of the Civil War and Southern Reconstruction.