Cameron Lawrence

People of Freetowns: From Historical Research to Play to Documentary Film

3:30 p.m.
Session 1


People of Freetowns is a 59-minute public television documentary that explores the history and contemporary status of Kentucky's Bluegrass freetowns, small communities established by emancipated slaves after the Civil War. Located in the heart of horse country, the history of the freetowns is intimately intertwined with Kentucky's Thoroughbred industry. Our narrative focuses on four generations of one family: the Harbuts of Maddoxtown. Our characters include Will Harbut, the famous groom for the celebrated racehorse Man O’ War; his son Tom Harbut, an accomplished horseman who handled many equine stars but was trapped by grinding work and low pay; his son Gregory Harbut, who left Maddoxtown and the horse business, seeking a better life; and Gregory’s son Greg Jr., who is determined somehow to reconnect with his family’s legacy.

People of Freetowns tells the story of a hard-working and determined family and of the community that helped them better their lives. It also explores the shadings of modern life where the pursuit of opportunity severs community ties, exacting a price that echoes long and hard in the heart.

A native of Connecticut, D. Cameron Lawrence is a producer and writer living in Louisville, Ky. Under the name of her media firm Down to Earth Productions, she produces radio, and writes for magazines and newspapers. Her programs and articles have explored health, ecology, women’s issues, social justice, animal welfare and more. Currently, she is producing her first public television documentary People of Freetowns, slated for broadcast in 2008.

Cameron’s feature stories and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Hartford Courant, American Legacy, The New Southerner, Ladies’ Home Journal, Health, Louisville Magazine, Alternative Medicine and NPR’s website.

For 12 years, Cameron was affiliated with WFPL-FM, Louisville’s NPR-affiliate, where she produced Down to Earth, covering environmental topics; historical radio dramas; university speakers’ series; and was co-producer, co-creator and host of the popular live call-in program State of Affairs.

In 2004, with her husband and frequent collaborator John Gregory, Cameron received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for the radio documentary Sisters in Pain. Cameron (with her husband) also received “Best of Radio” in the Green Eyeshades Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as a Silver Reel in National Documentary from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and a Clarion Award from the Association of Women in Communications. Sisters in Pain was also a finalist for the Sidney Hillman Prize, recognizing journalism that explores social justice issues. For both her broadcast and print work, she has received several state and regional recognitions from the Kentucky Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists.