David J. Mason
David J. Mason, owner and founder of HMG ePublishing, LLC, is the great grandson of Parson Sykes. Mr. Mason is a digital publishing entrepreneur and veteran senior executive, who has been on the Internet since 1997 providing technological and telecommunication services. He has executive level experience leading, administering and directing scientific and technological operations in a wide range of organizations in government, academic, private industry, and the public. His digital publishing curiosity began during the very early formation stages of the digital publishing industry when he converted one of his previously published traditional manual into an electronic book. An advocate for digital publishing, he has perfected ebook publishing, production, promotion and distribution.
Mr. Mason became interested in the history of the Sykes family early in life while attending family reunions and hearing stories of his mother’s ancestors from Southampton County, Virginia. The family descended from Louisa Williams Sykes; an enslaved African American matriarch who had lived on Jacob Williams’ farm on Barrow Road in the Cross Keys neighborhood. During the 1831 Southampton Insurrection, the farm came under attack by Nat Turner and his insurgents.
For over a 150 years, Parson Sykes’ descendants passed down stories and adventures of Parson’s early life at family reunions and holiday meals, weddings, and other gatherings where the ancestors met. According to passed down stories, during Civil War, Parson and his brothers, Joseph, and Henry made a challenging escape from bondage on Jacob Williams’ farm to reach Fort Monroe in early December 1864 and, after enlistment, they performed successful combat military duty with the XXV Corps in the Army of the James, composed of United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiments.
A Civil War and Black history enthusiast, Mr. Mason researched Parson, Joseph, and Henry's military service and published The Self-Liberation of Parson Sykes based on his findings. It is a documentary novel that describes their true self-liberation ordeal and actual events drawn from a variety of sources, including published materials and official military records. In the trilogy, the first novel profiles Parson’s evolution from enslavement and self-liberation by running away from the Williams’ farm. The next book, Enlistment in the XXV Corps, will narrate Parson’s ordeal through the pathway of contraband to USCT soldier he took to gain his freedom. The XXV Corps regiments were the first Union forces to enter and capture the fallen Capital of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. In the last book in the trilogy, Emancipated in Southampton County, the story ends with Parson accomplishing his mission and achieving his goal. Parson Sykes will buy property to farm, fight for human rights, and live by the self-determination principles he postulated.
The Self-Liberation of Parson Sykes also functions to draw attention to the important role Black soldiers played during the Civil War as members of United States Colored Troops. Though less heralded, the USCT regiments were the precursors to Black units famously nicknamed as the Buffalo Soldiers, Smoked Yankees, the Harlem Hell Fighters, and the Red Ball Express. The history of the trailblazing USCT regiments is an amazing story of courage, bravery, and gallantry that needs to be told and recognized.
Mr. Mason was born on January 24, 1949, in Norfolk, Virginia and grew up there with his parents John Lee Mason and Bertha Sykes Mason. Mr. Mason is author of Environmental Compliance Tool Kit (Thompson Publishing Group, 1994) and the Internet Marketing Tool Kit (HMG ePublishing, 2006). He holds a Master of Science degree in chemistry from Hampton University in Virginia, a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Norfolk State University and is a graduate of the United States Army War College.