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A White Southern Reader Reacts to ABS Story About the Horrors of Slavery

letter from a readerLetter to the Editor:

I wanted to write and tell you how impressed I am with Atlanta Blackstar’s ‘The Manifesto’ and its empowering statement of beliefs, recognition of purpose, and pursuit of goals, that serve to benefit all mankind. As a former journalist I appreciate the dedication it takes to make a stand on important issues and then continue to work from day to day in pursuit of good editorial content that enlightens and entertains our audience, while it also preserves and enhances our mission as members of the fourth estate – always realizing that there will be those that agree with us and those that do not – sometimes very loudly and violently so. For that alone, bravo, to all of you in pursuit of your noble mission.

As a writer, and in fine appreciation of the written word, I must say that reading Atlanta Blackstar was a feast of well-written, thought provoking material. Have you ever noticed that sometimes just a turn of phrase or the way an author puts thoughts together and sets them down in written form can transport you to that place and time in such a way that you feel, hear and taste what the writer was saying? That is the best kind of nourishment for the soul and lasts to satisfy long after the words have been read and the pages of the book have been closed.

My dear friend, Marchello Perkins, shared your article, “10 Horrifying Facts About the Sexual Exploitation of Enslaved Black Men You May Not Know,” on Facebook. I was struck by several thoughts as I read it. First, was that many of the Sexual Exploitation facets of slavery mirrored in many ways the Spartans of ancient Greece. Now, I don’t know what possesses people about these behaviors when they decide to get frisky – for the purpose of procreation or just for fun, but I’m always amazed that these patterns always tend to remain the same – nothing new under the sun. The Spartans purpose was to build a strong, undefeatable populace at the top-end of their class system – for them it was survival of the fittest through their engineered version of natural selection – and well, we know how well that worked for them … right up until it didn’t. This same engineered malarkey was also visited on those Americans who were least able to fight against it here in our own country and again an even more perverted sample of it was taken up by Hitler in his pursuit of a pure Aryan race. Poppycock. It makes me wonder if the purpose in each of these cases was not really the pursuit of perfection but just really really bonkers people that didn’t know how to behave.

Impressed by your article and never being one to shy away from the subject of race, I felt compelled to respond to Marchello with some discoveries about my own family. I have always loved the song by country singer Charlie Pride that said, “We’re all God’s children, his next of kin, that’s the way it began … we’re part of the family of men.” This was a very personal revelation to me when I first heard it sung when I was a teenager and its message is part of who I am today. Here is what I shared back to Marchello on Facebook,

Marchello, I am always amazed by the horrible things we as human beings can do to one another. Reading this article just hurts my soul. You know that I do a lot of family history research and I’ve worked on my great-great grandfather’s line for years. He was actually alive until I was 7 or 8 years old and I remember him very well. He was born in 1864 and had an older brother that fought in the civil war. My sister and I were always touched by a letter his brother, George, wrote prior to marching to fight in a battle at Port Hudson, LA.

He was reminiscing about the happy days that he and his father and brother had worked on their farm/plantation in Mississippi. He spoke of how much he missed them all, even the “darkies” that he had grown up with and considered to be his family. He said he’d loved the days working side by side in the fields and then at the end of the day enjoying seeing his mother waiting for them as they came back to the house. He died the next day in a skirmish on the way to Port Hudson.

The documentation I had said that he had enlisted to fight in the war and Sam, a Negro servant, had enlisted and gone with him. In fact, it was Sam who brought George’s personal belongings back to his family and carried with him the news of George’s death in battle.

Now, I knew that George’s dad had several children who were mixed race, because he took them with him—as free white people—when he moved to Florida to give his family a fresh start after the war. There are now enough records online that I have been able to trace these members of my family, Gus and Florida, who were my g-g-grandfather’s brother and sister and give them the acknowledgment they deserve. I cried the first time I went through slave census schedules and found these beautiful children listed only by age and by male or female.

The other discovery I have made in the past few months is that Sam was not a nameless, faceless slave, but was Gus and Florida’s younger brother—which made him George’s brother too. The reason he took such good care of George as he died was not because that was his “master” but because it was his brother. After the war, Sam followed his father, brother and sister to Florida. He married, had children, and lived next door to his dad for the rest of his life. My mom says that when she was a young girl, her parents would make the trip to visit all the cousins. Finding Sam and realizing that he is a member of my family, not just a faithful slave that had gone to war to act as a servant and instead had gone unrecognized all these years, broke my heart. I am doing my best to find all of his children and grandchildren and document each of them in our family history. I know from family records that my ancestor had a long, loving relationship with Gus, Sam, and Florida’s mother.

I cannot pretend to understand the ins and outs of life in the 1800s, but I know that our nation could not exist today if not for the sacrifice of the Americans that came here—against their will—from Africa. By the blood, sweat, tears, and triumph they created a mighty nation—and for that I am forever thankful. Out of that tragic beginning, unfairly borne by so many, we have become the land of the free and the home of the brave. That legacy is a powerful testament to the resiliency of a strong, proud people who became the backbone of this nation.

I am saddened by the reality of the nameless, faceless records that bear witness to the horrors of slavery … yet, today I am proud of where we have come from and look forward to where we are going to. Thank you for letting me share my story with you and thank you for your friendship. Love, Melanie “Mom” Walker

To be quite honest, I thought I had lived through all this racial malaise back in high school, when the antics of a few mean-spirited outsiders fomented a racial tension, that had never been there before, into rioting at my high school and closed it down for nearly a month. It was amazing that once the divisive element was removed, the student population just went back to being the bunch of rowdy teenagers we’d always been, friends forever and forever friends—only now with the National Guard patrolling the halls for the rest of the school year.

I’ve raised my children, all 14 of them, to be good people, we don’t see color, we see people that by and large become part of the big, raucous family that we are. Where Marchello and I worked, everyone just called me “Mom,” partly because of the number of kids I have but mostly because they knew they were always welcome in our home and at our table—I can always add another cup of water to the soup and make it stretch. I have only one rule—we don’t use the “N” word and my kids even as adults will warn their friends and co-workers, when you’re around our family, especially my mom, there is one rule—don’t use that word or she’ll be coming after you with a bar of lye soap to wash your mouth out. It sits in my kitchen, but I’ve never had to use it.

There is one sure-fire way to solve all of these problems—and that is to love and respect one another. It’s really as simple as that. It just doesn’t seem that God’s kids are always so successful at implementing the golden rule and following its instruction. That’s why it’s a blessing to have good folks like you and Atlanta Blackstar to continue sending out a message of hope for our future. Y’all are welcome at my table anytime. One more cup of water in the soup and you’ll be family.

Oh, by the way, I did seem to notice that “The Manifesto” was written with a specific audience in mind. Do you suppose you have room for a 60-year-old white lady? I think your message is worth sharing, heck, I think it’s worth being a part of and today, being my birthday and all, I will unashamedly petition on my own behalf. Keep up the good work and God bless.

Melanie Walker
Danville, AL

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