On a cold March day, in a cold damp room, soft moans came from the young woman lying on the bed; a live skeleton covered with pale flesh, beneath her a cornhusk mattress covered with a collection of old newspapers and a worn out sheets made from bleached flour sacks. She had no choice but to wait for the reality of giving birth to an unwanted child. Her strength gone, she looked out the window at the moon; it appeared to be hanging on an invisible thread in the early morning darkness. She prayed to who she thought may be holding the moon in place; another invisible person like herself…GOD. In the waning March moonlight tears fell from the corner of her eyes as the unbearable pain finally ended. She looked toward the motionless baby at the foot of the rusty iron bed; maybe it was dead, she heard no crying.
“Miss Ruth you has a baby girl.” Allimay Schumaker was a neighbor and a mid-wife she whispered softly as she tried to place the baby in her mother’s arms.
“Get it away from me,” the sound came between clenched teeth, like a caged animal yet it was only a whisper.
Mrs. Schumaker tried again to place the baby in her mothers’ arms, “She so tiny Miss Ruth, I doubt she will live don’t you want to hold her”?
“Get it away from me”!
Ruth Viola White married in early May seven years before, she was a socially inexperience girl of nineteen who had never been out of Morgan County, Alabama. Raised on a farm she knew that sex brought on babies. It was her first time, and she became pregnant. She sat up on the back seat of Aubrey Drivers old car that Roy a man that she had known for a few weeks. I was her first time, she was nineteen and her parents were going to kill her. She insisted on getting married, the next morning in fear she rode with this handsome stranger and his friend Aubrey to Somerville, Alabama where they married, May 7, 1932. There would be no argument from the twenty-nine year old whiskey runner; he had been shot at enough in his lifetime. He came to Morgan County to hide from the law who wanted him all the way from Birmingham, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois.
Eight and half months later, Ruth had a healthy baby girl, she called her Billie Wayne; a name that no one had heard of, maybe someone she really loved. Ruth settled into the life of a farm helper’s wife, the little girl that ran beside her all day was beautiful, intelligent and the love of Ruth’s life. She hand sewed her clothes from printed flour sacks and lace given to her by neighbors; with a perfect child she did not want other children, she had hopes and dreams and they could not be accomplished with more than one child. In fact she did not want the husband that she did not know, but this was the South, in 1932, you married for life.
Ruth came from wealth that was gone by the time that she became the oldest of nine children. She knew what having money meant, and she knew that her husband would never provide it for her plowing fields and planting cotton. Ruth swore that she would one day have the respect that money could buy. She would hold onto the dream that would never materialize for her and her child? She held her new husband away as much as she could, he was a shy individual and his respect for women kept him at bay.
In July of 1938, Ruth found herself pregnant again; the hate was so severe that bile rose in her throat. How could this happen to her, the dreams for a future began to fade. Taking a dollar from their money jar she left Billie with a neighbor, Mrs. Schumaker and walked the rocky path down Burleson Mountain to where the old lady Ruby Ragsdale lived. Everyone thought she was a “witch”. The talk was that this old woman could mix a drink of bitter herbs that would do away with a pregnancy. Ruth was unyielding in her need to continue get rid of the baby and she would continue to drink it after she lost the baby making certain, no more babies, Billie was the only child she had ever wanted and she would be the only child she would ever have.
After a few weeks when Ruth found herself still pregnant she continued to drink the poison bitter herbs hoping it would get rid of it, she ate enough to survive and take care of Billie and the old log house they lived in. Her thoughts were, if she starved herself, she would starve the thing inside of her.
Ruth, still in pain felt the tiny blob slide out of her. She did not know if the baby was early or not, it was here and it was breathing. She vowed that she would not care for it and she would not be a mother to it. Ruth heard Mrs. Schumaker leave the room, she turned over and let the horror she had been through take over her mind. She did not know if she was praying to God or the Devil she hoped it would be possible that her prayer s would be heard, and this thing on the bed would die?
A barrel in the yard filled with burning wood shot flames into the morning air. The soiled bedcovers and the baby’s lifeline to its mother crackled as it fell upon the sizzling wood. Stirring the barrel with an old poking stick Mrs. Schumaker walked toward the breezeway separating the sleeping room from the room used for cooking. The house set in the middle of a cotton field located on top of Burleson Mountain, the logs were gray from age, built in the early-eighteen hundreds. Fieldstone fireplaces in the rooms were used for heat and cooking. However, Mrs. Schumacher admired Miss Ruth for turning the old place into a home for her child and Mr. Roy too.
Mrs. Schumaker returned, picked up the baby paused for a moment pulling back the cover from her face; two dark blue eyes stared back at her, curly dark hair curled around the baby’s shoulders; it was time to meet her daddy. Giving a heavy sigh she crossed the breezeway and walked through the door.
Roy Brown-Hawk sat on a handmade chair in front of the fireplace in the cooking room. He worried about his wife, and his new baby; his biggest fear, losing one or both of them. He had sat there for hours, he heard no moaning or cries of pain, the silence between the two rooms was still like an unmoving fog. Perhaps both his baby and his wife were dead.
Quietly Mrs. Schumaker came into the room, so softly that not one board creaked from the weight of her colossal body, she smiled, holding out the tiny bundle.
“Mr. Roy, you have a baby girl, dark hair just like you” she gently laid the baby in his rough work worn hands. He had rubbed lard into them all morning trying to make them softer knowing he might hold the baby. He laughed as he pulled back the covers from the tiny bundle so small she fit in one hand. Her little feet fell to his wrist and her neck rest on the tips of his fingers. She was the tiniest baby he had ever seen.
“Mr. Roy you need to get ready to maybe lose this little one, she is so small, I am worried about her and Miss Ruth she got no milk, and she don’t want her”. Mrs. Schumaker stood wringing her hands together dabbing at her eyes with the edge of her white apron. While Roy held the baby Mrs. Schumaker told him how to make a “sugar tit”,” I see you got clean white rags in a box in the other room, cut a small piece, wet it and put a spoon full of sugar in the middle; twist it until the end looks like a nipple on a tit”.
“I’m telling you Mr. Roy, I am sorry but I doubt she will live, her little lungs are not ready for breathing; I’m afraid she will die before she can feel her mama’s touch, it is so sad not wanting your own baby”. She looked at the baby, silently praying while her thoughts wondered.
Allimay Schumaker knew all of the White family, they were all pretty uppity, thought they were better than most people. Old Massa Robert White Miss Ruth’s grand pappy was a Captain in the Confederate States of America. He bought land all over Morgan County before and after the War; he owned the Mercantile Store in Hartselle, Alabama and a large Plantation not too far from town. His land holdings below Burleson Mountain was about two-thousand acres stretched from Rural Grove Road south under the Bluff, north to the Pool Bottoms that edged the Tennessee River backwaters and west to Flint Creek, of this land he deeded five-hundred acres over to his daughter Ira Mae and her husband Prentiss White when they got married. He built them a big house because he wanted lots of grandchildren. He lived long enough to regret his decision.
Miss Ruth’s daddy Prentiss White was the son of Robert and Annie Weston; Robert served in the War as well. He was comfortable after the war, but never acquired the wealth of the Whites. Ruth many times referred to her daddy as a whoremonger. Prentiss drank chased women and sold off the five-hundred acres of prime land to grow cotton bit-by-bit, he was too lazy to work and this would provide him with an income; by the time Miss Ruth married he had about five acres for corn, a ten acre pasture where he rented out for beef cattle to the owner of a tire dealership in Decatur, Alabama, E.G, Hamilton; he had the barn and the house on Rural Grove Road. A big garden, chickens, pigs and milk cows to help feed the family. They made a living off the land they had but no more.
Mrs. Schumaker knew about life taking a sad and depressing turn for Ruth when she got pregnant; but within eight months she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She placed all of her time and energy on Billie. She treated Mr. Roy like an outsider and spoke down to him, now after seven years he spoke only when she spoke to him. Mrs. Schumaker wondered if the disgrace of her daddy, their being poor or being a field hand for him and the caretaker of the family made her horrible and mean spirited. The whimper from the tiny bundle in Mr. Roy’s hand brought her back to the present.
“Well Mr. Roy she is all clean and you need to call out Miss Ruth’s Uncle; that Doctor White from Hartselle”. She repeated herself dabbing at her eyes; “Miss Ruth shore don’t want this baby”.
“Well, I have to go, if you need me ring the dinner bell on the porch somebody will hear it. I have to go take care of my family; by the way, I’ll keep Miss Billie for a few days”.
“Thank you Mrs. Schumaker, I’ll be lying in a cord of wood for you helping Ruth”, Roy sat staring at the tiny life he held in his hands no more than twelve inches long and maybe two pounds.
Allimay Schumaker had nine children of her own, one more would not matter; she glanced in one more time on the lifeless woman on the bed.
She closed the door walked slowly up the narrow rutted road that lead to her house. She and her husband William had lived on Burleson land since their birth; both families had lived there for generations. Old Massa bought slaves but never sold them off, the old William was bought from the Schumaker Plantation, he was her husband’s granddaddy and he kept the name of his former owner. Allimay family had been on the Burleson Plantation for a long as she could remember; families born there remain together for a life time. Old Massa was a General in the War Between the States; it was a mystery how the Plantation survived, but his son kept it going, always believing the old South would someday return. Before she knew it, Allimay was surrounded by screaming happy children including Miss Billie. Now, to take care of the Schumaker brood.
Roy shook his head bringing himself back to reality; Ruth had gotten rid of the baby bed years ago, announcing that she did not want any more children. He lay the baby down on the fireplace hearth, going into the other room to search for a box. He found an old boot box, returning to the baby never looking at his wife. Ruth chose starvation trying to lose the baby, it made her weak and her meanness came out. He could not force her to eat, and he believes that her method may have worked as he stood looking down at the result of her starvation.
Ruth lay still on the bed, pretending to be asleep so she would not have to look at Roy, she knew “it” was alive and wished it would die. The watery blue liquid dripping from her breast did not bother her, she remembered the rich milk she had for Billie, but the memory did not soften her thoughts. She closed her eyes and fell into a fretful sleep.
Roy weighed the baby with a two-pound cotton pee and the she could not pull it down to measure, the baby was less than two pounds. Cotton pee, a bell like objects with a hook on it; was made of solid steel. A measuring bar would have a sack of cotton on one end and a pee of various weights put on the other to measure the cottons weight; this time the scale did not budge.
The Bown-Hawk’s and Schumacher’s, they all tried to survive the miserable days following the depression. Roy worked for Mr. Burleson, one of the wealthiest men in Morgan County; the land that their old log house stood on was Burleson land and at one time housed slaves that worked the land. They used the same well, the same chicken house and stanchion for the cow; the only difference in the house floors had been laid in several years ago.
Roy believed that Mr. Burleson respected him, he was a hard worker, and the land he worked yielded more than most who sharecropped. Time had not taken away the horror brought upon those long ago tenants; most people in the south continued to believe that Indians and Negro’s were lower than the animals on the land.
Roy returned to the baby in his hands, he stoked at the fire his thoughts wandered again toward the time when he first met Ruth. She was at a local Roadhouse in Flint, Alabama with her sister Emma Sue. Emma was out on the dance floor having a good time; Ruth sat at a table in the back of the room hoping no one would see her. She and Emma Sue had slipped out after their parents were asleep; Emma Sue had a boyfriend; they would meet at the bottom road below Burleson Mountain. If they were caught, it would be Ruth that got beat. She would be told that she should know better, not Emma Sue. She did not look like she wanted any company. Roy had known of the place for years, it was one of his stops when he was running whisky from South Alabama to Chicago, Illinois. No one could have told him then that he would have a wife and two daughters a few years later on that early March morning.
He had come to Morgan County because of Ma, his grandmother. His last run was a bad one, his car had been shot up by Tennessee law enforcement, and he had barely got away from them. People hired him to run whiskey, every law throughout five states was paid off except them ole boys in Tennessee, and they did not take bribes! He drove through Tennessee with his speed surpassing the power of any car and put the needle on his dash out of sight. He would laugh every time he told that story. Ma was right he needed to lay low for a while; it had been his dream to return to Birmingham to play baseball for the Birmingham Black Bears, a minor team. No one knew that it was him driving the car, no one knew his name. That was all gone, playing baseball lay dead in his past he had responsibilities now!
Ruth lay on the cornhusk mattress in the other room thinking of Billie, she was the only child that she wanted. Ruth had nine brothers and sisters, she help deliver most of them and raised them until the day her mama kicked her out for marrying Roy. Ruth had hope to stop at giving birth to one child, she was tired of being poor; she wanted to make a better life by going to work. She lay crying thinking that maybe her strength would return so she could take care of herself and Billie, for days she still held onto the idea that this baby would die.
Ruth could not help but think of Roy’s sister Vina, she hated her and the fact that her husband’s half sister lived well made it worse; Vina was a beautician that owned her own shop in Birmingham, Alabama. Her husband Wesley worked for a Birmingham steel mill and brought home good money, Ruth was envious and she did not care who knew it.
Vina had always thought that Ruth had not planned Billie either. Vina believed that Ruth found herself pregnant after a few roadhouse visits with her sister, after meeting Roy. She let it slip one day that once she had sex, and being a virgin, she insisted Roy marry her. Roy was the kind of man that he did just that, and Billie had been born eight months and two weeks after they married. Roy had not planned a child either. His dream did not lie in the cotton fields of Northern Alabama. Nevertheless, he was a decent man, and he thought this was the right thing to do.
Ruth appeared disappointed that the baby had survived such a difficult birth. She was very ill herself, both physically and mentally; unhappy that she had another child, one she did not want. She could not think about it any longer, she rolled over falling into a fretful sleep; maybe when she woke she hoped that she would have a funeral to attend.
Old Doc White, Ruth’s Uncle came after the day after the baby was born; he was her mother’s brother lived and practice medicine in Hartselle, Alabama, and he traveled all over Morgan County attending people who could not get to him. He said the baby was too small but seems healthy enough and Ruth was despondent as many mothers are after delivering a baby. He said only time could help his niece or the baby. He left saying he would register the baby’s birth when he returned to Hartselle. Absent minded as he was, he registered a no name baby girl. His niece had said she would not name a dead baby.
Ruth chose not to have anything to do with the baby; she left it up to Roy to care for her. Their oldest daughter, Billie tried to help but the ability to care for a tiny baby and her mother was possible.
Roy could see that it was impossible to leave Ruth, Billie and a baby to work the fields. He walked a few days later to the Schumacher’s and called his sister Vina. She came that night to stay with him for a few days. Vina had given birth to baby girl born only weeks before, the baby was stillborn. She and her husband Wesley had two boys, Everett and Jimmy, and they hearts could hardly conceive losing her. She was in mourning, but she loved her brother and he needed help. Vina knew that Ruth did not care for her but she always tried to overlook her actions. When she arrived, she found Ruth despondent and Roy worried, both were at odds with each other. Ruth had refused to try nursing or care for her baby. Now she was upset that Vina was there, within days, Roy agreed that the baby could return to Birmingham with Vina. Vina, left with the baby in a boot box stuffed with cotton from the nearby field and covered with several flour sacks for a blanket, Ruth had not prepared any clothes or diapers. It would be several years before Roy would return to his sister’s to bring his baby home, that would also be on a warm March day.
March is a beautiful month in Northern Alabama. The buttercups, lilac and forsythia bushes were blooming around the Two-Pen cabin Roy called home. Kudzu vines would have covered the makeshift chicken house and the “Outhouse”. Beyond, a small barn surrounded by razor sharp Johnson grass bordered acres of freshly plowed ground waiting to nurture the seeds growing into what the south called white gold … cotton.
Author’s Note: This is the true story of Aunt Francis, an old colored lady who came to live at the farm where we lived in 1944. She was respected and loved by everyone who met her; except for my mother and sister.
Aunt Francis as she told me to call her lived on this earth over 100 years. Aunt France born in 1865 was the daughter of slaves. She thought herself to be watched over by the Angels, her mother and father were never sold; they were still together at the end of the War. They died and were buried on the same plantation where they were born.
Her birth name was Sarah Francis Belew; she came into my life when I was five – years – old; she was seventy nine. My daddy needed someone to watch over me while he was in the cotton fields; and my great-grandmother was getting on in age, ninety-five. My mother worked in town and she would come home most times after we were all in bed and she would be gone before most of us got up. She asks to be called Aunt Francis. I realize when I became older that calling her that could be placed in the racist category. However, in those days my daddy who was discriminated against himself; nor I knew much about being racist. My mother and sister on the other hand I doubt thought much about being racist, with my mother it was more hate than anything else; and my sister followed in her footsteps.
Aunt Francis was because of several conditions. Daddy went to the cotton gin in Priceville, Alabama, pulling a trailer of freshly picked cotton with his tractor. When he returns in the trailer, where the cotton once lay was Aunt Francis sitting in her big rocking chair, it would be safely to say that I wondered how her legs could carry this gigantic woman; but there she was an indigo blue dress with pink flowers scattered across the material. Covering the dress was a white bib apron that like the dress reached to the top of her shoes. Beside her a huge trunk which held all of her worldly belongings.
It was a Monday, mothers off day from the beauty shop. A “fight” quickly develops when mother ran to the back porch of our farmhouse wanting to know why “the old colored woman was there”. She knew Aunt Francis, but act as if she were a total stranger.
Everyone in Morgan County knew that she live in a lean-to in the back of the general store. If one does not know what a “lean-to” is, it is a three-sided building place against another building, no windows, and one door in, one door out. She lived there with her son Gus. It was her only child and the story was that she was raped b a white man, the results being Gus. She was too old to work the fields and no one wanted her for a maid or cook. So, she and Gus lived behind the store. He worked for the store at night cleaning it for a place to live and groceries. He had been accused of stealing money and placed in jail with a one-year sentence. The owner of the Priceville General Store put Aunt Francis out on the edge of the road, her rocker and chest. It was said that he had someone to tear down the lean-to and burn it along with the beds, table and chairs.
We had a little one room shack across from our house, it had a small pot belly stove and a table and chairs, and bed. I help as much as I could and we cleaned up the shack and moved her in, daddy cut wood for the stove and brought her canned fruits and vegetables out of mother’s pantry, to tell her when she wanted meat he would bring it from the smokehouse. He also told her that I would bring her potatoes from the garden. Fresh milk and water from the spring house. She was all set up before the sun set that day.
Mother did not want her there, but took advantage of it by saying she could clean, wash and cook for the family. Daddy looked at her saying, that she was not brought there to do any more than help watch me and my grand-mother. My mother was very unhappy with the situation. Now she had two to “put up” with.
She disliked Ma my daddy’s grandmother living with us, and now an old colored woman. Daddy’s grandmother had raised him when his mother died of the Spanish Flu. She was a full-blooded Native American, Chickasaw. Daddy sometimes would say to me, “You know that your mama married beneath her upbringing”, I would be much older before I understood the inference of what he said. I also felt bad for my mother she had made the mistake of marrying one of the most handsome men in Alabama. Dark, strong, a beautiful Chickasaw man. Well it was not the kindness and love caused her to marry him. My guess is that when my sister was born eight months after she med him, that was the answer. Of course, it always set my sister off into a tantrum when I would say that they had to get married. When I was born, my mother did not want another child. She gave me to my daddy’s half-sister, she kept me until I was three – years- old; when I could almost take care of myself daddy wanted me home. I had some of the most wonderful care givers in the world, my daddy, Ma (my great-grandmother) and Aunt Francis.
Therefore, I grew up learning how to act, live and survive; these lessons came from Ma and Aunt Francis. I was a young woman when I lost both of them. Ma along with my daddy had given me full knowledge of “The Ways” of their people, the nobility and strength. Aunt Francis gave me the meaning of life, to be alive and how to survive. She also, gave me the graciousness, and how a young woman should act. I doubt that I have lived up to their expectations of me, I have tried.
When I returned to Alabama to attend the funeral of Aunt Francis, it had to be one of the darkest days in my life. My daddy had taken care of her until the day she died. She moved into town when daddy left the farm when I was twelve- years – old, he found her a house and paid her rent. He gave her spending money and brought groceries to her weekly, from a list she prepared for him. My heart aches at the thought of how much she meant to us. In many ways I miss Aunt Francis more than I do my own mother. She raised me gave me the love I did not get at home.
Later in life I painted a picture of Aunt Francis in Acrylics, I wanted her to be young and alive. I have the picture today. Then much later I begin to write poetry, naturally the piece created “Another Spring for Aunt Francis” was for her. I have to smile at remembering her huge body walking across the creaky boards of the old tarpaper shack. The long dress covered with a starched white apron. Most of all I remember her hugs and kisses, she loved me and I loved, still love her.
Oh yes, the racism, being raised by Native American daddy, my Aunt (daddy’s sister), a great-grandmother and Aunt Francis, the daughter of slaves. I went into life with a different perspective than that of my mother and sister, and all of my mother’s people. I myself was discriminated against because I was the daughter of a poor Chickasaw farmer.
The poem below was created for my Aunt Francis…
Another spring for Aunt Francis
Her knees bend forward away from the worn out rocker, her legs getting their bearings while she made a puckered brow while looking out the window at the garden. Everything dies she thought; soon the fragrance of spring will be gone.
She narrows her eyes looking into the hedgerow at the end of her flowerbed to see if the sparrow hawks have returned, slowly she turns keeping contact with the old chair, holding onto its arms. After one-hundred listless summers, her soul still feeds on emotions of the stillness of the sweet-scented honeysuckle growing around her front porch.
Holding her breath she falls back into the chair, it shudders under her weight. She knows not to take her being able to stand for granted. Closing her eyes to rest, bible in hand, and her thoughts were none other than she could get back up another time, another spring. Maybe!
Author Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree books at: Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com
Flying with Broken Wings is about the life of Charlotte Jean Murphree. Charlotte was not a famous person, in fact, not too many people knew her, but those that did knew there were many facets to her life. The book tells of fifty-two-years of daily testing of her will to carry on and the misfortune she faced. As a baby and young girl she was made fun of and bullied by schoolchildren, her progress was slow but she never gave up the fight to overcome her disabilities. As an adult, she fought physical disability of Cerebral Palsy, living with Bipolar, Depression and Schizophrenia disorders. She lived not only with these disabilities, she endured the “Voices” that lived within her for over thirty years. This book is about the beginning, the middle and the end of her life.
Books by Author at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com:
Prejudices are alive and thriving within the borders of the United States of America. The blood of the first true American runs red upon the land that we hold scared, the American Indian. I continue having a problem with the views of “immigration” in this country by the “descendants” of immigrates. These people are now citizens of this country by either birth or becoming a citizen after coming to the United States. The rhetoric has not changed throughout the years. It is like being ugly and poor, if you are not beautiful, rich and powerful your chances of getting into the “upper 1% club” is zero.
My father was born in 1903, he, his mother, grandmother and their people the Southeastern Chickasaw’s were not recognized as American citizens until about 1940, by then he was married and had two children. He was born in America, lived, worked and died in America, but he was almost 37 years-old.
In 1924, The Act governing Native Americans did not include those born before the effective date of the 1924 Act and it was not until the Nationality Act of 1940 that all born on U.S. soil were citizens; my father was thirty-seven years old before he was to be recognized as a “REAL AMERICAN CITIZEN”. Many Native Americans, who were granted citizenship rights under the 1924 Act, may not have had full citizenship and suffrage rights until 1948. My father’s right to be a citizen of the United States of American was granted to him by “Immigrates or the Descendants of immigrates”
I have to wonder what my father and those who came before him, those who were drove from their lands, walked the Trail of Tears, those who help build this country would have to say about how we look upon the way those in power, the people we voted into office are reacting to today’s immigration decisions, have they forgotten that we are all descendants of immigrates, your ancestors who came to this country and were welcomed with open arms. They did not have to go over a wall or under one, their children were not taken away from them, some lost forever.
I believe we need to stop and think about how we look in the eyes of other countries, to people who may want to make America their home, are we moving forward or backward? If Donald Trump is allow to sit upon his throne in the White House, how many more immigrates will fall to the wayside? Immigrates built this country, Trump has twisted every law, the Constitution, to his favor and childlike behavior. As Americans from all races, faiths and color, we need to take back our country, bring it back to the time when we stood at our borders with open arms for those in need, or those being persecuted by their own country.
This is only my opinion and mine alone, of one who watch their father being discriminated against when I was a child. A father who was not allowed, to walk down the same street next to a powerful white man. A father who worked hard to make a living with little education. A father who would take food off our table to give to someone passing through who was hungry and did not have a job. A father who would fight for all people, be understanding of differences, and fight against discrimination. My father, a True American! Donald Trump is not, he is blight on this land!
Getting off my soap box…elizabethannjohnsonmuphree
Current working draft of a new book…scene set in the Deep South, love does not have any boundaries, race or age. Brianna Youngblood is dying and Jesse her niece has come home to care for her.
Jesse Brianna Youngblood walked into the lobby of the Ayers Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama; her body went ridged, childhood fears returned as she stopped in front of the elevator doors. The doors opened, she shut her eyes tight and walked quickly through them, she did not need to look to know that the tarnished brass rail was next to her; feeling ashamed that after more than thirty years she still associated the old elevator with a tragic time in her life.
An elderly man walked in behind her, waited for a few moments then began clearing his Throat.
“Young lady are you going to just stand there with your eyes closed or do you intend to select a floor?” The voice dripped of southern politeness laced with attitude.
“I’m sorry sir, the tenth floor please.” Her voice apologetic Jesse could feel his irritability, but she kept her eyes closed.
She was not going to surrender her hold on the railing, he reached out selected his floor and pushed the button for the top floor as well. The antiquated elevator cables creaked and groaned as Jesse counted each floor that passed, then it stopped on the ninth floor; the old man grumbled under his breath as he got off, she was going to see the old woman. Then the intimidating climb continued but Jesse was excited to be back, it had been five years since her aunt made the decision to change the building from the old hotel to apartments; of course, her Aunt Biana still occupied the entire top floor or penthouse as some tenants refers to it.
Finally, the doors opened and so did her eyes, she stepped quickly into the entrance hall where nothing had changed. Her aunt, owner of the hotel decided five years earlier to have it renovated into apartments; but the tenth floor was like stepping back into time. Mirrors in gilded frames, drawings of known and unknown artists lined the walls; colossal vases filled with multicolored plumes stood tall like sentries at the entrance door. Time had left its mark on everything, the building, maybe the life beyond the door. Jesse did not know what she was going to find on the other side, but she was home.
Author’s Note: The postings of Presidents who owned slaves is not created to invoke comments of anger, it is done to make aware of those we may have honored, had their “DARK” side. The post are intended to make aware the wrongful act of slavery, and of those who talked for or against slavery, participated in slavery. If I have offended anyone, or made them angry I apologize this was not my intent. Awareness and logical words speak far louder than the violence and destruction of our current times in America. EAJM
The Seventh President of the United States of America
Series on Presidential Slavery
In all reality, slavery was the source of Andrew Jackson’s wealth. The Hermitage was a 1,000 acre, self-sustaining plantation relying completely on the labor of slaves, African American men, women and children. They performed the hard labor that produced the cash crop, cotton. The more land Andrew Jackson accrued, the more slaves he procured to work it. Thus, the Jackson family’s survival was made possible by the profit garnered from the crops worked by the enslaved on a daily basis.
Jackson was born in the Carolina he became a frontier lawyer and served briefly in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, representing Tennessee. After resigning, he served as a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court from 1798 until 1804. Jackson purchased a property later known as The Hermitage, and became a wealthy, a slave owning planter. In 1801, he was appointed colonel of the Tennessee militia and was elected its commander the following year. He led troops during the Creek War of 1813–1814, winning the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The subsequent Treaty of Fort Jackson required the Creek surrender of vast lands in present-day Alabama and Georgia. Also, the Chickasaw’s in Alabama and they were my people, my great-great-grandparents were on the Trail of Tears.
Jackson prospered as planter, slave owner, and merchant. He built a home and the first general store in Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1803. The next year, he acquired the Hermitage, a 640-acre plantation in Davidson County, near Nashville. He later added 360 acres to the plantation, which eventually totaled 1,050 acres. The primary crop was cotton, grown by slaves—Jackson began with nine, owned as many as 44 by 1820, and later up to 150, placing him among the planter elite. Jackson also co-owned with his son Andrew Jackson Jr. the Halcyon plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi, which housed 51 slaves at the time of his death. Throughout his lifetime, Jackson may have owned as many as 300 slaves.
Men, women, and child slaves were owned by Jackson on three sections of the Hermitage plantation. Slaves lived in extended family units of between five and ten persons and were quartered in 400 square feet cabins made either of brick or logs. The size and quality of the Hermitage slave quarters exceeded the standards of his times. To help slaves acquire food, Jackson supplied them with guns, knives, and fishing equipment. At times he paid his slaves with monies and coins to trade in local markets. The Hermitage plantation was a profit-making enterprise. Jackson permitted slaves to be whipped to increase productivity or if he believed his slaves’ offenses were severe enough. At various times he posted advertisements for fugitive slaves who had escaped from his plantation. In one advertisement placed in the Tennessee Gazette in October 1804, Jackson offered “ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.”
Throughout his eight years in office, Jackson made about 70 treaties with Native American tribes both in the South and in the Northwest. Jackson’s presidency marked a new era in Indian-Anglo American relations initiating a policy of Indian removal. Jackson himself sometimes participated in the treaty negotiating process with various Indian tribes, though other times he left the negotiations to his subordinates. The southern tribes included the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole and the Cherokee. The northwest tribes include the Chippewa, Ottawa, and the Potawatomi.
He fiercely disliked the abolitionists, whom he believed were, by instituting sectional jealousies, attempting to destroy the Union. Jackson called on Congress to prohibit the circulation through the South of “incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.”
In his retirement, Jackson remained active in Democratic Party politics, supporting the presidencies of Martin Van Buren and James K. Polk. Though fearful of its effects on the slavery debate, Jackson advocated the annexation of Texas, which was accomplished shortly before his death. Jackson has been widely revered in the United States as an advocate for democracy and the common man. But was he, he owned slaves, this should not be revered anywhere.
Many of his actions proved divisive, garnering both fervent support and strong opposition from many in the country. His reputation suffered, largely due to his role in Native American removal. However, slavery should be added to this list.
I had made the statement that “The Americans stole the land from the Native Americans, just as the Native Americans stole the land from those before them”. The current question is “Who did the Native Americans steal land from”? Only each other!
Native Americans were stealing land from one another, and killing one another long before others sailed to what is today known as America. Taking land by conquest was a part of Native American culture. Creek Indians conquered land from Choctaws and Chickasaws and other Creeks. Comanche’s came in and took the land from the Apaches by war, as so on. The Cheyenne and Comanche took a lot of land away from other Indians when they got the horse. The Blackfeet, Nez Pierce, and Crow continually fought over the same land in Idaho and Wyoming. American Indians both stole, and had land stolen. The Apache stole every “thing” from everybody.
Columbus thought he was in India because of how similar the Natives appearance to the Persians, thus history tells us that Columbus discovered America. However, America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent. A map created in 1507 was the first to depict this new continent with the name “America,” a Latinized version of “Amerigo.”
My ancestors were Chickasaw in Southeast America, living between the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico. In the area of the Mississippi River. They inherited the Mississippian culture period that lasted from AD 700- 1600. The natives of the regions spoke a number of different languages that included Choctaw, Chickasaw, Apalachee, Creek, Seminole, and Alabama.
The Natives of the Southeast both grew food and were hunter-gathers. The main items of their diets included cornbread, grits, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn. They were able to catch rabbits, hogs, turkey, raccoons and deer. The religious beliefs of the Native Americans of the Southeast were similar to the rest of the Native Americans. They believed in Animism, the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork and perhaps even words—as animated and alive.
We as humans would have done well to continue keeping Animism in all religions, with this belief, we would have respected everything and each other, creating a better America.
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