Thursday, January 31, 2008
Slavery, the human condition
As stated below, Mrs. C and I went to the low country oyster festival on Sunday the twenty seventh. The festival is held at
Boone Hall plantation
I've been to the plantation many times and have often wondered about the past inhabitants of both the big house and the slave quarters. I was raised to know that slavery was a bad thing; but did you ever wonder why? If it was so bad then why did many slaves stay on as servants of the same people? I remember reading stories in a book called "When I Just Can Remember". It was full of accounts of the lives of slaves before and after freedom. I don't really know what life was like for most Africans before slavery, but I presume it to be much like the American Indians. I do know something of the lives of the slave though, and thought I might compare it to the not too distant past of my family. Before I walk along on this journey though I must answer a question that I have wondered about over the years while always knowing the answer. Why did they stay? They stayed for the same reasons that you and I stay in jobs, marriages, homes, and other situations that might not be best for us. They were comfortable! Some days were good and some bad, but they were do able! They also had value! Even as slaves they had value, and were proud of that value. Value is as important to us as air! The amount varies, but fact remains. The slaves at Boone Hall had it better then some, I'm sure. They had housing with a fire place and tile roofs. They also had garden space to grow the plants that would spice their food and nurse their health. They also supplemented their food by fishing and hunting. They had medical attention to help them stay healthy.(though not good even for the times) They had a school to learn to read and write. By contrast my Grandfather had a wife and seven children in a small one room wooden shack in the northern Michigan climate. The old place didn't even have a solid door for a large part of the year! Heat came from a wood stove, as did the heat for cooking. Water was brought in from a pitcher pump in the yard, same as what watered the animals. Medicine was what you grew or knew, and cuts were stitched by Grandma with a needle and thread. Whiskey was the Betadine of the day as well as the sedative. I remember seeing a pic of my Dad as a bit more then a toddler wearing what looked like a flour sack with the arms and head holes cut into the bottom. Grandpa worked a shift at the quarry, and then tended the farm at night and on Sunday. Grandma did the hunting to put meat on the table because she was around home and the best shot. Ammo was a need that couldn't be wasted at that time. The farms first tractor came on a down payment by my Dad, with his Airborne jump money. This meant that Dan and Molly the draft horses could semi retire. School was about a mile up the road, but the cash crop paid for new shoes for the kids once a year. No school if your chores weren't done. Even as a child myself we were poor. We rented from Black people to have a place to live, and grew lots of food to see us through the winters. Mom made the bread that we ate each other day. How poor were we? I grew up fifty feet from the boyhood home of Malcolm Little, also known as Malcolm X. He could tote a gun and hate whitey. We had to work to live. What I would say of slavery is that its evil is in the creation of dependence, and an inability to make ones own way. Welfare is just another form of it. With few exceptions we are all slaves to something or some ideal.
One of my favorite memories is of helping my mom to make the bread for that nights meal. I was just four, but already kneading the dough.