Blood and Indigo — the great reveal

photo of photo in the Charleston Museum photo of photo in the Charleston Museum

“Blood and Indigo” — that’s the working title for a novel taking place in the mid-eighteenth century in South Carolina. I wasn’t planning to be so open about the project yet (though I am now more than two years into it), but there is an indigo workshop in September just outside of Charleston and I’m planning to go.

IMG_2461It would be so perfect! I traveled to Charleston this past April, as some of you know, but was only there for a short while — I took tons of pictures and did two plantation tours and visited the Chalmers Street former slave auction site and spent two afternoons in the Charleston Museum,  but this would be fabulous — I’d get to see the area in the fall (and take tons more pictures) and the indigo!!  Well, check out Sea Island Indigo!!

IMG_2454It all started with a book by India Flint called “Eco Colour”.  In it, she devotes a page to the colonial settler, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, and her work with indigo.  Next came Eliza’s letters.  Once I started asking myself, ‘what were the lives of her slaves like?’ I was off and running.

from my indigo vat, 2012 from my indigo vat, 2012

For more than two years now, I have been writing, writing, writing, and researching, researching, researching (there’s an example of great writing right there). I have learned so much about American history that I feel like a different person than when I started out. Reading history about the enslaved changes you. Details about the slave trade, the slave codes, the brutality, the labor practices, the attempts at rebellion, the words used by the elite to describe “their” African Americans — all change you. The most recent and best thing I have read about racism (I cannot recommend this article enough) was published in a recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly, and it’s called “The Case for Reparations”.  Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, it is hard-hitting, full of examples of ongoing harm, and it will make you shake your head in sadness and wonder at what we are — we Americans, this America.

An African American crafter will be teaching rag quilting and talking about Gullah culture. I cannot say how perfect this event feels as a boost for my writing project!

paper piece revealing what must be the name of one of Eliza's sons paper piece revealing what must be the name of one of Eliza’s sons, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

25 thoughts on “Blood and Indigo — the great reveal

  1. user107055

    hello..this is cynthia..from the diaries and lurker like from weaving…kickstarted campaigns have been so amazingly important to my kids and their is how breezy meadows raised the money to have the rice paddies i happily donate to you..may you have an equal amount of success …and pleasure in your journey..

  2. Patricia

    Dee–this is very exciting news. Two topics dear to my heart as well. I share your fascination with this era—- when i lived in Georgia outside of Savannah I spent time on Sapelo and it seemed that everything i read this summer seemed to focus on either slavery or its aftermath including “the invention of wings” and “someone knows my name” as well as rereading Isabel Allende’s “Island beneath the Sea”–and then the movie “Belle” which helped flesh out the culpability of the rest of the world.

    I understand that you’re taking a factual approach to the material and can’t wait to read your finished product. Put me on the waiting list.

    1. deemallon

      Patricia — thank you for your interest AND your donation!! I think the wave of movies and books about slavery is part of a need to update our consciousness in this country. I have “The Invention of Wings” on my ‘to-read’ list, but am holding off because it sounds very similar to what I am attempting to do — though 100 years later — and what a difference those 100 years make! Thank you again… I will look up ‘Someone Knows My Name” and Sapelo to see what you are talking about.

      1. Mo Crow

        “The Invention of Wings” is an interesting read, I really enjoyed the story cloth connection and the historical aspects of the abolitionist movement also just finished reading “The Help” set in in the 60’s which I am ambivalent about recommending as it treads the dangerous line of the white writer trying to write from the maid’s perspective & can recommend reading it as a good way not to write your book!

  3. Mo Crow

    Hi Dee, how exciting! have you read the very well researched “Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans” by Jenny Balfour-Paul ? Also enjoyed reading “Indigo: in search of the colour that seduced the world” by Catherine E. McKinley & “Colour- travels through the paintbox” by Victoria Finlay is a favourite that I have reread many times.

    1. deemallon

      THANK you Mo! Your support means the world to me!! I have read the McKinley book, which I found a great testament to how long-standing the art of indigo in Africa is… it was an important building block in my thoughts about what happened in Eliza’s life. The other two I have not heard of, and appreciate the referrals.

  4. Lisa Eaton

    Woo Hoo! Go to Town, Dee! I mean go to CharlesTown. I second The Invention of Wings recommendation. The Kitchen House was another good one. You are brave. The mental images are so haunting. I know you will do great things with your work.

    1. deemallon

      Thanks Lisa. I am keeping my fingers crossed! Haven’t heard about The Kitchen House. I love getting all these book recommendations!

  5. karmadondruplhamo

    Dee…i hope you can leave extra time while you are there to speak with family of those
    who worked those plantations, the children of those slaves. Not sure how you would
    be able to set this up, would need to do it ahead of time…but that would be invaluable…their stories they were told by grandmother, grand father…

    1. deemallon

      That is such a great idea Grace and not sure how I would pull that off esp in such a short amount of time. That’s one reason I’m so psyched they have a presentation on Gullah culture as part of the workshop.

  6. Dana

    Dee! I’m blown away by your project and wish you all the best….I’m in with the indigo workshop and only wish I could go too. Keep us posted…I know you will. I can hardly wait.

  7. saskia

    OMG this is big; I am not at all surprised that you’re writing, ‘cos that’s what you are, a writer;
    I am excited Dee, it’s going to happen, you started it!

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