Category Archives: slavery

Scene Post Rebellion — 1739

Angel Oak, SC My photo run thru Prisma filter

From the drafts file. July 2020. Enjoy. A deleted chapter followed by two paragraphs about the news.

Place: west of Wappoo Plantation, South Carolina where Eliza Lucas lived before she married Charles Pinckney in 1744.

Time: October 1739. Roughly a month after the rebellion later known as the Stono Slave Rebellion, named for the river running through the landscape of fervent hope and violent loss.

Character: Mo. An enslaved man from Wappoo.

This chapter is duplicative of others so won’t be included in my novel, whose working title has gone from Blood and Indigo to The Weight of Cloth. I often write a scene six different ways before landing on a keeper and even then, might make major changes. I don’t think this is unusual.

He stood at the crossroads ashy with fatigue. Was he even still alive? Time had gone wonky. Nights sleeping in the scrub, days making a meandering path, first away, and now back. Back to what? The rebellion had really happened, hadn’t it? It wasn’t just a fever dream of freedom? Mo remembered the weight of Commissioner Gibbs’s head in his hands. He looked down at his tunic, saw the confirming blood there. What had happened to those who hadn’t melted away into the shadows like he had? He did not know, but had a hunch. He had a hunch that most of those brave rebels were dead and not just because hounds are ruthless and native trackers precise, but because sometimes at dawn or as the sunset and the clouds bruised purple, he felt their spirits like butterfly wings on his cheek or shoulder. They wandered still, in other words, still seeking a way out of bondage but without a body to hold them back anymore.

Mo was rail thin. There were hickory nuts this time of year and bracken ferns, sour plums, but not much else. He’d gone from a wild and ferocious hunger that left no room for other thoughts, not even of Binah’s sly smile, to having no hunger at all, the thought of hominy nearly enough to make him wretch.

That dawn, something about the way the wind spoke to him through the chestnut trees told him that it was at last time to return home, if he could call it that.

*. *. *.

I know I promised a rant, but one that wrestles with how to speak up as a white person, and when, and what that might sound like just cannot be published the day after George Floyd’s memorial.

I watched much of the eulogy by Reverend Al Sharpton yesterday — did you? Powerfully moving, as was Kamala Harris’s seven minute statement to the Senate about Ron Paul’s idiotic attempt to limit her and Cory Gardner and Tim Scott’s bill to make lynching a federal crime.

SoulCollage card c. Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012

Our problematic past

A Memorial to Murdered Jews in Europe is located in Berlin, I learned last week at one of the sessions of the Annual Slave Dwelling Project Conference, and is the size of six or seven football fields. Not only is it huge, but the memorial sits in the middle of the capitol city.

During a Keynote presentation entitled, What Americans Can Learn from Germany’s Racial Reckoning, Susan Neiman asked, can you imagine if a comparable monument existed in Washington DC to memorialize the victims of slavery?

It took fifty years for such a conscious attitude to emerge in Germany, but we’ve had more than four hundred. Only now do the monuments to the Confederacy start to come down. Only now are state flags being revised to eliminate references to chattel slavery.

In Germany, it is illegal to display a swastika. If only confederate flags were equally taboo here (or swastikas, for that matter). If only an Anti-Lynching law could pass in the Senate!

Thanks to Bryan Stevenson, of course, we now have what’s casually referred to as the Lynching Memorial down in Montgomery, Alabama. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It goes a long way to recognizing the reign of terror (aka Jim Crow) and its many, many victims. I love the way the project collects soil from the sites of violence for the museum and erects markers at the site of the killings, often with surviving family members present.

The soul jars (an autocorrect for “soil” that I’m gonna let stand) are more akin to another memorial highlighted by scholar Neiman : the Stumbling Stones. These are small, engraved plaques located at the entrance to homes in 1200 cities through Europe and Russia. There are 70,000 in all.

A Guardian article compares the large memorial in central Berlin with these smaller, localized remembrances:

If Eisenman’s large monument, set in the governmental heart of Berlin, emphasises the scale and political culpability of the Holocaust, the Stolpersteine [Stepping Stones] focus on its individual tragedies.

Each stone is engraved with the following: Here Lived — the name of the former resident, their date of birth, and their fate. Some list internment, suicide, or exile, but most of them list deportation and murder.

On this side of the Atlantic, smaller American memorials to the victims of enslavement can be found here and there, with more springing up all the time. While these can never take the place of a national monument, they do matter. I know of at least two.

For example, Boston just recently erected a monument honoring those who were kidnapped from Africa and shipped here for sale. I visited The Middle Passage Memorial on Long Wharf and wrote about it here.

There’s also the African Burying Ground in Portsmouth posted about here after a trip to New Hampshire specifically to see it.

The plaque tells us that the male figure represents the first enslaved Africans brought to Portsmouth, while the female figure represents Mother Africa.

But again, let’s contemplate what it would be like if our country had the will, the sense of justice, and the dedication to righting the wrongs of the past such that we created a significant memorial in our Capitol.

It’s unthinkable right now.

I don’t want to end on such a hopeless note, so let me cite a few recent examples of reparations or even, moves toward reparations.

From KQED. One Way To Close The Black Homeownership Gap: Housing As Reparations (full article here):

Cities like Asheville, North Carolina and Evanston, Illinois have taken steps toward reparations in recent months. In Evanston, $10 million collected by the city in cannabis revenue would be used to offer African American residents $25,000 to put toward a down payment on a home.

California just became the first state to sign a law to study and propose a potential reparations plan.

From FiveThirtyEight. Can A Local Reparations Program Undo Decades Of Housing Discrimination:

In the case of Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, the city decided to address its history of discrimination via unfair housing policies, such as “redlining,” a practice in which lenders refused to insure mortgages in and near predominantly Black neighborhoods. So, yes, this is not reparations in the way many people traditionally think of the term — i.e., direct cash payments to Black descendants of enslaved people that attempt to correct the effects of systemic racism — but it’s likely that this program will still take some first steps toward remedying housing inequity.

To end, enjoy a few screen shots.

February 2021

Middle Passage Marker Boston

Labor Day seemed an appropriate day to visit the new display marking the Middle Passage down on Long Wharf, Boston. It is yards from the Atlantic and the site where Africans were unloaded from ships and sold.

I took a lot of pictures, so that I could read later. Why? Parking fees were obscene. I set my timer for 35 minutes, determined not to pay more than $18. But we didn’t really want to pay even that, so we didn’t dally. Made it back in under twenty minutes. High fives at the parking pay kiosk.

Rowes Wharf, approaching Long Wharf

Most of the business along Long Wharf these days is tourism.

Almost all of the marker’s text was devoted to highlighting local luminary African Americans, like Phyllis Wheatley (blogged about here). I expected the narrative to reveal the horrors of the slave trade, so this surprised me a little. Did you know, for example, that the Guinea ships could be smelled from four miles off, so vile was the hygiene and carnage? Or that a loss of life in the neighborhood of ten percent was an acceptable margin in terms of turning a profit?

If you read my Facebook post on this yesterday, you’ll have seen the LONG laundry list of ways that the North profited from slavery, pictured below.

Next time we go, I’ll bring flowers and we’ll look for on-street parking.

when rabbit holes are “work”

You may recall that my manuscript consultant suggested an epilogue. How about 1758? That’s the year Eliza and her husband, Charles Pinckney, return to South Carolina after a lengthy stay in England. Charles dies in July. Malaria claimed a lot of lives in colonial America.

Prior research had been pretty laser-focused on the years 1738 to 1744. With many historic tomes, in fact, I just stopped reading at 1745. I barely read Eliza’s letters after her marriage in ’44.

Well that’s not entirely true. I read them two or three times, but I didn’t MINE them and their footnotes for personal events and tone and history.

So I had to ask: what was Charles Town like fourteen years after my original narrative ended? Also, because one character flees to Philly, what was the City of Brotherly Love like in 1758?

Imagine my glee — yes glee! — to learn about an early abolitionist who published the very first unequivocal position against slavery in the western world! His name was Anthony Benezet and he was a Huguenot-turned Quaker. The Quakers adopted the proclamation in Philadelphia in 1758. *

I found a Library of Congress lecture by one of Benezet’s biographers, Maurice Jackson, and listened to it in its entirety (those of you who know me understand how rare that is).

Why isn’t he better known?

His pamphlet or Slave Almanac was later copied in large measure by better known abolitionist John Wesley and relied upon by the likes of Granville Sharp.

I noodled around Ben Franklin’s early career as a printer (he was out of the business by 1758) and his then equivocal stance on slavery — or at least his unwillingness to attach his name to those early anti-slavery pamphlets.

The other thing to know generally was that the French and Indian war was going on. It was the reason why Charles and Eliza Pinckney had returned to South Carolina. They wanted to secure or sell their properties.

Fun fact: the Join or Die flag originally referred to the necessity to cooperate in the fight against France and only later was coopted by the Revolutionaries battling Britain.

* The proclamation was approved at a Quaker Yearly meeting in 1758 but not printed until 1759.

In other news, the wisteria is blooming and I got my hair cut. New glasses ordered. All systems go!

And I’m making a tunic. Ha! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Names of the enslaved in Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s will

In the spirit of ‘saying their names,’ the names of the enslaved “property” in Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s estate are listed below. Black people were enumerated in testamentary documents along with furniture, horses and mules, jewelry and land, making clear their status as chattel.

[The names listed in bold on the list are names I’ve used in my novel (in its second edit now)].

It’s also worth noting that at the time of her marriage to Charles Pinckney (May 27, 1744), Eliza’s father included about two dozen enslaved people as part of her dowry. The record tells us that Quashee (aka John Williams) was a matter of dispute between Eliza’s father and her fiance. Both men wanted him and for good reason — he was literate and an extraordinarily skilled carpenter. Eliza’s husband-to-be won out and Quashee went on to oversee and help build the newlywed couple’s new home on East Bay.

To read more about the fascinating life of Quashee, who eventually became a free man and amassed a fair amount of property, including slaves and then vanished from the record (my theory being he became too successful for whites to tolerate), please see Andrea Feeser’s book, Red, White, and Black Makes Blue / Indigo in the Fabric of Colonial South Carolina Life.

Also note: it’s a mistake to think that slaves named after days of the week were so-named out of a heartless, objectifying inattention on the part of auctioneers and owners, much like some names were based on slave trading ships (see recent post about Phillis Wheatley). In some African cultures it was common. For instance, Cudjoe (variants: Cuffy, Joe) means Monday; Quashee, Sunday.

Hercules – slave

· Abraham – slave

· Monday – slave

· Barack – slave

· Juno – slave

· Betty – slave

· Jim – slave

· Frank – slave

· Mary – slave

· Tyrah – slave

· Smart – slave

· Elsey – slave

· Serah – slave

· Solomon – slave

· Prince – slave

· Hanay – slave

· Rachel – slave

· Mary – slave

· Jacob – slave

· York – slave

· Fortune – slave

· Doll – slave

· Joe – slave

· York – slave

· Celia – slave

· Daphne – slave

· Joe – slave

· Cuffy – slave

· Susan – slave

· Lucy – slave

· Elsey – slave

· Milly – slave

· Peggy – slave

· Ned – slave

· Binah – slave

· Peggy – slave

· Rose – slave

· Juno – slave

· Joe – slave

· Henry – slave

· Jenny – slave

· Thomas – slave

· Jacob – slave

· Bella – slave

· Betty – slave

· Hercules – slave

· Nelly – slave

· Betsy – slave

· Pindar – slave

· Caty – slave

· Pendar – slave

· Juno Henry – slave

· Harry – slave

· Ann – slave

· Pendar – slave

· Grace – slave

· Johnny – slave

· Joshua – slave

· Tenah – slave

· Nathan – slave

· Jack – slave

· Stephen – slave

· Bess – slave

· Ceasar – slave

· Robin – slave

· Adam – slave

· Binah – slave

· Caty – slave

· Sue – slave

· Cudjoe – slave

· Doll – slave

· Hannah – slave

· Dublin – slave

· Charity – slave

· Lucy – slave

· Grace – slave

· Prince – slave

· Sarah – slave

· Frank – slave

· Harriett – slave

· Abraham – slave

· Raleigh – slave

· Celia – slave

· Coleman – slave

· Ishremael – slave

· Polly – slave

· Ishramel – slave

· Henry – slave

· Gibbe – slave

· Meene – slave

· Ellen – slave

· Bella – slave

· Maria – slave

· Gilbert – slave

Added by Lowcountry Africana · July 4, 2010

PS photo was taken at Boone Hall Plantation.