The display is the small but the perfect size for a historical society in a county that has only one stop light. Yet, it spoke with a roar when I saw it – hand-sewn dolls with black fabric skin and calico dresses. Women in long aprons in front of log houses with broad chinking. Lists of people’s names and their residence locations swiped in a slanting script.
Documents and artifacts about and made by the people who were enslaved in my hometown.
I will never find it easy to look at slave inventories. I will always wish that these inventories were not real, that this history was fiction, that humans didn’t (and don’t) own other humans. I will never not wish to know more about each of the people listed them – to wish there was a surname listed, to wish I knew what their favorite food was, or what they dreamed of doing with their time if they had any choice in the matter.
But when I see these items put out publicly, on display, I am more hopeful. Hopeful that we will actively remember these people in our culture. Hopeful that we may heal more deeply from the wound that slavery has left on all of us. Hopeful that these people – the people who have shaped our culture, our landscape, and our history with profound influence – will be seen as more than statistics, more than just given names on a cream piece of paper.
It’s not a small thing to see these images, these artifacts, these names behind glass. It’s information. It’s perspective. It’s hope. It’s humanity.
What have you learned about slavery and enslaved people in your lifetime? Where did you learn?
Above at the top-right, you can sign up to get a FREE copy of my forthcoming book about the people enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. I’m hoping to give away at least 200 copies, so please input your email address and share with anyone who might be interested. Thanks.