Reubin, Jacob, Joneral, Judan, and Dogson – the names of 5 children who were given as part of a will to the mother of one of the men who owned my new home. Children given away to the five children of the owner’s brother (Thomas Canady) – one slave for each child, I expect was the thinking.
I, instead, think a child given to a child.
These 5 babies were to be chosen by 5 other babies by rank of age or “lot.” 5 children would draw straws to find out who would own who.
My stomach hurts at the thought . . .
And I study their names – all I know of them – and think how even the document that gave them away like a china hutch did not, in all likelihood, spell their names correctly. Reuben, Judah, General? Jacob comes out whole, and when I search ‘dogson slave name,’ Google asks me if I mean “dogs on slaves” and I’m spiraled into another gruesome image – one I know better from Mississippi in this century – of dogs let loose on young children.
The horrors of slavery – gah! the cliche for which I cannot find new words – keep astounding me, leaving me sore tongued and weary. How will we ever heal?
I return to my mind’s image of these 5 children – big eyes, ragged clothes, smooth skin. Innocence embodied . . . and I wonder how long they stayed innocent. How long does a child stay naive and quiet and playful in all the perfect ways when she is given away like a new doll?
This morning, with our move to this place built by the labor – at least in part – of enslaved people, perhaps even one of these children, I do not know what to do except keep searching, keep learning, keep bearing forth these children’s names in my heart. Perhaps then they will be safe.
Oh, how I wish?
When you are reminded that young children were given away as pieces of property, what does that knowledge do to your heart? How do you carry it?
I am beyond honored to have been named to the board of an organization to whom I am grateful and much endebted – Coming to the Table. If you are interested in learning more about healing the historical harms of slavery, of discussing the lingering legacy of his institution, or just have questions that you’d like to discuss, I URGE you to join us. You can ask to be join our Facebook page or sign-up to receive regular updates on our website. We welcome your history, your questions, and your pain.