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  • Writer's pictureMarcia Edwina Herman-Giddens

Realizing: A Deep South Story from a White Reader

It has been a while since I posted a blog. The Alabama book tour has been all consuming. Now that I am back, I am catching up on my rest, emails, and other things the things that pile up when one is away. More about the tour soon. What a wonderful, though exhausting, experience. And, I got to have the beauty of early spring twice. Oddly, since snowdrops bloom before daffodils here in North Carolina, way deep in the south where I was, they were blooming along with the daffodils. A sweet combination.

One of the emails waiting for me from a reader who had just finished Unloose My Heart, had the story below. I am grateful for her permission to share them. These memories are important and need to be shared. Thank you, dear reader.

I was born in a doctor's office in a small town in the deep South. I grew up in a tiny town that was totally segregated and had no consciousness or awareness of what that really meant, even as my mother pulled daddy's Klan robe and hood out of the closet to show us, still clueless, or so it seems- looking back- a fog. I have memories of being at two KKK events with my family- one at the state capitol, the other in a small town not far from where we lived. No cross burnings, though.

I was oblivious, we kids just played outside. I have no memory of having any idea of what was going on. Going back for one of the periodic visits to my little town as a young adult, I realized that in this town of 3,000, I had no idea where the Black schools were. My daddy's side were dirt poor and owned almost nothing. Yet, there is a piece of land there in that county where his grandparents had some farmland where their 10 boys were raised. Family reunions still go on there. I went to them every summer as a child and saw my 41 aunts and uncles and 33 first cousins- whew.

Here is how I came to realize I also had slave owning ancestors. They were on my mother’s side. I had never thought I did as most of my people were simple farmers. As time went on, I had a period of seeking out small cemeteries and learning the stories about them- the small ones hidden in cow pastures, ones nearly forgotten who needed an aged cousin to search out. I made a cemetery notebook with photos, directions, who's there, and more. A cemetery tucked up on a hill way out in the middle of nowhere had one branch of my ancestors. I explored it and traced the kinship.

Not too many years later, when I was back in my area of the deep South, I happened to meet a congressman from the area at an event I attended. He was a person of color. His last name was the name of my ancestors of the little out of the way cemetery. My ears perked up. I asked him where he was from. His reply indicated the same exact tiny community I was from. I very humbly said, “I think we may be kin.” He smiled.



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