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Read the book by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “People of color: a memory” a few months ago i read other black history books.

The next title and author of the book is “My slavery and my freedom” by Frederick Douglass, written in 1855. The first chapter makes him live as a little boy, and those years are those when his life was happy. Although he was born into a family of slaves, he still did not feel these terrible factors. He lived with his grandparents and didn’t feel like anyone owned him.

He was born in an agricultural country in eastern Maryland called Tuckahoe. The best feature was the Choptank River that ran through the area.

He tells us about the family he was born into: “Family trees do not flourish among slaves” (p. 30). They usually did not keep family records, so it is not certain what year he was born, but he believes it was 1817. When the slave family had a baby, the slave owners did not note the date of birth for them.

The family member he has fond memories of is his grandmother, Betsy Baily. She caught shad and herring in fishnets, and when the time was right, she planted sweet potatoes for people.

Her grandparents lived in a cabin built of clay, wood and straw. Her grandmother looked after her grandchildren while their mothers (her five daughters) were hired to work remotely. Her mother’s name was Harriet.

He writes that living with his grandmother and grandfather gave him the experience of not feeling like a slave when he was a little boy.

Eventually he learned that his grandparents did not own the hut they lived in, but “Old master” made. That’s what her grandmother used to say. He also began to realize that one day he would no longer live with his grandparents.

He was always worried and sad when he thought about when he would be separated from his grandmother. He was sad now even when she was gone for a short time.

Towards the end of this chapter, he writes that the white boy in the family has more problems than he does. The slave boy goes wild. The owner’s boy – the white boy – has rules to follow, such as using your knife and fork correctly. The slave boy is free from these rules of behavior.

The end of this chapter is a powerful read, for you know that this 7 or 8 year old slave boy will soon no longer feel that freedom.

Chapter II begins with a description of the slave-owning family, which came from Wales to Maryland, and in a few pages we read that Frederick was taken 12 miles to their plantation. When he realizes that he will no longer be with his grandmother, he falls to the ground and cries.

The appendix to the book contains excerpts from speeches Douglass gave throughout his life. He died in 1895.

Here is my first note on “Give me wings: how a choir of former slaves conquered the world”, by Kathy Lowinger, circa 2015: “This book is like an encyclopedia! It’s only 144 pages long, but it’s a complete book, written by a Jewish Canadian. Her family came to Canada from Hungary when she was very young.

One of the book’s many historical stories tells how the Fisk Jubilee Singers started in Tennessee in 1861 with hard times. In two years, they became very well known by performing in the United States, England, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. In the recent book by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “The Black Church”, he writes about the Jubilee Singers.

On a second overseas trip, they performed in England again, as well as Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

They made enough money to save Fisk University, which was about to close for lack of funds.

However, while they traveled by train and boat and stayed in hotels, their wish to be treated fairly like white people was often not honored. These situations got better as they became more famous.

When the Jubilee Singers performed in Hartford, Connecticut, the state governor was in attendance, as was Mark Twain. He was a Jubilee fan and wrote “I think these gentlemen and ladies make eloquent music – and what’s nicely done, they reproduce the real melody of the plantations, and are the only people I’ve ever heard of doing this on a public platform.” (p.97).

The book features many songs written by black people, giving the history of who wrote it and the lyrics. These songs include “Republic battle anthem” “Come down to Moses” and “Rock low, Sweet Chariot.”

Each chapter of this book contains many illustrations. On page 127, readers see the poster for THE ORIGINAL FISK UNIVERSITY JUBILEE SINGERS ORGANIZED OCTOBER 1871.

The next book is “Black girl well read: finding our stories, discovering ourselves”, Edited by Glory Edim, c 2018. There are 22 selections of black writers. I started in the book while reading “Zora and I” by Marita Golden, who has taught writing at numerous universities.

One of the awards she received was for her novel “After”; this award was presented by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. This author co-founded The Zora Neale Hurston / Richard Wright Foundation. These writers have both written about black life in the South – rural areas and small towns.

Marita Golden tells us that Zora’s writings “Offer the world a people who are a symphony, not a disturbing minor key” (p.55). Zora’s father told her about Frederick Douglass before she was old enough to hear about him at school.

We read that for a long time Zora’s writings weren’t well known. The first book she read was “Their eyes looked at God”, and then she read all of her books. Her last paragraph is a thank you to Zora for all the inspiration she has given to black people.

The Hurston book that we have on our shelves is “Traces of dust on the road.”

You can search the history of black subjects on the Plum Creek library system and find many authors and titles, and there is also a wide selection on the Overdrive and Hoopla library digital platforms.

For more information, visit marshalllyonlibrary.org or call 507-537-7003.

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.