Life in Poetry reading, writing, reflecting

Life in Poetry reading, writing, reflecting
April showers bring May flowers

Monday, 27 April 2020

⌗AtoZ Challenge, 24th April 2020, U is for Underground Railroad.

Welcome to my blog Life in Poetry.
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Welcome to the 2020 APRIL A to Z Challenge

Over Half-Way there, Hang On.

Quote of the Day :  
Like a shooting star, a mirage, a flame, magical illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble on water; like the dream, the lightening bolt or the cloud : Consider the wonder in every thing.
Buddha Siddhârta Gautama (536-480 BC)

if you would like to know more about the A to Z Challenge, founded 11 years ago by Arlee Bird at Tossing Out,  read here

for my theme revealed , go here on Blogger
On Wordpress, read here 

My Nineteenth extract from my novel in progress will appear towards the middle of the novel. Mathilda is in Savannah.

Brief synopsis of plot and characters :

Mathilda, my first main character, is American and lives in New York City. She is a student at NYU where she is preparing a thesis on the origins and developments of African American Music. She is a first person narrator. Her timeframe is 2005. In my previous extracts, Mathilda has travelled to Savannah, Jekyll Island, Florida, New Orleans, Hattiesburg and Cherokee.

Bartolomé, my second main character, is Cameroonian and lives in Yaoundé. He is a professor of Mathematics at the University there. I will be using a third-person narrator for this character from his Point of View. His timeframe is the early '90's. In my previous extracts, Bartolomé has made a trip up North for his grand-father's funeral and decided to leave Yaoundé behind for good.

U is for Underground Railroad

" We are standing in the chapel of the museum where the Savannah branch of the NAACP used to hold its meetings during the 20's thru 60's. This building originally housed the Wage Earners Saving & Loan Bank founded in 1914. Ralph Mark Gilbert reorganised the NAACP in 1942 becoming its president for the next 8 years. You mustn't forget that the Civil Rights movement didn't only stem  from the Jim Crow laws but has its roots in slavery and the first organised attempts to break free from the plantations and masters. "
" The Underground Railroad," I say.
" Exactly," says Heru, " in this room, you can learn all about this period going back to the late 18th century, when we have the first documented evidence of free African-Americans in Savannah. "
" Thanks Heru, I think I'll just look around and take some notes."
" I'll leave you to it then. have to catch up on some paperwork. If you have any questions, I'll gladly point you to further research outlets in town."
" Fine. That would be great, thanks again."

Once alone, I gaze round the room filled with glass cases showing open books, photographs and manuscript documents. I step forward and peer at a deed of property with a list, transferring ownership of two males, three females and a child to Esquire John Hopkins, Grove Cotton Plantation, Savannah Georgia  for 10 guineas, June 12th 1756. Next to it, another document : a slave paid his Master 25 US dollars for his freedom, Archie Morris is his given name. The date,  October 20th 1849. And I think of all the suffering, work and brotherhood gone into those hundred years to get from one document to the other. My eyes cloud at the images which come to my mind.

On the wall above are sketches of wooden cabins with families sitting on the steps in front, large grins on their faces, clothed in plain tunics for the women and children and sac trousers for the men, all barefoot. The caption reads Ogeechee River 1837. On another wall,  is an enlarged framed photograph of the First African Baptist Church, originally built in 1793 by slaves, then rebuilt on the same spot in 1859. Portrayed in front are members of its congregation, (renamed Third African then First Bryan Baptist Church) in 1888 led by the then pastor, Ulysses L. Houston.

The open books below are 19th century print of Frederick Douglass' narrative of the Life of F.D. 1845; T. Washington's Up from Slaves, an Autobiography, 1901; Ana Murray's The Heroic Slave, 1853. In front of the books is the typed speech of Frederick Douglass given on the Fourth of July 1852 at the Rochester Oration gathering. I read,

" What to the American Slave is your Fourth of July ? I answer, a day that reveals to him the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. "
 It goes on for three long pages and butterflies invade my stomach. The Underground Railroad may have enabled Frederick Bailey to escape slavery and speak as a free man in 1852 but has his voice really been heard by the successive governments of my Country in the intervening 150 years, I wonder.

Leonard Cohen, Happens to the Heart, here
                           The Future, here
                           You Want it Darker, here

from the book,  Savannah , Georgia, by Charles J. Elmore, Ph D. Arcadia Publishing, 2002
America is woven from many strands, our fate is to become one, and yet many, Ralph Ellison, 1952. 

Thank you for reading. More to come tomorrow, back with Bartolomé in Cameroon.

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