Human history is full of people, who in facing death and destruction, have left their homes and communities in hopes of finding save haven elsewhere.
In American history, one of the most shameful episodes is the Trail of Tears. In the 1830’s, nearly a half dozen Native American tribes were forced to leave their homes and ancestral lands by the American government. Among the 15,000 members of the Creek tribe that were being forced to relocate, 3500 died before reaching their final destination.
The new Trail Of Tears starts in Syria and ends in Europe. Thousands have abandoned their homes and communities in hopes of escaping the violence, chaos and destruction that have engulfed their lives.
We have a humanitarian crisis on our hands. Where is the UN? Where are the governments of the first world, where democracy is the law of the land?
They do nothing, as usual.
History is often personal. But sometimes, it can be too personal.
Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle, by Kristen Green is a very interesting view of American history.
Born and raised in Prince Edward County, Virginia, Ms. Green attended an all white school as a child. The only African-Americans that she came across were the household help. It was only when she left her hometown to attend college and find a job did she come to know people of other races. A journalist by profession, Ms. Green began to dig into the history of her town.
She discovered that American history did not extend farther than her own family.
In the wake of Brown Vs. Board Of Education (1954), the elders of Prince Edward County rebelled against the ruling in the best way that they knew how. All public schools were closed. White children whose parents made enough money were lucky enough to attend the private school established specifically to keep black children out. Black children and white children whose parents were on the lower end of the economic scale were forced to find other educational avenues for their children. In her research, Ms. Green came to discover that her grandfather was one of the men responsible for the establishment of the all white school.
I found this book to be riveting. Ms. Green mixes known history with interviews from people who lived through the era (including members of her own family) as well as clips from newspapers and official documents. In the end, Ms. Green makes peace with the past, but she also speaks of the potential that was lost when the public schools were closed. It is a lesson to be well learned.
I highly recommend it.
Slavery in American history is often presented as a series of facts. The human aspect is often overlooked.
Valerie Martin’s new novel, Property looks at America’s slave owning past through the eyes of an entirely new perspective: the wife of the plantation owner. While she was not property in the same sense that the African-American slaves were property, she has no rights. Any property or money that she inherits is immediately transferred to her husband’s name.
In 1828 Manon Gaudet trapped in a childless marriage to a man she hates. Sarah, a house slave who was a wedding present from her aunt has bore Manon’s husband two children. The oldest child, a boy named Walter is allowed to run wild and act as he pleases without censure. Her husband (whose name the reader is not told) tries to reach out to his wife, but she rejects him. The story takes off when a group of run away slaves take over the estate, tensions between Manon and Sarah escalate.
This book is only 200 pages, but within those 200 pages Ms. Martin creates tension that is felt from the first page. Manon’s seething hatred of her husband, Sarah and her her situation is extremely palatable. Instead of turning inside herself with anger and grief, Manon transfers her rage to Sarah. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was seeing history on a very personal and different level than any history book or documentary could provide.
I recommend this book.