Her Dream

wk-143-elysian

She picked the cotton, the sweat pouring down her dark, leathery face.  She worked from sunrise to sunset, same as the men.  The overseer saw to that.  Slaves failing to do their tasks were flogged.  Her back was badly mangled from a whipping.  As she worked, she dreamed of the Elysian home she would soon enter.

56 Works

This post was inspired by the slaves–who worked from sunrise to sunset in the cotton fields and eighteen hours during Harvest time.  Men and women worked the same hours.  A pregnant woman was expected to continue working until her child was born and she was only given a month’s rest for recovery from child-bearing.  Mothers had to carry their children on their backs while they worked in the fields. Around the age of five, slave children were expected to work on the plantation.  They were looked after an overseer who carried a whip made of the toughest cowhide which they used on the slave.  It wasn’t uncommon to see slaves with their backs mangled.

Yet, in spite of these horrendous and cruel conditions, slaves continued to cling to their faith.

cotton-plantation-2
Image is from http://e993.com/forex/Cartoon-Slaves-Picking-Cotton/

Source:  Spartacus Educational

Freedom for Joe

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed – 8:36

gettyimages-84227778-612x612I’s in chains fo tryin’ to run away.  I’s a human being.  I shoulda bin free not nobody’s slave.  Dey treats us worst than dem animals.  When dey brought us here to this here plantation, dey had chains round our necks like we’s cattle.  And dey brand us like we cattle too.  I’s a man not an animal.  I was created by God like everybody else.  He don’t love me less ’cause I’s black.  He made me so.

‘Cause, we’s slaves we ain’t allowed to go to church or pray.  I’s bin flogged for prayin’, singin’ and goin’ to religious meetin’s in dem slave cabins.  I refuse to stop worshippin’ God.  Sometimes, me and da other slaves, we sings and prays all night.  I loves to sing ‘bout the Lord Jesus.  He died fo’ me and dem other slaves.  He died fo’ everybody.  Before, dey put Him on dat cross, dey whip Him bad.  My whippin’s ain’t nothin’ compared to the whippin’s He got ’cause of me and everybody who He died fo.

One day, I’s gon be free.  One day, I’s gon see ma Lord Jesus.  Either slavery’s goin’ end soon or I gon die befo’.  One day, I’s gon have freedom.

Oh freedom! O freedom!

Oh freedom over me!

An’ befo’ I’d be a slave,

I’ll be buried in my grave,

An’ go home to my Lord an’ be free.

One day, I’s gon be free to sing to my Lord and not git flogged for it.  One day, I’s gon break free of dem chains and git ma crown.  Oh freedom.

The negro spirituals as they were called were what helped the slaves during those times fraught with deep despair and disappointment.  Their faith in God whom they saw as their Deliverer and Jesus Christ, who died for them kept them going strong.  “They believed and affirmed in song that they were valued in the eyes of God and that one day they too would experience deliverance from their bondage.”  Those who died as slaves still found their freedom in Jesus Christ.

Let’s celebrate and reflect on the lives of these spiritual men and women “saw themselves as full “children of God” despite their condition of slavery and despite slave owners’ teachings.”  

Sources:  Christianity Today; BVN; Reflections; Bible Gateway

Rashida

arms and hands spread against dirty grunge wall

She ran to the stone.  It was her escape from her world.  She always made sure she was alone before she clung to its sides, said the words and was transported to another world—a world where slavery didn’t exist.  One of these days, she would remain there and never return to her life as a slave.

The coast was clear.  She held on to the sides, recited the words and poof…she was gone.

When she reached the other side, it was in a wide, open field with wild flowers, their sweet scent filling her senses.  She laughed and ran among them, stopping to pick some until she had a bouquet.  She twirled around like a ballerina, her long skirt bustling about her ankles, the sunshine warming her face.  Giddy, she dropped to the ground.  She lay on her back in the emerald green grass, staring up at the sky.  Yes, one of these days, she was going to leave her other life for good.

Suddenly a figure materialized in front of her.  She sat up, shocked and afraid.  “What-what are you doing here?” she asked.  How on earth did he get here and how come she didn’t see him.  She was positive that she was alone.

“I followed you,” he informed her, his blue eyes narrowing as they traveled over her.  He reached down to help her up but she pushed his hands away.

She scrambled to her feet, her heart pounding.  This was all wrong, she thought in desperation.  He wasn’t supposed to be here.  “You don’t belong here,” she told him.  “In this world there’s no hate or whippings or slave or master…”

“That kind of world doesn’t exist,” was his harsh reply.  “It only exists in your pretty little head.  And no world can keep me from finding you.  Face it, Rashida, there’s no escape from me.  You belong to me.  The sooner you accept that, the better it will be for you.”

“No!” she cried.  “I belong to no one, especially not to you.  I hate you.  You are a wicked and cruel man.  I would rather die than be with you.”

His face hardened and reaching out, he caught hold of her wrist, his grip tightening as she struggled.  “You belong to me.  I bought you.”

“I don’t belong to you.  I belong to God.  He bought me at a price that you could never afford.”

His face suffused with color.  “I don’t want to hear any preaching from you, girl.  You’re coming back to the plantation with me now.”

“No!”  She managed to free herself from him and gathering up her skirt, she ran as fast as she could across the field.  She didn’t stop running until she was sure that he wasn’t following her.  Exhausted from running, she leaned against a tree to catch her breath.

She couldn’t go back to her old world but she couldn’t stay in this one either.  He knew where to find her.  There seemed to be no escape from him.  She meant it.  She would rather die than be with him.  She couldn’t bear the thought of him touching and kissing her.  It filled her with disgust.  Disgust at herself for wanting the man she despised.  Even as she hated when he went in onto her in the nights when everyone was asleep, she didn’t lie there like a log, wishing for it to be over.  She clung to him and gave herself to him.  In the mornings, she was filled with self-recrimination.

There was only one way out of this dreadful situation but she was a Christian.  If she took her life, she would end up in Hell. The thought of burning forever terrified her.  Dejected, she knew what she had to do.  Moving away from the tree, she returned to where she’d left him.  He was still there.  “I knew you’d come back,” he said smugly.  “You can’t run away from me, Rashida.  You belong at the plantation with me.  I’ve been good to you, haven’t I?  It was I who taught you how to read and write.”

She didn’t answer.  She let him put his arm around her shoulders and take her back to the other world where the plantation was.  Her dream of leaving it was in vain now.  She resigned herself to life as his slave and concubine.

The stone remained there, timeless and neglected.  She never went near it again.  It was pointless.

Claudette Colvin

She was the original Rosa Parks.

Claudette_Colvin

Dubbed the original Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin was arrested in 1955 at the age of 15 for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded segregated bus.  The incident began when the bus she and her friends were on filled up and there was a white passenger standing in the aisle between them.  The driver wanted all of them to move to the back and stand so that the white passenger could sit.

“He wanted me to give up my seat for a white person and I would have done it for an elderly person but this was a young white woman. Three of the students had got up reluctantly and I remained sitting next to the window.” She informed the driver that she had paid her fare and that it was her constitutional right to remain right where she was.  Of course, the driver didn’t see it that way.  He continued driving and when he reached a juncture where a police squad car was waiting, he stopped.  Two officers boarded the bus and asked Claudette why she refused to give up her seat.  She was handcuffed, arrested, and forcibly removed from the bus all the while shouting that her constitutional right was being violated.   She was initially charged with disturbing the peace, violating the segregation laws, and assault.  There was no assault, of course.

Instead of being taken to taken to a juvenile detention centre, she was taken to an adult jail and spent three hours in a small cell with nothing inside of it except a broken sink and a cot without a mattress.  Her mother and pastor bailed her out.  Her mother, well aware of Claudette’ disappointment with the system and all the injustice they were receiving, said to her, “Well, Claudette, you finally did it.” 

After she was released from prison, her family feared that their home would be attacked, so armed with a shotgun, her father kept a vigil just in case the Klu Klux Klan showed up, while members of the community were lookouts.  Claudette was first person arrested for challenging Montgomery’s bus segregation policies and her story made a few local papers but nine months later Rosa Parks did the same thing and her story could worldwide coverage.

Claudette knew Rosa Parks very well. “I became very active in her youth group and we use to meet every Sunday afternoon at the Luther church.  Ms Parks was quiet and very gentle and very soft-spoken, but she would always say we should fight for our freedom.”

Claudette was one of the plantiffs in the court case of Browder v. Gayle during which she described her arrest.  “I kept saying, ‘He has no civil right… this is my constitutional right… you have no right to do this.’ And I just kept blabbing things out, and I never stopped. That was worse than stealing, you know, talking back to a white person.

On June 5, 1956, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a ruling declaring the state of Alabama and Montgomery’s laws mandating public bus segregation as unconstitutional. State and local officials appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the District Court decision on November 13, 1956. One month later, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider, and on December 20, 1956, the court ordered Montgomery and the state of Alabama to end bus segregation permanently.

Following her life of activism, Claudette gave birth to a son who was light-skinned, leading many to believe that his father was White.  She left New York in 1958 because finding and keeping work was difficult because of her participation in the Browder v Gayle case which overturned the bus segregation.  After her actions on the bus, she was was branded a troublemaker by many in her community.  She had to drop out of college and struggled in the local environment.

She and her son, Raymond lived with her sister in New York.  She got a job as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home in Manhattan and worked there for 35 years.  In 2004, she retired.  She had a second son who secured an education and became an accountant in Atlanta, where he married and had his own family.  His older brother, Raymond died in 1993 in New York from a heart attack at the age of 37.  Claudette never married.

In 2017, the Montgomery Council passed a resolution for a proclamation honoring Colvin.  March 2 was named Claudette Colvin day in Montgomery, Alabama. Mayor Todd Strange who presented the proclamation said of Colvin, “She was an early foot soldier in our civil rights, and we did not want this opportunity to go by without declaring March 2 as Claudette Colvin Day to thank her for her leadership in the modern day civil rights movement.”  Claudette could not attend the proclamation due to health concerns.

Councilman Larkin’s sister was on the bus in 1955 when Colvin was arrested. A few years ago, Larkin arranged for a streetcar to be named after Colvin.  According to her sister, Gloria Laster, “Had it not been for Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith there may not have been a Thurgood Marshall, a Martin Luther King or a Rosa Parks.”

Notes to Women celebrates this unsung heroine who didn’t get the recognition she deserved for being instrumental in the fight against the Montgomery bus segregation by refusing to get up from her seat which she believed was a violation of her constitutional right.

“I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on.”

“I’m not disappointed. Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation.”

“Whenever people ask me: ‘Why didn’t you get up when the bus driver asked you?’ I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail.”

 

Sources:  Wikipedia; BBC News

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

She changed the face of medicine

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

It was being raised by a kind aunt who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and her desire to relieve the suffering of others which led Rebecca Lee Crumpler down the a career path that would earn her the distinction of being the first African American woman physician in the United States.   In doing so, she rose to and overcame the challenge which prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine.

Rebecca, a bright girl, attended the West-Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts, a prestigious private school as a “special student”.  In 1852 she moved to Charleston, Massachusetts where she worked as a nurse.  In 1860, she took a leap of faith and applied to medical school and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College.

The college was founded by Drs. Israel Tisdale Talbot and Samuel Gregory in 1848 and in 1852,  accepted its first class of women, 12 in number.  However, Rebecca proved that their assertions were false when, in 1864, she earned the distinction being the first African American woman to earn an M.D. degree and  the college’s only African American graduate.  The college closed in 1873.

In 1864, a year after her first husband, Wyatt Lee died, Rebecca married her second husband, Arthur Crumpler.   She began a medical practice in Boston.   In 1865, after the Civil War ended, the couple moved to Richmond, Virginia, where she found “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.”  She joined other black physicians caring for freed slaves who would otherwise would not have access to medical care.  She worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau, missionary and community groups in the face of intense racism which many black physicians experienced while working in the postwar South.

Racism, rude behavior and sexism didn’t diminish Rebecca’s zeal and valiant efforts to treat a “very large number of the indigent and others of different classes in a population of over 30,000 colored”.  She declared that “at the close of my services in that city, I returned to my former home, Boston where I entered into the work with renewed vigor, practicing outside, and receiving children in the house for treatment, regardless, in measure, of remuneration.”

The couple lived in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Beacon Hill where she practiced medicine.  In 1880, she and her husband moved to Hyde Park.  It was believed that at that time she was no longer in active practice but she did write a “A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts”,  the first medical publication by an African American.  The book consisted of two parts.  The first part focused on “treating the cause, prevention, and cure of infantile bowel complaints, from birth to the close of the teething period, or after the fifth year.” The second section contained “miscellaneous information concerning the life and growth of beings; the beginning of womanhood; also, the cause, prevention, and cure of many of the most distressing complaints of women, and youth of both sexes.”

Rebecca Lee Crumpler died in Hyde Park on March 9, 1895.  Notes to Women wishes to celebrate this brave woman who had the tenacity to pursue a career in medicine, proving that women can change the face of a field which many wanted to bar her from because of color and gender.  Her passion to help alleviate the suffering of others was what led her to take this path.  Her courage and perseverance in the face of racism, sexism paved the way for many, not only African Americans and women but for those who like her, will seek every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s story is a reminder to all of us that we should never let anything or anyone prevent us from pursuing our dreams.

Selfish prudence is too often allowed to come between duty and human life – Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Sources:  Changing the Face of Medicine; PBS

Alice Ball

Alice Ball was the pharmaceutical chemist who developed a medical treatment for Leprosy, giving hope to millions.  Leprosy is a dreaded disease.  It has been around since biblical times.  It is disfiguring and it filled its sufferers with hopelessness.  In the US people with Leprosy were forcibly removed from their homes and detained indefinitely in remote colonies.  Thanks to Alice’s treatment, many of them were released from the detention centres and allowed to go home to their families.

Alice was born in 1892 in Seattle, Washington to Laura and James P. Ball Jr.  She was the grand-daughter of J.P. Ball, the famous daguerreotype photographer.  Alice attended the University of Washington and graduated with two degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry in 1912 and pharmacy in 1914.  In the fall of 1914 she attended the College (later the University) of Hawaii as a graduate student in chemistry.  On June 1, 1915, she became the first African American and the first woman to graduate with a Master of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Hawaii.  She was also the first woman to teach chemistry at the institution.

Impressed with her chemistry work, US Public Health Officer, Dr. Harry Hollmann, an assistant surgeon at Kalihi Hospital in Hawaii asked Alice to help him to develop a method to isolate the active chemical compounds in chaulmoogra oil.   For centuries, Indian and Chinese health practitioners had limited success in using the oil to treat Leprosy.  The oil could be applied topically but it wouldn’t be able to penetrate deep enough into the body and as a result, people with the disease had some relief but the injections were difficult and patients described them as “burning like fire through the skin”.  Through her research, Alice found a successful treatment for those suffering from the disease.   She created the first water soluble injectable treatment, something that researchers had been unable to do.

Sadly, she didn’t live to see her treatment being used.  During her research, Alice had become ill.  When she returned to Seattle, she died at the age of 24.  The cause of her death is unknown although it is speculated that she inhaled chlorine gas during her teaching lab work.

Dr. Arthur L. Dean, the chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Hawaii continued the research, refining it and using it to successfully treat many patients at Kalaupapa, a special hospital for Hansen disease patients.  Dean published the findings without giving any credit to Ball, and renamed the technique the Dean Method, until Hollmann spoke out about this.  He went on record saying, “After a great amount of experimental work, Miss Ball solved the problem for me…(this preparation is known as)….the Ball Method.”

The “Ball Method” continued to be the most effective method of treatment for Leprosy until the 1940s when a cure for the disease was found.  Yet, as recent as 1999, a medical journal noted that the “Ball Method” was still being used to treat patients in remote areas.  In 2000, the University of Hawaii acknowledged Alice as one of its most distinguished graduates after researchers, notably Stanley Ali and Kathryn Takara.  They discovered in the archives the critical contribution Alice had made.   Alice was honoured with a Chaulmoogra tree planted on the campus and the Governor of Hawaii declaring February 29th Alice Ball Day.  She also received the University’s Medal of distinction.

Notes to Women is proud to celebrate and recognize Alice Ball whose research and ground-breaking scientific achievements went unnoticed by the University of Hawaii for almost a decade.  We honour this remarkable young woman who departed from the world too soon.  She left behind a legacy of hope for those who suffered from Leprosy by starting the fight against the disease and inspiring others to relentlessly hunt for more treatments until they found a cure.

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Alice Ball2

Sources:  Women Rock Science; Black Past; Wikipedia; Clutch Mag Online

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who became a leading abolitionist.  She led hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Notes to Women salute this brave woman who suffered hardship and physical violence. When she crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania, she was overwhelmed with relief and awe.  Of this experience, she said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

This taste of freedom was something that she wanted others to experience.   So, instead of staying there in the North where it was safe, she made it her mission to rescue her family and others who were still living in slavery.  She earned the nickname “Moses” for leading others to freedom.

Harriet made history as the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.   She was named one of the most famous civilians in American History before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Today, she continues to be an inspiration to generations of Americans who are still struggling for civil rights.

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.

I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.

I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.

I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.

I said to de Lord, ‘I’m goin’ to hold steady on to you, an’ I know you’ll see me through.’

Twasn’t me, ’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.

 

Sources:  Biography; Brainy Quote