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A Black Woman's Journey Through the Past

From Audio: The Moth Radio Hour: Rooted in the Past

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station description The Moth features people telling true, engaging, funny, touching and eye-opening st... read more
The Moth
Duration: 05:40
A woman muses on how much was lost in slavery.
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A descendant of slaves rediscovers her family's past, much of it lost to Pre-Antebellum America. There she discovers the horrible day-to-day minutiae that her ancestors went through. Hosted by Moth Senior Director Jenifer Hixson, she presents stories of the past and how the people today still hear its echoes.
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And as we drove it was like you were going back in time and we could see plantation homes and cotton as far as your eyes could see in the confederate flag waving everywhere. And when we made it to our destination, I knew I have to see this. I have to bear witness to this. So we started my daughter and I started to tour the plantation homes. And when I say Holmes, this is not like a two bedroom home. Here they are, mansions, sprawling mansions. And you still have to pay to get into them. And I thought at this point, can I get in for free? I mean at least a discount. And we started touring them and I remember my daughter and one started touching everything and I was looking at her and they still had the fine china and the bedding and solid gold chandeliers. And she was touching everything in the rooms. And I said, why are you doing that? I thought for sure they're going to put us out of here. And she said, I wanted to touch things that I knew slaves wouldn't be able to touch. And we continue to visit other plantation homes and in one everything kind of started to look the same. So I asked one of the turkey, it's will take me to the slave quarters. Show me that and I get that these homes are beautiful, but that is not where I would have been. Take me where my people would have been. And she said, oh, we've covered those up. We've turned those into offices and just like that once again, the history of who I am was gone and I went to another plantation home and there was a black tour guide and he showed me through the home and we stood in the dining room table and it was huge with the original china and they had a casserole dish and the knob on the casserole dish was shaped into a cotton ball and it was solid gold. And above this table was this huge fan and it had a string connected to it, pulled off to the side of the corner. And he told me that a little child, often a girl would have to stand in the corner and pull the strain so the fan would wave and keep flies off of the food. And I was so heartbroken because I couldn't believe that somebody was enslaved to keep flies off food. And he told me, don't weep for her because she has a very important job when people eat, they talk and her job is to stand in that corner and listen to everything that is being said at this table and go back and tell her mother. And I remembered that to go back and to tell. And finally I knew it was time for me to go to the cotton fields and I went to Frogmore Plantation. They have 1800 acres of cotton. And they showed me the bags that slaves had to put cotton in. And I was thinking in my mind of a small bag, but when they show me the bag it's six feet long and three ft wide. And I asked her well how much cotton can fit in this bag. And she said £70 and slaves were required to pick 2 to 300 pounds a day. And I went out in the cotton field and I started picking cotton. And it was hot and I tried to get the seeds out of the cotton and it was difficult. And I thought about my mother in those cotton fields and I thought about standing in the door of no return. And I remember the curator of the door of No return said to us, welcome back home, you made it. Everybody didn't get a chance to come back home and I started running my hands over the cotton. And I thought about my life and my mother's grandmother whose name I don't even know. And I thought about all the little slave girls named Hannah. And I thought about all the stories that were lost in the cotton fields. And I remember what the tour guy told me that I was like that little black girl in the corner waving the fair. And my job was to go back and tell the stories. Thank
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