When the Charlotte Observer first ran the photo of two impoverished black children with an over the top story of the horrors of slavery, I frankly was offended.
I've lived in the Carolina's all of my life, and I know poverty, and I've known black folks who were only one generation removed from slavery. They never held a grudge or even the slightest bit of resentment. In fact while living in poverty and doing without much of what I took for granted at the time, they were pretty happy group of people.
My parents bought a farm in Waxhaw in 1973, the black family who lived on the farm as care takers lived in a house that was built in the 1930's.
As a young boy I was surprised to learn that the people who lived on the farm were not only poor but they used an outhouse, and while the property had a well the running water went only as far as the back porch. The house had no heat, or hot water.
The family had lived on the farm since before the civil war, their original home was down by the creek and still stood, though barely in 1973. When the owner of the farm passed away in 1967 the black family moved into the main house. The farm stopped operations the next year, but with no where else to go the black family stayed on.
So in 1973 the last threads of slavery were alive and well just a few miles from Charlotte.
From slaves to share croppers to squatters they stayed on.
My father for all practical purposes had bought a farm complete with a family of what would once had been considered slaves. They simply came with the property.
I was too young to recognize the quandary at the time. My father bought a farm and much to his surprise he was stuck with a family of 9 descendants of slaves. He kept them on for a couple of years and finally convinced them that they should get a real house up the road.
They joined the 20th century reluctantly, because as they explained the farm was home.
I wasn't there when they moved off the property, but I would guess it was a pretty sad day.
My father owned the farm until 1989, when he sold the property to a doctor who tore down the main house, and what we had called the "slave quarters" either for lack of better term or because as kids we saw everything is the simplest of terms.
We lived in Charlotte, in an air conditioned home with running water and a bathroom for every bedroom. 16 miles away just outside of Waxhaw young black children ran through fields in bare feet. Much like the young boys in The Observer's photo.
But their world as I saw it was not one of suffering but of joy, and the exuberance of youth. I suspect that many of those between the days of outright slave ownership and the days of sharecroppers lived life on the cheap. But having seen life in the first person and knowing how life really was I'm offended that someone would take an old photo and make a statement regarding the horrors of slavery.
To embellish and sensationalize a photo as "evidence" of some sort of holocaust that has occurred is just all sorts of wrong.
The Charlotte Observer has since noted that the photo may not be all the it has been purported to be, but not until after they ran an editorial titled "haunting photo of young slaves can open our eyes" condemning slavery and again trying to make a statement.