Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Slaves in the Family - But Not in The Observer

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.


Anonymous said...

Bet you liked having your own "niggers" didn't you? You racist pile of horse dung!

Just keep on laying out your hateful trash and lies. I don't care how you dress it up slavery was wrong wrong wrong!

Anonymous said...

Cedar- Look at the trash and scum who write for the Observer. Just today we had article defending the assult of students by a drunken democratic congressmen. Had it been a white GOP congressmen doing same to some JC SMith students, well you know how the Observer would have reacted.

It was not that long ago that the Observer accepted classified ads for "white only-no colored" housing. Bet you won't see that past dredged up.

Anonymous said...

I have struggled with your last couple of posts as I was uncertain of the point your were trying to make. I suppose the issue you have with what the Observer wrote was that they were using a photo with little connotation and recounting the conditions of the time.
While the authenticity of the photo may be suspect, and the writer of the piece used language that invokes emotion (hey,it's what pays the bills these days, look at Glenn Beck) as an African American the image it portrays is still haunting to me.

While it may be annoying to you when people play up the negatives of the time, it is just as annoying we people try to be dismissive of it as you have been.

So you knew some black folks who didn't share the challenges and issues they faced with a couple of little kids on whose land they lived on. Just because "their world as I saw it was not one of suffering but of joy, and the exuberance of youth" does not make it so. Trust me. You learn at an early age how to act accordingly depending on who you are interacting with. And that was even more the case back then.

So while it may upset you that people keep bringing the past up, I hope that, from time to time these little reminders to pop up.

For some of us, 9/11 is not the only thing that deserves continuous remembrance.

Cedar Posts said...

I think the first comment is priceless! I'm not taking the bait.

OK I'll admit it I think it was way cool! There are you happy?

Yes the Disturber is full of idiots.

To: 4:44

I think you have a good point. Really don't you think that the whole slave thing in the story was a little over the top?

What if there was a really happy ending to the photo story?

If 1/2 of the country really understood our history would it change anything? How many people know we rounded up whole communities and sent them to live in concentration camps and slaughtered the 100s of thousands who didn't go in the Philippines? How many know that the American Indian didn't fair much better?

But there is a difference between acknowledging history and trying to sensationalize it in the name of remembrance.

Tony said...

Cedar, my take on the whole thing has nothing to do with slavery per se. It has to do with The Observer writing misleading information about particular images. In other words; the geniuses at CO are free to pick and choose 'stories' to create about how 'they feel' about particular images or opinions? Hogwash. The haters--as in the first commenters case--want to ignore the real issues. Slavery it is not, the issue here is misrepresentation of images by writers at the CO.

On another note; we all should take offense at the first commenters depicting words of the African American race. Hopefully, the commenter understands the world changes and the human race grows emotionally and intellengently through years of living and lives have changed for everyone-dramatically-since slavery times. We cannot keep saying sorry, we all can move on to make everyone and everything better.