Rob Africa of Her Children

Apr 29, 2014

Abe took note with such wonder at how them civilized people of New Orleans could make a business of selling people just like them. He figured over it till it take him a long, long ways down his thoughts. Abe said often of the scars on his heart he got in New Orleans. Painful to speak of, Billy.”

I replied to Mrs. L. that these experiences could be relevant to history. I desired to spare her the heartache, but I was compelled to share my opinion that Abe’s thoughts about slavery, those wounds in his heart, could be important to the generations to come, and she was most likely the only one alive he had left those memories with. She gathered her strength, hands clenched with fistfuls of shawl, she continued:

“Abe walked the streets plenty. Slaves, free blacks, and whites mingled in the port of the Mississipp. Sights and sounds of the river delta unimaginable for an old lady from the clearing. He said New Orleans was what I known, maybe a little bigger is all. We have our log cabin church, and folks gather from all around. New Orleans has a Cathedral with a tower, maybe twice the top of the Liztown courthouse. At the top of this Cathedral was a clock big enough for all to see. Abe said a bell rung all through the day. Was where the folks gathered around. Just more of them and looking every shade a color possible. That was the best I could reckon he was saying about mulattos and ochanondos, and all kind words troubling to a small mind such as my own.

“All them roads meet in a central square at the center of town. Abe said he could cross a street and back and not come across a single word he could understand as folks were speaking their native country. Other than that, Abe said it just like Gentryville, making up the center of things for sundries and seeing other folk.

“I ask Abe once about the dress of the proud body ladies, hopeless sinners as they are. He said the ladies wear white gloves and dress in their finest cloth, like table linens, ‘cept thinner, and shade or two brighter. Women were prone to wear fancy jewelry and colorful hats, some with a basket over their arms, others fancy a Negro servant to carry their basket.

“He loved to tell his Mama about the things he seen, describing harvested crops I couldn’t rightly imagine. Seen something from south of America, countries Abe try and imagine. He wanted to go to Europe after he was President, wanted to take his beautiful Mary and their Blessed boys. Did you know that, Billy? Abe come across a crop that looked like green apple, but shaped like sorta like a bean. Cut open it was orange as a sunset and smelled just like a flower, and even taste like candy. Can you imagine it, Billy, such a crop? S’pose I’m down along wilderness path with my words again, for sake a sparing us the troubles. There was much shame. Abe breathe it in.