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Telling Our Stories

In 1989 I was both fortunate and wise enough to sit down on three seperate occasions with my then 76 year old MaDeah and record our family's history, with a particular focus on "Johnson Sub"--the close-knit African American community founded by and named after my great-great grandfather Prince Johnson.

My MaDeah was a natural born story-teller who instinctively seemed to know which words, facial expressions, hand movements and vocal emphases wold leave the most indelibe impression, even so, my first thought was to fictionalize her accounts (something along the lines of a Cane River). As a matter of fact, in 1995 I successfully published (Obsidian) a fictionalized version of a story she'd told me (Mama Had A Dream. . .)

But in the years since my grandmother's death, I've realized her words are more than capable of standing on their own. I recently transcribed those tapes I made in 1989 and with just a little editing discovered I had a collection of real-life stories.

The following is an excerpt:

Mama Say She Had A Dream That The Baby Died

(the death of Venter Junior)

A lot of babies died back then of disease, influenza, chicken pox, small pox and every other kind of pox. My Grandma as the mother of a whole lot of chillren, but she only raised eight. Three daughters--Luvenia, Ruth and Ethel and five sons--Jimmy, Frank, Lucious, LeRoy and Nate. The others died when they were babies. Grandma said the children were born, but they wouldn't live no time.

See, back then they didn't have good medicines and things. Sometimes the mama be done worked hard out in the fields chopping cotton and what have you. A whole lot of times the babies would be born dead or either die right after.

You take my little brother Venter Junior, he lived to get, oh, I reckon about a month and a week old. The baby was born, but Mama say she had a dream that the baby died. (To Be Continued)

Messages In This Thread

Telling Our Stories
Endearing Mama Terms
Re: Endearing Mama Terms

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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