Monday, February 23, 2009

The Name of a Slave

Along a major freeway in Dallas lies the graves of former slaves who were almost forgotten. Workers widening the freeway 140 years after their burial came upon numerous graves and after some research regarding the location, the city found that the field was a 140 year old grave yard of former slaves, too poor to afford grave markers, the purpose of the field was forgotten until the construction project for the freeway.

The City of Dallas and state of Texas stopped the project and archeologists carefully relocated all the graves further into the old field. They city and state also built beautiful marble structures of statues and poems to the former Southern slaves.

The poem below is located next to one of many unmarked graves of a former slave.

We transient men of clay can well attest to
The inherent frailty of the human frame
And do likewise confess that most of our names
Are inevitably reduced to whispering ashes of fond
Scattering before the breath of the night wind
That blows out of the twilight of our day.

However, unlike the freedman, we can draw comfort
From our nostalgic prediction
To leave our moral names engraved in stone upon the
While he could only cling to the clarity of his
That his name has been inscribed in the mind of God.

Though anonymous here the past deeds of this
Seemingly lost life of sorrows
Still impact on our today and our tomorrows
For the complex fabric of our times is thickly
With the sturdy cotton threads he spun upon his
Wheel of life:
Yes, we’ve heard of this “motherless”-child of Africa
Whose matchless paeans still echo here and do persuade
Us even now
That we are, indeed standing in an active valley of
“Them dried bones”
With no need of rows upon rows of labeled stones
For it is certain that “on that great getting’up
Mornin’ “
This unidentified sleeping soul is going to stand up
And tell us his name!”

Ramona Newton