Google has a nice rendition of Harriet Tubman today, to remind us of the beginning of Black History month. Having concentrated on black history in our area for well over nine years, I do not need a reminder but I’m glad to see that the recognition of Tubman is greater than it used to be. I think the teaching of our particular black history is essential to understanding our land, our culture, and ourselves. Integration began in our school systems, and is today, I believe, the most integrated section of our society. I’m proud to have been a part of that, as is every teacher in our public schools.
When I think of the work culminating in my book, “Elizabeth’s Field,” I know that underneath all my literary concerns was the desire to teach the history of this very rural, quiet place. When I first moved here 40 years ago, I thought the fields had nothing in them but crops, and were part of the year, quite barren. I’m wiser now. There are and were stories passed by word of mouth, kept alive in churches and in families. Very little was written down but anyone who worked the fields had a lot to say. It became apparent that these stories encompassed the immense struggle to survive in a time of the greatest peril for any single group of Americans, the so-called free Negro of antebellum days, in which Dorchester played a big part.
Who is buried in these fields? What tears, hopes and fears were lived here in the long hours of labor? Nothing we can hold in our hands, no artifact, no piecing together of a civilization, a passing culture. Nothing but a silence only the wind might remember, yet how worthy are the people who worked the fields and had little to show for it.
At the end of the book, one of the main characters in “Elizabeth’s Field,” Mattie, says, “I see trees growin’ on Elizabeth’s field. Deer come and fox and hunderts of birds. Everythin’ what went away comin’ back, coverin’ everthin’ over with life. What’s left is the story. Pass it along with yours. The tellin’ keeps us understandin’ things.
Indeed. I couldn’t have said it better myself.