This Street Corner in Kentucky Tells a Tragic Story

This Street Corner in Kentucky Tells a Tragic Story


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Location: Intersection of Main and Sixth Street in Covington, Kentucky
Expert: Sharony Green, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama

Why You Should Visit
Local shops and taverns, a tree-lined walkway and picnic tables surround this intersection in Covington, Kentucky. But the unassuming street corner is much more than it first appears to be: it was the jumping off point for a deeply tragic story. At a spot now marked by a commemorative plaque, the enslaved Margaret Garner ran for freedom with relatives and her fair-skinned daughter across the frozen Ohio River in January of 1856.

When Garner was apprehended by U.S. Marshals in the free state of Ohio, she elected to kill her two-year-old daughter rather than see her returned to a life of bondage in Kentucky. This story was the inspiration for Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved.

Sharony Green, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama, has often sat to ponder Garner’s courage, “but also the sadness she must have still carried in her heart when she was captured shortly thereafter.” Garner was one of many black women at the time who fled the South with children fathered by white southerners and slave masters. Despite violent tensions between European immigrants and African Americans in Ohio and the threat of recapture, notes Green, the trip was vital for those who hoped to escape enslavement. Some Southern men—unlike Garner’s master—even supported the escape of their children born to enslaved women, so their children would have better opportunities and a chance to get an education.

“Sixth and Main in Covington is a place to ponder this messy past, the sort that involves women like Garner,” says Green. “What could her life have been like or that of her children if she had successfully escaped?”

How to Find It:
There is a commemorative marker at the intersection of Main and Sixth Street in Covington.

This story is the sixth in a series about amazing historical travel destinations in America. Read expert recommendations on where to go in Ohio, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts and Kansas here.


TELLING WAR STORIES

In hindsight: The stories we tell about wars, like the wars themselves, are products of human actions. We should pay attention to how people tell their stories — and not solely what they have to say.

Larry Schwab, Captain US Army, behind an SLR camera at 7th Surgical Hospital compound, Base Camp, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, near Xuan Loc, Vietnam, December 1967. Larry Schwab Collection (AFC/2001/001/23979), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Do wars produce stories or silence them?

The new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary, The Vietnam War, suggests that when U.S. soldiers returned to the United States, they could not tell their stories. Karl Marlantes, a U.S. Marine veteran, asserts in the film, “For years nobody talked about Vietnam. […] The whole country was like that.” Only recently, he says, have “baby boomers” been willing to speak and ask, “What happened?”

The documentary uses a literary framework to answer that question: Vietnam was a tragedy. As the narrator explains in his opening sketch of the war’s trajectory, U.S. involvement in Vietnam was a product of “tragic decisions” made by people with good intentions.

For many professional historians, that argument falls flat. It lacks the necessary critical perspective. These historians reject Burns and Novick’s declaration that the filmmakers aimed to tell a “good story” in order to “get [a] courageous conversation going.” Andrew Bacevich declares the documentary “not history, but rather story-telling and remembrance.” According to Bob Buzzanco, the filmmakers seek to convey the “tragedy of the war through ‘good storytelling.’ [….] And if their documentary was titled ‘Stories of People Who Were in Vietnam During the War’ — which would have been compelling and important — there would be little to complain about.” These complaints are worth considering not in an effort to defend historians’ authority but rather as an opportunity to consider the complicated relationship between history, memory, and the stories people tell about their experiences.

In the short story “How to Tell a True War Story,” the author and Vietnam War veteran, Tim O’Brien, points to an almost inevitable gap between the experience of war and any attempt to relate it. “In any war story, but especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way.”

The incident at the heart of O’Brien’s story comes when one of the troops in the narrator’s unit steps on a booby-trapped artillery shell. This incident simultaneously interrupts and launches stories in which the characters find themselves and which the narrator struggles to tell. As O’Brien’s narrator recognized when he cycled back and forth between his recollections and those of his buddies, their earlier experiences, and their subsequent absences, war stories are not solely a retrospective phenomenon. War stories also help explain how people wind up in wars — and what they are doing there.

Historians reject Burns and Novick’s declaration that the filmmakers aimed to tell a “good story” in order to “get [a] courageous conversation going.”

Oxford Historian Nicholas Stargardt has written on the German experience of war between 1939–1945. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources, especially wartime letters, he discovers that most Germans remained more committed to the war they were fighting than to the Nazi regime. This realization provoked a central question: “How did it affect Germans to gradually realize that they were fighting a genocidal war?”

At the time, the stories Germans told about their war did not exclude that violence. Whether in street corner discussions reported to state authorities or in private correspondence between soldiers and their families, there were plenty of accounts about “the deportation of the Jews and what happened to them in the east.” Only retrospectively did Germans reframe their stories. They elided their tumultuous encounters with genocidal violence, embedding them in narratives that may have acknowledged mass murder but only as part of a cataclysmic wave that swept over Europe and had left the continent in ruins.

In that sort of war story, war became a force of nature, a disaster from which they needed to recover. After 1945, whether they were building democracy or socialism or a market economy, German war stories served as a necessary starting point for new beginnings, built up out the ruins of war.

The narrator in Tim O’Brien’s short story would be suspicious about that sort of purposive redeployment of war stories: “A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done.”

More than two decades ago, the German social historian Hans Ulrich Wehler expressed skepticism about a new mode of historical investigation, the history of everyday life, worrying that it represented nothing more than “stories of the everyday” (Geschichten aus dem Alltag). Absent any theoretical framing, he warned, merely collecting stories could never produce a coherent history.

After 1945, whether they were building democracy or socialism or a market economy, German war stories served as a necessary starting point for new beginnings, built up out the ruins of war.

In the decades since Wehler’s warning, historians might wonder whether the pursuit of any singular, coherent history reflects its own kind of hubris. Like O’Brien’s narrator, historians also confront the fact that between their sources and the events and experiences they seek to reconstruct, there is always a gap. In looking back at the Vietnam War, or any war for that matter, the danger lies in presuming that we can bridge the gap between stories of the past and a conversation in the present.

War can never be a tragedy, because a war is not a literary drama whose protagonists are doomed to an inevitable outcome. The stories we tell about wars, like the wars themselves, are products of human actions. History, too, is a product of human actions — people in the present wrestling with stories of people in the past. As we navigate back and forth between the past and the present, we should pay attention to how people tell their stories — and not solely what they have to say. Adopting that sort of a critical perspective on the past will also help us to be less certain about the stories we tell ourselves.

Paul Steege is the inaugural faculty director of the Lepage Center and an associate professor of History at Villanova University.


Unidentified Adult Male Shot to Death In Louisville, KY in 2009 May Be From Outside The Country

Location of Discovery:
Louisville
Jefferson County
Kentucky
USA
Cause of Death: Homicide by gunshot
Estimated Age: 30-40 years old
Race: White and/or Hispanic
Gender: Male
Height: 5𔃽″ to 5𔃾″
Weight: 131 lbs.
Hair Color: Wavy Black
Eye Color: Brown
Marks/Scars: Bilateral lumbar scar on back. Multiple linear scars in various orientations, all 1/4″ to 2 1/2″ in length.
Dentals: Complete loss of crown #29. Small occlusal pit caries on #17. Teeth #7-#10 replaced with “flipper” with non-cast clasp.
Fingerprints: Available with Louisville Metro Police.
Clothing: The victim was wearing a gray long-sleeved Izod jacket, short-sleeved orange and white-stripped Izod shirt, blue jeans, blue briefs, red and black socks, and black Air Jordan athletic shoes.
Other: Victim may be from outside of the U.S. — Possibly from Mexico or Honduras

An unidentified male was found on December 3, 2009. He had been shot and killed in the Preston Oaks Apartment complex at 1205 Quest Drive in Louisville. Several suspects had been arrested in connection to the murder however, the Louisville police and the Jefferson County coroner’s office have been trying to identify the victim to no avail. The crime was random and the suspects do not know the victim and couldn’t provide a name.

A photo of the victim was found on a cell phone. He is believed to be either from Mexico or Honduras. He was discovered shortly after his death.

If you have any information regarding this case you’re asked to please contact:
Louisville Metro Police Department
Detective Brenda Wescott (502) 574-7055
And/Or
Jefferson County Coroner’s Office (502) 574-6262
Agency Case Number: LE: 09-275 ME-09-1257
NamUs Case Number: UP #7293

March 15, 2013 letsfindthem Leave a comment

This Street Corner in Kentucky Tells a Tragic Story - HISTORY

In 1972 a 30-foot wall of water roared down 14-mile long Buffalo Creek, after the collapse of Pittston Coal's sludge dams.

I returned for the first time in 30 years, accompanied by Dave Peyton, long-time West Virginia newspaper columnist, currently writing for The Charleston Daily Mail.
In '72 he was there covering the story as a reporter. I was
there as a mortician, helping prepare the dead for burial.

Most religions teach to turn the other cheek and seek to forgive those who have trespassed.

Those teachings may be the saving grace of our mountain people to remove prolonged suffering from tragic events, even those caused by power and greed.

Those teachings may also be our curse, allowing the same tragic events to occur, again and again.

It was that tone of Christian charity inside the Saunders Memorial Free Will Baptist Church in Logan County during a 30th year memorial service for the victims of the Buffalo Creek disaster.

Few survivors or family members spoke of what caused it to happen, but chose to quietly recall the lives of their loved ones.

Organized religion finds it difficult to lash out against economic injustice, government corruption or corporate greed, preferring instead to rail against personal habits and choices.

Tangling with the money changers can become serious business.

The choir sang "Amazing Grace" and the pastor Paul Rhodes read from Ecclesiastes: To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up.

Pastor Rhodes reads from scripture and survivors
come forward to remember their family and friends

Family members and visitors view flood memorabilia

Sitting in the pew with Peyton, my mind turned to a word I first remember hearing in the McNeely Funeral Home in Man, those years ago.

Helping deliver the embalmed bodies of some of the victims to the funeral home, I talked with an elderly woman, there to make arrangements for her granddaughter. Struggling for something to say, I asked "Why did this happen?"

She tearfully replied "Avarice, avarice."

When I got home, I looked up the word to discover it was a synonym for greed.

David Hume called it "The spur of industry" and Samuel Johnson said it was "The last corruption of degenerate man."

The bible speaks often of greed, its ravenous and predatory nature.

Politicos often rail against their opponents about greed and abuse of power, rarely holding themselves accountable.

Former House of Delegates member Arley Johnson, a community
member, in a forthright way reminded those attending the causes of the tragedy

Avarice is why 125 men, woman and children, mostly children, died that day in 1972 when Pittston's sludge dams collapsed, injuring 1,100, sending a wall of millions of gallons of black water down the valley.

It is why 16 communities vanished, with 1000 homes destroyed and 4000 human beings left homeless.

When Pittston Coal Company was questioned about responsibility, they said it was an "act of God."

Officials of West Virginia's government were quick to agree, and Gov. Arch Moore quickly rose to defend the coal interests.

A $100 million clean-up bill against Pittson for damages was settled by Moore for $1 million, the sufferers and the taxpayers picked up the rest.

The "act of God" defense continues to be used to defend corporate disasters, decade after decade.

The names of the dead remind motorists who travel up the hollow

When Peyton wrote his column a few days after the 30th anniversary of the event, he said, "Sometimes the voice in my head tells me to give it a rest. Forget about Buffalo Creek."

Dave Peyton says the event changed his life forever

Avarice is alive and well in the Mountain State, most of its' citizens have long accepted their powerlessness.

A while back a Massey coal sludge dam on the Kentucky-West Virginia border gave way, sending 300 million gallons of dark, polluted water down the valley, following warnings about bad construction.

While it was declared as one of the worst pollution disasters in modern times, the company, while doing "clean up," wormed their way out of responsibility.

Massey's president Don Blankenship, who earned $20 million or more annually, the company being issued thousands of citations for a billion dollars which they did not pay, a cat and mouse game long played with enforcers.

They eventually settled for a few million.

The state's courts generally rule in King Coal's favor, despite being caught of wrongdoing.

Coal truck drivers and miners circled the State Capitol in protest of law enforcement enforcing weight limits on the hauling of coal, while the families of eleven victims killed by the overweight trucks cried out in anger at legislators and the West Virginia Coal Association.

Kanawha Delegate Jon Amores stood up for the "stakeholders" as if it was simply a business deal, with most legislators appearing oblivious to the value of human life. They wanted "negotiable terms."

Just consider the head-turning when trucks had been hauling more than double their weight limits for many years across the state's highways and low-rated bridges.

The State of WV quickly dealt with the problem.

They made overweight coal trucks legal.

Few have been willing to bear witness to the century-old conflict between government, men and mighty corporations.

Few history or civics students have heard of the tragic Battle of Blair Mountain, when the United States Army, at the request of state officials, encountered 10,000 unemployed pro-union coal miners with bombs, airplanes and poison gas.

Many died in the assault against miners who wanted better working conditions and a better life.

Denise Giardina, in her book "Storming Heaven," tells of that crucial battle, a war that has yet to be won.

Forget about Buffalo Creek?

It is difficult for me to resolve my experience with Christian charity, after staring in the muck-covered faces of lifeless children and their families those thirty-some years ago.

I am held hostage to the event.

Beyond the frequently read verses at the memorial service from Ecclesiastes about a time to die, Chapter 4 reads on, reflecting more about how I feel on my return to Buffalo Creek after 30 years:

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter and on the side of their oppressors there was power but they had no comforter.

Wherefore, I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

I bear witness with other West Virginians, unafraid of that evil at work and stand with those who seek to recall such deeds, desiring fairness and justice.

If only proclaiming on a street corner, I recall Buffalo Creek, even to the unwilling listener, remembering and recalling.


WORD ON THE STREET | Community members share thoughts on Cup Foods

Opinions differ on the future of the George Floyd memorial site and surrounding area at 38th Street and Chicago Ave. where Floyd was killed May 25 under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. A prominent feature at the site is Cup Foods, the longstanding corner store that has become forever linked to this tragic story.

The MSR took to the street recently to ask community members what they think about Cup Foods in light of what’s happened there? Read their reflections and add your own in the comments.

Cup Foods has been around for a long time and this community made them. I’m not so concerned about Cup, but more about us. Just like we made them, we need to make us. Stop relying on the people outside the community and rely on each other.

I grew up on the South Side. We as a people help make any business successful. We don’t need to worry about shutting down Cup ‘cause our buying power will shut them down. Any business that is not giving back to the community, we shouldn’t be spending our money there. We should boycott everything that’s not for us or by us.

Once we understand [that] we are the people with the buying power, we can change any community.

It’s not really Cup Foods’ fault ‘cause the person [who called the police on George Floyd over a suspected forged $20 bill] was doing their job. The police shouldn’t not have been called. The policeman is the issue, not Cup Foods.

Maybe if Cup hadn’t called the police this incident may not have happened…

I was raised in this neighborhood. Cup has always been a family-oriented business. Businesses have the right to call police. People are blaming Cup and taking the focus off the police. Cup didn’t kill George Floyd—the police did. I stand with Cup foods.

Cup is a disgrace to their neighborhood they never look out for the community and the community is what kept them in business. I believe they gouge their prices, but they don’t see the fault in what they are doing. Making money off the likeness of George Floyd… It was wrong to call the police on an alleged fake bill which caused a man his life.

I do not know what’s true about Cup Foods and what’s not. I’ve heard things about Cup but have never had any incidents personally with them. I believe the City should make the site a community co-op or peace garden to represent a memorial for George Floyd.

Cup Foods understands what happens to Black men when the police are called, so why call the police over an alleged fake bill?

—Questions facilitated by Nikki Love.

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About Nikki Love

Nikki Love is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at [email protected]

5 Comments on &ldquoWORD ON THE STREET | Community members share thoughts on Cup Foods&rdquo

I feel the Cup Foods employee did not need to call the police. Also the police could have resolved this too. So both Cup Foods & MPD are to blame. Surprisingly Cup Foods was not destroyed.

Ms Anderson I hear you. This was the first thing my husband and I said. How did it doge a bullet? why was it untouched.

Too often history gets lost, especially where a media fear frenzy is so predominant. Cup Foods had been a target of white neighborhood groups back in the 90s who were working tirelessly to try to “Cleans” the neighborhood. Through that entire time, Cup Foods served with pride the people of the neighborhood black, Hispanic, and all others. Little old white ladies used to tell me things like, “Oh that Cup Foods makes me so nervous when I go in there”. Cup Foods fought the city in a costly legal battle back then, and won. That caused the so-called, white suburban transplants to re-think their strategies while also asking Cup Foods owner how the white groups might begin to better participate in the neighborhood. Cup Foods stood their ground in those days, and these days, too, to be sure the real community around 38th and Chicago, and its fine people, would be served by a real neighborhood business community. Various of the white, so-called civic group people simply left the neighborhood after that. I know this because I fought the civic groups back then for their injustices. We stood at that very corner, involved with Cup Foods, to let the people of our neighborhood know about how some so-called civic groups, and especially the police in the area were misbehaving. We were involved with radio broadcasts back then, too, that were asking the City of Minneapolis police and mayor to please take a serious look at the large number of police abuses in our neighborhood. But the city was the one that actually needed to be fought against, so they were no better than the white neighborhood groups or the bad cops. The street events, leaflets, radio programs were all because of the encouragement and actions of Cup Foods, under the same, family ownership then as they are today. Please, good citizens, be sure you know who your adversary might be in all of this. There was definitely a rogue cop with a murderous knee, and there have always been City of Minneapolis, so-called leaders, who have turned a blind eye and ear to our pleas.
I have never personally been so touched and moved as I have seeing the mural and caring activities surrounding that corner, and Cup Foods today. It makes me personally feel like maybe we at least made some kind of impact. Unfortunately, with how terribly slow a city and law enforcement can be with acting upon desperately needed change, some of the greatest history almost seems to be lost to our own, loving eyes and ears. I am not now affiliated with Cup Foods, but I would be in a moment if I could. Unfortunately I might be a little too old now, so I would like to extend the same love and care to you younger people. Reach out, join together with all good folks in the neighborhood. Make Cup Foods our rallying point continually. So true that we have “Made” Cup Foods, and so true that they have helped to “Make” our corner so much more than just another street corner some place. I hope you don’t mind, but now I feel like we all played a roll back then in the future that has now come to be. I finally feel like we can make the difference today that was so needed way back then… together.

I did leave a substantial comment about the history of Cup Foods and the efforts we carried out on that corner. You did not publish it, or try to contact me at my e-mail address. I wouldn’t want to believe that you are intentionally censuring certain comments especially ones so well-informed as someone who was directly involved? Would you please publish my comment, and/or reach out to me by e-mail, thank you.

I think Cup Food should be held accountable for there actions Like B. Stewart and Nathaniel said. And Julian J. said, Cup Foods understands what happens to Black men when the police are called, so why call the police over an alleged fake bill? and why was everything but Cup Foods was not destroyed? Are you woke yet?


The gravity of his loss hit him in college

Although he was 10 when his father and brothers passed away, Stephen Colbert was almost twice that age before the profundity of their deaths would really hit him. On Oprah's Next Chapter, he admitted, "I didn't really feel the loss until I was in college. Then, ugh, then I was in bad shape. I went into college at about 185 pounds. By the end of my freshman year, I was 135. I was just green. I was just green, just so sad about it."

As for why it took so long for him to feel the weight of what happened, Colbert theorized that it may have had something to do with the fact that he was no longer living at home. "I finally had time to sort of, I suppose, be alone with the idea that they were gone," he told Winfrey. "It seemed like a long time at the time, but now at age 48 . it seems like the blink of an eye. So, yeah, I got very sad about it."

When Colbert was studying philosophy at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, he eventually found something that made him feel better — acting in school plays. As reported by The New York Times, Colbert told himself back then, "You'd be crazy not to take that as a hint. It's the only thing you work hard at." He'd soon pursue that passion elsewhere.


COLUMN: Never forget the 'bouquet of humanity' who tried to help George Floyd

These and several others shine as true heroes in the tragic story of George Floyd.

If you followed the recent trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, you will recognize the names.

If not, let me tell you who they are.

To back up a bit, this was what the Minneapolis Police Force released to the public right after the death of George Floyd after being called to a store on a report of a counterfeit $20 bill.

The news release was entitled: &ldquoMan Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.&rdquo

It goes on to say: &ldquoTwo officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be in medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to hospital by ambulance where he died a short time later.&rdquo

Wow! Does this bare much similarity to what we now have all seen with our own eyes?

Enter 17-year-old Darnella Frazier who had taken her nine-year-old cousin to the variety store for some snacks.

She saw what she viewed as &ldquosomething wrong&rdquo when she viewed Mr. Floyd, face down on the pavement, surrounded by three police officers.

She took out her phone and started filming and never stopped. She didn&rsquot stop for over 10 minutes and caught everything.

It was her video, which she posted on Facebook, that sparked global outrage to what most people saw as excessive use of force by police.

It was her video that showed just how ugly the whole incident truly was.

It was her video, in all of its grotesqueness, which led to three guilty verdicts against former officer Chauvin for murder last week.

It was her video that I can&rsquot completely unsee, but that I also don&rsquot want to ever forget.

If she had paused in the filming or stopped before the whole event ended would we have ever truly known what happened May 25, 2020 on that street corner?

Darnella Frazier. Say her name.

Donald Williams. Say his name.

He was the young martial arts expert who just happened to come upon the scene that day.

He knew all about choke holds and using body weight as a weapon. He called out advice and suggestions to the cops, which escalated to a few choice words when he was ignored.

It was Donald Williams who called 911 saying: &ldquoI called the police on the police.&rdquo

Donald Williams. Say his name.

Genevieve Hansen. Say her name.

She was the off-duty Minneapolis firefighter who just came upon the scene and thought maybe she could help.

She remained on scene offering her own services to check for a pulse or do CPR, only to be rebuffed. She stayed there, also filming, and yelling out for the officers to offer some medical attention to the victim.

Genevieve Hansen. Say her name.

Charles McMillan, the 61-year-old man who was like an unofficial neighbourhood watch in the area. He wanted to know what was going on in his community.

He didn&rsquot know George Floyd, but when he saw him struggling with police at the cruiser he called out: &ldquoJust get in the car, man, you can&rsquot win.&rdquo

It was who later talked to Chauvin trying to figure out why he had to put a knee to his neck for so long.

Charles McMillan. Say his name.

During the trial, the prosecution referred to the bystanders as a &ldquobouquet of humanity&rdquo &mdash just regular people who were brought together by fate in that place at that time to witness that moment.

I kept thinking despite the fact George Floyd died in such an undignified way &mdash those people certainly showed him respect.

He may not have known any of them, but they truly tried to save him.

In the end, they got him justice because they didn&rsquot look away. They didn&rsquot keep walking. They got involved. They made a difference. They made history.


Trouble Don't Last

Eleven-year-old Samuel was born as Master Hackler’s slave, and working the Kentucky farm is the only life he’s ever known—until one dark night in 1859, that is. With no warning, cranky old Harrison, a fellow slave, pulls Samuel from his bed and, together, they run.

The journey north seems much more frightening than Master Hackler ever was, and Samuel’s not sure what freedom means aside from running, hiding, and starving. But as they move from one refuge to the next on the Underground Railroad, Samuel uncovers the secret of his own past—and future. And old Harrison begins to see
past a whole lifetime of hurt to the promise of a new life—and a poignant reunion—
in Canada.

In a heartbreaking and hopeful first novel, Shelley Pearsall tells a suspenseful, emotionally charged story of freedom and family. Trouble Don't Last includes an historical note and map.

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Usually the main character is brave and clever. Not Samuel, he is afraid of just about anything, and wants to get back to the only home he knows. Harrison, his elderly companion, is insistent that . Читать весь отзыв

LibraryThing Review

This book definitely kept me interested and wanting to read it. This is her first book that was published in 2002 and Shelley Pearsall has since written some other books that I am hoping to get to at . Читать весь отзыв

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A former middle school teacher and historian, Shelley Pearsall is now working on her next historical novel and leading writing workshops for children.

Trouble Don’t Last is her first novel.

Pearsall did extensive research while writing Trouble Don’t Last and traveled to towns along the escape route–including crossing the Ohio River in a boat and visiting a community in Chatham, Ontario, another destination for runaway slaves. “I’ve found that learning about history in an imaginative way often sticks with students longer than review questions in a text-book,” says Pearsall.

The Underground Railroad is a familiar American story. It is filled with dramatic tales of secret rooms, brave abolitionists, and midnight journeys. But sometimes the real heroes of the story–the runaways themselves–are left in the background. What did they think and feel as they tried to reach freedom? What was their journey like? Whom did the runaways trust and whom did they fear? This book grew from my wondering about these questions. . . .

In my research, I learned that the Underground Railroad was not a clear, organized network that led runaways from the South to the North. Actually, the term referred to any safe routes or hiding places used by runaways–so there were hundreds, even thousands of "underground railroads."

Most runaways traveled just the way that Samuel and Harrison did–using whatever temporary hiding places or means of transportation they could find. As the number of actual railroad lines increased throughout the country in the 1850's, some runaways even hid on railroad cars when travelling from one place to another. They called this "riding the steam cars" or "going the faster way."

I also discovered that runaways were not as helpless or ill-prepared as they are sometimes portrayed. Historical records indicate that many slaves planned carefully for their journey. They brought provisions such as food and extra clothing with them. Since transportation and guides could cost money, some slaves saved money for their escape, while others, like Samuel and Harrison, received money from individuals they met during their journey.

White abolitionists and sympathetic religious groups like the Quakers aided many runaways on the Underground Railroad. However, free African Americans played an equally important role. They kept runaways in their homes and settlements, and served as guides, wagon drivers, and even decoys.

In fact, the character of the river man is based on the real-life story of a black Underground Railroad guide named John P. Parker. Like the River Man, John Parker was badly beaten as a young slave, and so he never traveled anywhere without a pistol in his pocket and a knife in his belt. During a fifteen year period, he ferried more than 400 runaways across the Ohio River, and a $ 1000 reward was once offered for his capture. After the Civil War, he became a successful businessman in Ripley, Ohio, and patent several inventions.

I am often asked what other parts of the novel are factual. The gray yarn being sent as a sign? The baby buried below the church floor? Lung fever? Guides named Ham and Eggs?

The answer is yes. Most of the events and names used in this novel are real, but they come from many different sources. I discovered names like Ordee Lee and Ham and Eggs in old letters and records of the Underground Railroad. The character of Hetty Scott is based on a description I found in John Parker's autobiography. The heart-wrenching tale of Ordee Lee saving the locks of hair from his family comes from a slave's actual account. However, I adapted all of this material to fit into the story of Samuel and Harrison–so time periods and locations have often been changed.

One of the most memorable aspects of writing this book was taking a trip to northern Kentucky and southern Ohio in late summer. To be able to describe the Cornfield Bottoms and the Ohio River, I walked down to the river late at night to see what it looked like and how it sounded in the darkness. To be able to write about Samuel's mother, I stood on a street corner in Old Washington, Kentucky, where slaves were once auctioned. I even stayed in houses that had been in existence during the years of the Underground Railroad.

I chose the southern Ohio and northern Kentucky region for my setting since it had been a very active area for the Underground Railroad. I selected the year 1859 because Congress passed a national law called the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which affected everyone involved in the Underground Railroad. Severe penalties such as heavy fines and jail time awaited anyone–white or black–who helped or harbored runaway slaves anywhere in the United States after 1850.

The law also required people to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the runaways were living in free states like Ohio. African-Americans like August and Belle, who had papers to prove their freedom, were safe from capture even though their lives were sometimes restricted by local and state "black laws." However, runaway slaves were only safe if they left the country and went to places like Canada or Mexico. That is why Samuel and Harrison had to journey all the way to Canada to be free in 1859.

So, if you visited Canada today, would you still find a peaceful place called Harrison's Pond? And is there a tumbledown farmhouse somewhere in Kentucky with an old burying-ground for slaves nearby?

Harrison's Pond and Blue Ash, Kentucky, are places in my imagination, but there are many other places to visit with solemn footsteps and remember. I hope that you will.
–Shelley Pearsall


The Ballad of the Brave Numantians

The leader of the Roman forces was the general Scipio Aemilianus Africanus, who was the ‘hero’ of the Third Punic War. Scipio’s army created two camps next to the walls of the city, which is said to have been inhabited by around 4,000 people. The general knew that the citizens of Numantia should not be underestimated and could be very dangerous enemies.

The Numantians are said to have fought with the bravery of lions and the strength of elephants. However, in time they grew weary and could not sustain their strength against the Romans. Their most famous warrior, Rhetogenes, tried but failed to gather support from neighboring tribes.

The siege lasted for somewhere between eight and sixteen months and, over time, the people of Numantia started to suffer due to the lack of food. It is reported that some were forced to turn to cannibalism, although this cannot be verified. The leader of the tribe attempted, unsuccessfully, to negotiate with Scipio. It was evident that after many decades, the brave Arevaci would have to surrender. Many chose to commit suicide rather than become slaves to the Romans. It is unknown how many Numantians survived.

By 133 BC, the siege and the history of the courageous Numantians had ended. The village was destroyed and the remnants of the settlement vanished to the pages of history. For the Romans, the site had become an important strategical point, but it was never resettled.

Jar with three spouts (1st century B.C.) in the Museo Numantino. ( Public Domain )


Teen Idol Frankie Lymon’s Tragic Rise and Fall Tells the Truth About 1950s America

That voice! Those apple cheeks! Arms wide, head back, he radiates joy, even in antique black and white. That beautiful soprano flying high, talent and presence and just enough ham to sell it all. And it was a great story, too: Up from nothing! A shooting star! So when they found Frankie Lymon dead at the age of 25 one February morning in 1968, in the same apartment building where he’d grown up, it was the end of something and the beginning of something, but no one was quite sure what.

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers were five kids from Washington Heights, just north of Harlem. They sang doo-wop under the streetlight on the corner of 165th and Amsterdam. They were discovered by the Valentines’ lead singer Richie Barrett while the kids were rehearsing in an apartment house. A few months later their first record, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” made it to the top of the national charts. It was 1956. Overnight, Frankie Lymon was the hottest singer in America, off on a world tour. He was 13 years old.

That made him the first black teenage pop star, a gap-toothed, baby-faced, angel-voiced paragon of show business ambition, and a camera-ready avatar of America’s new postwar youth movement. He was a founding father of rock ’n’ roll even before his voice had changed. That voice and that style influenced two generations of rock, soul and R&B giants. You heard his echoes everywhere. The high, clear countertenor, like something out of Renaissance church music, found its way from the Temptations to the Beach Boys to Earth, Wind & Fire. Even Diana Ross charted a cover of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” 25 years after its release. Berry Gordy may not have modeled the Jackson 5 on Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, as is often said, but it sure sounded as if he had.

That’s the legend, anyway. Truth is, Frankie Lymon grew up too fast in every way imaginable. “I never was a child, although I was billed in every theater and auditorium where I appeared as a child star,” Lymon told Art Peters, a reporter for Ebony magazine, in 1967. “I was a man when I was 11 years old, doing everything that most men do. In the neighborhood where I lived, there was no time to be a child. There were five children in my family and my folks had to scuffle to make ends meet. My father was a truck driver and my mother worked as a domestic in white folks’ homes. While kids my age were playing stickball and marbles, I was working in the corner grocery store carrying orders to help pay the rent.”

A few days before Frankie and his friends from the corner recorded the song that made them famous, Rosa Parks was pulled off a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Less than two years later, Frankie danced with a white girl on a national television show, and the show was swiftly canceled. Another part of the legend.

Race integration in pop music was never going to be simple.

America in the 1950s: postwar economy roaring, a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage of the split-level house in Levittown, every cliché of union-made American middle-class prosperity held to be self-evident.

And music was a big part of that. Raucous and brawny, electrified, it felt like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis all fell from the sky at once. Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, with their tight, upbeat harmony, were an important part of it, too. You can trace doo-wop back to the Psalms, hear it bubble up in the a cappella harmonies of Gregorian chant, or, by way of Africa and the Caribbean, from gospel quartets.

In America, beginning in the 1930s, the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots were the popularizers of those intricate harmonies we recognize today as proto-rock ’n’ roll. Doo-wop was among the inheritors, a thousand street-corner groups and a thousand one-hit wonders. The Spaniels and the Five Satins and the Vocaleers, the Drifters and the Fleetwoods and the Moonglows, the Coasters and the Platters and on to Frankie Valli and modernity. In the 1950s, every high school stairwell in this country was loud with four-part singing. Even today the “Pitch Perfect” movie franchise owes its popularity to an a cappella tradition stretching back into pre-electric history.

“We harmonized every night on the street corner until the neighbors would call the cops to run us away,” Lymon told Ebony. But Frankie wasn’t doo-wop, not really. Doo-wop was group music. “Frankie Lymon was always different than that,” Robert Christgau, great-granddaddy of American rock critics and historians, will tell you. “He was the star.”

Frankie and his record producers and managers soon agreed he’d be a more profitable solo act, so off he went, leaving behind the Teenagers, and with them friendship and loyalty. He had another, lesser, hit—a recording of “Goody Goody,” sung by Bob Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald before him—before things cooled.

Then came the long, slow slide.

Ask any junkie and they’ll tell what they’re chasing is the feeling they got the first time they got high. But that first-time rush can never be recaptured, whether you’re talking about heroin or cigarettes or hit records.

(Tom Schierlitz)

Frankie was a heroin addict at 15 years old. He tried to kick, tried again and again and got straight for a while. Then his mother died, and he fell hard.

He wasn’t alone. Heroin was everywhere in New York by then, and methadone clinics run by the city were springing up in neighborhoods all over town. The failure rate was heartbreaking.

“I looked twice my age,” Lymon told Ebony. “I was thin as a shadow and I didn’t give a damn. My only concern was in getting relief. You know, an addict is the most pathetic creature on earth. He knows that every time he sticks a needle in his arm, he’s gambling with death and, yet, he’s got to have it. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with a spike. There’s always the danger that some peddler will sell him a poisoned batch—some garbage.” Here young Frankie knocks on wood. “I was lucky. God must have been watching over me.”

Even now you want to believe him.

Frankie’s neighborhood, just up the bluffs from the long-gone Polo Grounds, feels mostly unchanged even 50 years later. It was poorer then, sure, like the rest of New York City, and in the age before earbuds and headphones it was surely louder. You heard music in the streets.

Outside Frankie’s old address, on West 165th, there’s a “Wet Paint” sign on the door this bright autumn morning, and one building over a crew is painting the ancient fire escapes. The whole block smells of solvent, sharp and clean. It’s a well-kept street of five- and six-story apartment houses in a tidy neighborhood of working-class folks who greet each other on the sidewalk, black and white and brown, Latin American and Caribbean immigrants and Great Migration African-Americans and, like the rest of New York, folks from all over.

Young as he was, Lymon had three wives. He married them in quick succession, and there was plenty of confusion about the paperwork. He may have been married to more than one at a time, or not entirely married to one of the three at all. One of them may have still been married to someone else. Depends whom you ask. (In the 1980s, they all met in court, to settle Lymon’s estate, such as it was, to find out who was entitled to songwriting royalties from best sellers like “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” None got much, but the third wife, Emira Eagle, received an undisclosed settlement from record producers.)

(Arthur E. Giron)

In 1966, there was a brief glimmer of hope. Fresh out of rehab at Manhattan General Hospital, Lymon appeared at a block party organized by a group of nuns at a Catholic settlement house in the Bronx. He told an audience of 2,000 teenagers, “I have been born again. I’m not ashamed to let the public know I took the cure. Maybe my story will keep some other kid from going wrong.”

On February 27, 1968, he was booked for a recording session to mark the start of a comeback. Instead, he was found dead that morning on his grandmother’s bathroom floor.

Frankie Lymon was buried in the Bronx, at St. Raymond’s Cemetery: Row 13, Grave 70. It’s 15 minutes by car from the old neighborhood. His headstone is over by the highway. The grass is green and the ground is hard and uneven and on the left his stone is packed tight with the others. On the right there’s a gap like a missing tooth. You can see the towers of two bridges from here, the Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck, and hear the traffic rush past on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Billie Holiday is buried here, and Typhoid Mary. This is where the Lindbergh ransom exchange happened. The wind comes hard off Eastchester Bay and shakes the pagoda trees.

For years Frankie’s grave was unmarked. In the mid-1980s, a New Jersey music store held a benefit to raise money for a memorial, but it never made it to the cemetery. The headstone gathered dust in the record shop, then moved at last to the backyard of a friend of the owner.

Emira Eagle had the current headstone installed sometime in the late 1990s.In Loving Memory

Not much room to tell his story. And what could anyone say? That the 1950s were long over? That innocence was dead? That by 1968 one America had vanished entirely, and another had taken its place?

Or maybe that Frankie Lymon’s America, doo-wop America, was never simple, never sweet, but was rather an America as complex and wracked by animus and desire as any in history. It was the same America that killed Emmett Till, after all, another angel-faced kid with apple cheeks and a wide, bright smile.

Seen across the gulf of years, what we now think of as the anodyne, antiseptic 1950s America is revealed as an illusion. June Cleaver vacuuming in an organdy cocktail dress and pearls is a television mirage, a national hallucination. We had the postwar world economy to ourselves because so many other industrial nations had been bombed flat. And for every Pat Boone there was a “Howl,” an Allen Ginsberg, a Kerouac, a Coltrane, a Krassner, a Ferlinghetti. There were underground explosions in painting and poetry and music and prose. It was a kind of invisible revolution.

A decade removed from fame and recently out of rehab, a 24-year-old Lymon shows off dance moves to a cheering crowd from his old New York neighborhood. (Courtesy Johnson Publishing Company Llc. All Rights Reserved) Lymon shopping for music for his comeback act. (Courtesy Johnson Publishing Company Llc. All Rights Reserved) Frankie Lymon chats with his neighbor Margaret Williams in January 1967. Frankie and his group once rehearsed in her apartment. (Courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC. All rights reserved.)

A telling detail of that chaste 1950s mythology: to preserve his image as a clean-cut teenager, Frankie Lymon would pass off the women he dated in different cities as his mother. It gets told and told and told—in fact, he told it himself—that he once got caught by a reporter who went to shows in New York and Chicago and saw that his “mom” was two different women, each twice Frankie’s age. A story too good to fact-check.

It was in these�s that Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man, and James Baldwin published Notes of a Native Son. After Rosa Parks was pulled off that bus, Dr. King led the Montgomery bus boycott and changed the trajectory of civil rights in America. The Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, and then came Little Rock and the lunch counter sit-ins at Wichita and Oklahoma City. What you saw of the 󈧶s in America was all about where you stood. And with whom.

Was the short, blinding arc of Frankie Lymon’s career a morality play? A rock ’n’ roll cautionary tale? Or just another story of a young man gone too soon?

Maybe it was a reminder that America changes in every instant and never changes at all. Our streets have always been filled with music and temptation addiction has always been with us, long before “us” was even America, from the Lotus Eaters of The Odyssey to the opium dens of the Wild West to the crack epidemic and on to our own new opioid crisis.

Looking at that headstone, you get to thinking maybe Frankie Lymon was the 1950s, man and myth, the junkie with an angel’s voice, and that the stone stands as a monument to the lies we tell ourselves about America in the time before Frankie flew away.

The very night Lymon died Walter Cronkite went on the air and said of Vietnam, “We are mired in a stalemate.” It was clear the center couldn’t hold, and if you felt like the 1950s were five polite young men in matching letter sweaters, the rest of 1968 came at you like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The world lurched and suddenly spun too fast. Tet. My Lai. Chicago. Washington. Baltimore. Riots everywhere. Vietnam the pulse and drumbeat behind and beneath everything.

So when Frankie Lymon died that February morning you’d have been forgiven for missing it. He was nearly forgotten by then, a five-paragraph item on page 50 of the New York Times, a casualty of the moment the future and the past came apart.

It was sad, but for a while, arms wide and head back, Frankie Lymon had bridged and bound all those opposing energies. That face! That voice!

Man, he could sing like an angel.

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This article is a selection from the January/February issue of Smithsonian magazine

About Jeff MacGregor

Jeff MacGregor is the award-winning Writer-at-Large for Smithsonian. He has written for the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, and many others, and is the author of the acclaimed book Sunday Money. Photo by Olya Evanitsky.


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