Haunted by a slave market photo taken
On our way to summer Bible camp
To be indoctrinated directly and
Indirectly with the ‘good’ news of
White Christianity posing as the answer
To every question we might have
Including how slaves are to behave
And not behave toward their masters
And mistresses and white folk
Deep south heat rises from the ashes
Of lynchings, cross burnings and beatings
No water of baptism or gorgeous lake
Could ever quench the flaming seed planted
Fertilized and watered daily in us
We were God’s children
We were special
We were white
We were privileged
We were better
Sit up straight little children
Hold very still and look into the camera
Not every child gets to visit a cleaned-up
Slave market in cleaned-up Sunday go to
Meeting clothes and live to tell about it
In this enlightened age of freedom
And justice for all
Was this the first slave market in the USA? It claimed to be. But does it really matter? Here it is, kept alive in the middle of this small Georgia town. A daily reminder to all inhabitants of who they are and are not.
The photo was taken in 1958 on a bus trip from Savannah, Georgia, to a summer Bible camp we attended regularly. I’m in the very back, tall, with glasses. Sister #2 is standing directly in front of me. Sister #3 (Diane) is sitting on the front row, second from the right. My father made this a regular stop on the way to camp, and loved taking photos of us on the market steps.
This was one small cog in the machinery that kept us in line. Good little white girls and boys obediently lining up for a photo op. Relieved to have our superior status, even though we knew something wasn’t right and that we’d done nothing to earn white skin.
Our nation is coming apart at the seams. High time? Yes. Dangerous? Yes. Can we get through this and emerge stronger, wiser and more compassionate? I wish I knew.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, 1958, in Louisville, Georgia