A matter of life and death
Downtown Savannah, Georgia, 1955
Note the historical marker on the far right of the photo
I’ve been thinking about the life and death of John Lewis. My generation paralleled his generation. Yet my life in the Deep South during the 1950s and 60s was light years from his life. It didn’t matter that I saw and heard about the Deep South every day. What mattered was the bubble in which I was raised.
In a nutshell: I didn’t have a clue how much I didn’t know, even though it was in plain view.
Back then, our family had room for many colored people. As a child, I assumed they were our friends. Still, our family was almost always in the mode of ‘helping’ them. Or joining them at special events at which my father sometimes preached. We daughters sat with our mother in reserved seats on the front row, always decked out in our Sunday best.
We also led regular, less formal Bible clubs for children in our rural setting and in Yamacraw Village. The Village was built on what had been a Yamacraw Indian settlement. Now it served colored people on the west side of Savannah.
The Bible clubs were also our family’s way of ‘helping.’ Plenty of fun, lots of singing (I often played the piano), a Bible lesson from my father, Bible verses to memorize, and snacks at the end. I always knew we ‘poor’ white people were more fortunate than they, and assumed they needed us.
Looking back, my family offered me only one role during my growing-up years in Savannah: a friendly helper. I didn’t have the means or courage to change what often felt unfair and even embarrassing.
Alongside family activities, I attended school. Beginning in grade school, we studied the glorified white history of Georgia. Especially the “Civil” War/War between the States. This continued through high school. Sometimes, especially in grade school, we celebrated heroes. A few were colored; most were white. Christopher Columbus was the greatest national hero. The slave trade remained shrouded in mystery, though Savannah was one of the largest East Coast importers of slaves, and exporters of cotton.
Praying you’re as well as you can be right now, and surrounded by activities that bring you joy, comfort, hope, and a challenge or two.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 July 2020
Photo of Downtown Savannah, Georgia (1955) found at reddit.com