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  • Vernalee


By Vernalee

On one of our historic girl trips to Glen Allan, Mississippi, my daughter and nieces decided that they wanted to pick cotton. As we traveled Highway # One in the Delta, row after row of that snow white glistening cotton lined the road. As I took their photograph with them modeling varied striking poses, so many reflections about picking cotton came to mind. One of my Mother’s famous stories was how she picked over 300 pounds of cotton each day to pay for my oldest sister’s (Barbara’s) senior class ring. …. Things that we Mothers do for our children never cease to amaze me! In those days, picking cotton for 10-12 hours making $10.00 a day, if that, was a way of life for many Black folks. Can you Imagine that salary in exchange for a physically draining day? Yet, so many relied on the drudgery of the cotton fields to “feed their families” and to survive. So, when we complain that our padded high back desk chair is not comfortable enough, think about the toils of how our hard working ancestors worked/supported their families, and how they made everyone rich, but themselves! I become mentally exhausted …sometimes… just thinking about it! Amidst all the unrest occurring today, suddenly a radiant light shone inside my soul. I realized that there’s a message here. History! Let us never forget our ancestor’s sweaty backs, the knotty hard callouses that covered their hands, and the horrific shoulder/back pain they experienced pulling 100 pounds of cotton in a burlap sack from one end of the field to the other. Their historical cotton field days of laborious agonies were not an enjoyable memory like the photograph that I took of the girls “shooting the breeze!“ Their cotton picking experience amounted to bondage of exploitation. It became their way of life; their mode of survival to support their families that paid not minimum wage, but mere “peanut!” It’s a memory that we should tuck deep down in the crevices of our aorta ... so that we never go back, so that we never forget ... those days of outright cruelties and injustice ... so that it never raises its head again!

Photo credit: Verna’s Family Album; Pictured: Phoebe, Beverly, and Sharon.

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22 Eyl 2023


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