Asked And Answered

Seminole Nergo TX (2)

“Seminole Negro.” Formerly enslaved. Bracketville, TX.        July 6. 1937.LOC.

A recent reader inquired:

Walter always a pleasure to read your views and prose. Do you ever get concerned that there is part of America, a too large part, that is not nice, does not really believe in the core values of the intent of our constitution, a part that cannot learn to adapt and that this part, now incredibly well funded, can truly change our direction and accept a man like Donald Trump as their leader?

My writing aesthetic comes from the Gullah, the enslaved from Angola who mediated relations and contributed much to Charleston’s food, music, humor, speech, worship and way of thinking, even their physical presence is easily recognized–all while being enslaved for 200 years, referenced in account books of America’s richest man, the Huguenot slave agent Henry Laurens whose former plantation was owned by Henry and Clare Booth Luce, owners and publishers of Time magazine, the most influential couple of their times. The morning he died, he gave the key out to his cook. Later, he was the first man cremated in America. He had a profound fear of claustrophobia. panicked at the thought of being shut up, even in a coffin. The enslaved built his  lyre. His daughter found it too bizarre to watch and turned away in grief.

Not in stories/songs/and diaries in written and oral tradition do the Gullah falter in the belief that their condition was temporary even as it sometimes worsened. To wit: Washington McLean Gadsden was the African-American bell ringer for St. Micheal’s church, the city’s oldest, the bells located below its landmark steeple, high across from city, seen as you enter the harbor.

On November 9, 1860, he climbed the belfry steps and rang to the city the state had seceded from the Union, a remarkable act of fidelity and courage for an enslaved man who felt and knew the full import of what he rang. Four years later, he marched those steps again, ringing Charleston’s surrender, announcing freedom. Both times (and in between), he rang in faithful charge of his duties; requiring a courage not immediately credited, but unwavering in its faith.

I couldn’t have done it! No way! But he taught me something about inner strength and walking in lasting virtue, about unwavering vision, about being steadfast but not indifferent. As I write, I recall his example, throwing no logs on a burning fire, and honoring his peals, knowing what lasts and what drifts away. I write guided by his vision, and all others whose truth remains even after the darkest hour. Remembering at Emanuel, how the families faced the light.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Trump?


Washington McLean Gadsden, 1848-1849.


St. Michael’s


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