Viewing page 8 of 21
It looks like you're using a mobile device. We recommend using a physical keyboard for transcription entry.
seek to drown the spirit of the Negro people of the Southland. In his store, my father-in-law has always insisted that every salesman address him as "Mr." or "Dr.", and refer to his wife as "Mrs." He demanded that they exhibit this evidence of simple decency as a condition for doing business with them. Drug Store Forum My husband often told me vivid stories of his childhood. He never forgot hours spent daily in his father's store. This store was always a kind of neighborhood public forum for discussion and debate on the questions of the day, the needs and aspirations of Negroes, the trials and tribulations of the laborers and domestics and their bosses. Behind the prescription counter, in the back of the store of evenings, two or three of the "inner-sanctum" cronies could always be found--seated on boxes, around a big wood burner--their conversations ranging over the whole galaxy of human knowledge and experience. Young Jack sat in the far corner, or on the knee of his favorite uncle, his attention fixed on each conversationalist in turn--his eyes full of wonder and excitement--his mind taking in every word,following each homespun precept and scheme as expounded by one or another of the wood-stove "savants." Much of the discussion would center around Du Bois' editorials in the Crisis. "Tuck", the ditch-digger would unravel the harrowing tales of the Southern Negroes' struggle for existence in the turpentine camps, on the cotton plantations and on the chain gangs. Another crony would expound on the hidden meaning, the "tricking-the-white-folk" wisdoms of his one-time trade school principal--"Booker T." Sometimes, especially on a Sunday, for hours on end, my husband's uncle would enthrall the children with recitations from the vast storehouse of the world's poetry and literature which had been his love and hobby since early childhood. Then there was old "Jesse", a Jefferson Hotel waiter. He was their link with all the great men and events of history. A waiter was among the highest echelons of Negro society in those days. Jesse had served and dined with John Langston and all the other Negro Congressmen, statement, and greats and near-greats of the Reconstruction era. My husband learned the proud and valiant history of his people there in the back of the store. 12 [[end page]] [[start page]] The seeds of thought, the tales of struggle, the psalms of hope which were thrown out in those fervent "bull sessions" found fertile soil in young Jack's bright mind, mellowing, maturing and growing to completion with his growth; and finally, finding their expression in his understanding of the people of the South, and determination to bring democracy in the fullest sense of the word to them. The Peacemaker's Art So it can be said that the viewpoint of life of my father-in-law was a major influence upon my husband's development during his formative years. Also he was influenced by his mother's character and demeanor. She surrounded her children with love and devoted attention. A peace-loving and gentle woman above all else, his mother found her greatest happiness in doing for others (as she still does to this day). It is she who has been the preserver of the family--always able to soften the sharp edges of conflicts; to weigh the odds before inviting a battle and never too proud to retreat in the face of a superior enemy, that the battle might be joined on more favorable grounds at a more opportune time. Though at times rebellious against her "conservatism," my husband soon came to appreciate his mother's tactical wisdom as the indispensable complement to his father's more melodramatic militancy; her tolerance was necessary to salvaging the maximum justice from his father's concept of righteousness. If from his father my husband learned the discipline of a warrior, from his mother he learned the arts of a peacemaker. In spite of all the heartbreak to which the tyranny of the white-supremacists subject the Negro family in the South, his parents were nonetheless able to provide for their children a measure of carefree and joyful children's hours. On a Sunday evening his mother would seat herself at the piano and fill the house with the lilting melodies of Strauss' waltzes, gay children's rounds and the popular tunes of the day. The children would "pitch in" on the choruses. When young Jack was still a small boy, his father would take him to the country for a day's hunting or fishing. During the summer, for several years, he went visiting to the country in com- 13
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact email@example.com.