Up-Hill, Both Ways, Through the Snow
An Annotated Bibliography
At first, I could not even think of a title to name this page. I knew it was somewhere in my psyche, but I was being pulled in so many directions, finding my way back to forward seemed more futile. Then I decided to start backwards, just like my family. Instead of deciding what to call my future pieces, I would just write my pieces, analyse them, and come to a decision about what they all meant to me. This would ultimately lead to my title, I was sure of it. Once I wrote the last word, titles flew through my head at blinding speeds. Now I could reign in just one title to use in describing my research and its meaning to me. Then, as if greeting the sensation as an old friend, the storm inside my mind began to clear at the sight of one image. The flurry of hail and howling winds within my thoughts covered the answer before me, to make me abandon my journey. I, however, was undaunted and found my answer, buried beneath the doubt. Just as a grandmother might always say when a child complains, “I had to walk to school up-hill, both ways, through the snow”. Apparently most of our grandparents went to the same school, on the same snowy mountain top, that never thawed 190 days out of the year.
I chose this title, because it resonates with so many people to hear this phrase aloud, to the point where they can normally imagine a time someone told it to them. I chose this title, because it illustrates the strife every person I wrote about below had to endure, from the origin of East Point, GA with only 15 families to bring it to life, to W.E.B. Du Bois and his revolutionary achievements throughout his life. While only 12 sources are listed, I can could write many more, that all have impacted my life and my family’s life. Stories that have shaped us, songs that have carried us, and sacrifices that have given us so many opportunities to pay it all forward. This saga shares significance with many black families across the nation, and I can only hope that by reading my story and the works I have listed, that others would be empowered to do the same if not continue the fight towards a brighter future for the next generations to play on the earth we ploughed for them. To play on the earth their ancestors left to our care. Those brave men and women, those heroes, walked an uncharted path up-hill, both ways, through the snow, just so people like me, could enjoy a life when Spring would finally come, at least once a year. A life that did not require us to climb mountains of oppression, decades of suffering, physical chains upon our wrists, or blood on our backs. A life that we could be proud of, a life that others could be proud of, a life that mattered. A full life, and not just three-fifths of it.
East Point, GA
Herman Mason 2001, Arcadia Publishing, Black America Series
This book tells the tale of the first families to start their lives in the “former-slave” city of East Point GA. At the beginning, there were only 15 families, around the time that my great-great-great-great grandfather came to set up his life in East Point. The book has wonderful pictures to help illustrate the tale of what it meant to give life to dreams and build hopes upon the ashes and dust left by boots of the Civil War. The author, though unable to physically speak with these black pioneers, recounts the tale so vividly, that one can almost see the city roadways and businesses, agriculture and industries, flourish around their feet. The families here possessed nothing but a name and an unyielding desire to protect and preserve their families, if they could.
Up until my great grandmother, moving after her marriage in her 20’s, my family’s lineage remained in East Point, GA. The city might as well be my family’s stomping ground and be granted an ordinance for a private cemetery. Only seven miles from the bustling Atlanta, and my family was so unyielding to forsake their mecca. Their last hope for salvation after enduring such intense suffering for so many decades. This book gives me a greater insight and respect for my ancestor’s strife and a gateway into the past that I thought was locked out to me by the frailty of human life.
Slavery by another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
Douglas A. Blackmon, Anchor Books
Another beautifully written book depicting the lives of my ancestors. This book goes into detail how the black population in America shred off their iron chains just to fall beneath steel nets. The steel industry had taken flourish in the early 1900's, and this flourishing requires more hands-on-deck to complete their exorbitant demands that machines could not yet complete. These steel factories were not only wise in picking a blossoming field of industry, but knew how to exploit a newly freed but highly unemployed black population. It is a sad tale to tell, but a disturbingly real fact, that many blacks in the South did not necessarily wish for the end of slavery because they recognized a chilling fact. Their masters gave them work, gave them food, water, and some means of shelter. A world without slavery, but lingering resentment to blacks, would not be so charitable in promising all these aspects of life. Even now we can view cities destroying low income housing to make way for new development, but rarely ever replace those destroyed tenements with a sufficient, if not excess, amount of housing to complement the lives displaced with the destruction. Blacks were promised freedom and the pursuit of happiness, but no road to travel upon to even attempt such aspirations.
My family, before my great grandfather, and mainly on the male side of the household, were forced into these types of positions. Of unshackled slaves. The pay was inadequate, but it was income. The work was unrealistic, but it was work. The conditions were not acceptable, not by safety nor humane standards, but they were tolerable enough to complete the mission of supporting one’s family. In a time of economic employment oscillations, what I as a college student see as a nightmare, was the lifestyle these family members of mine had to endure for generations. Until the chain was broken into a different form of servitude, joining the armed forces.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe, The National Era & John P. Jewett and Company
The darkest of the books so far, yet the one that has the deepest resonnance with my family’s melody, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a series of stories every child in my family is forced to read. Even if not all of them, at least one will be read before the age of ten. The stories are not appropriate for any age level below high school, and even then, the context may be too graphic for schools to risk it. The stories are works of fiction, or perhaps they are merely called fiction to mask how insidiously real they feel to a reader who has seen the remnants of the bigotry illuminated in the stories. It is a controversial gateway into the past of slavery, and perhaps unconventional in explicit nature, but it nonetheless paints the picture with pastel colours for all to see. These stories are of the different exploits and challenges faced by many of the black and sometimes white characters, during the post-colonial slave era in America. Mainly hailing in the South or Bleeding Kansas and Missouri, the stories can reach to a wide variety of readers. From the most secluded and sheltered from the racist world, to even a Klu Klux Klan member reading for some insidious gain. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a powerful top seller, and should be read with not only caution, but an open mind.
As I mentioned before the book is a must read in my family because the stories feel almost all too real. The pain starts to swell in our bosoms, and it is sometimes hard to hold back tears from dampening the pages. I believe I own four copies while my mother owns nearly the whole collection. It is almost a wicked punishment to force a coloured being to read this book, but it is so enlightening that the end justifies the means. I must include this book on pure principle alone, for how detrimental it is in the narrating of my family’s past. It is also commonplace in my family for the generation, who come of age (8) to begin reading these works to brace them for the possible racism and difficulties they will face in the future. It is also a prominent story for my family in that we have gone to visit, and or live, in some of the regions displayed in the book and have found that the pages come to life and have yet to fade.
Strength for the Fight
A History of Black Americans in the Military. Bernard Nalty. Collier Macmillan Publishers.
This book explores a powerful lineage in my family. My father, his father, and his father before him all were a part of the military. My mother’s father (papa), and her grandfather, big daddy, (on her mom’s side) were all proud members of the military until they reached a considerably old age. While some people join the military as their patronage instructs them to, the drafts required them to, or because they did not know what else to do.
My family was moved by other considerations. For all of them, besides my father, they took up arms because the city, the state, the nation they were a part of did not facilitate a life for them if they were not willing to take the ultimate sacrifice. Their families needed them to give up on whatever dreams they may have had their whole lives (for my papa it was being a lawyer). They had to give up on whatever education they were trying to assemble for themselves so that their family would have a warm meal to eat and a strong roof over their heads. But, even after they gained these vital necessities, and had now seen the best and worst of the world, they still never left where they were. Where their families had called home, and are still there to this day. This boom was powerful in that I got to channel my story through the lives and stories of all these individuals that faced the same stress my family faced because of the demands of the military. It was refreshing to see just how not alone we really are in a world that seems so vast.
The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military.
Gerald Astor. Da Capo Press.
This book also goes into my family’s past of military exploits with the issues my great grandfathers had come to realize. Racism did not stand at the door when you entered the military. No, it would be willing to follow you in and adorn its own medals and uniform. Black people were still feared back in the 40’s and 50’s, and especially so with a gun in tote. Even if they were supposed to be considered your brothers, how would you know they were not scarred and bitter about the centuries of cruelty, waiting for a moment to seek their revenge? How would you know the man who was supposed to have your back would not leave you to the devices of your enemies when the battle raged on?
These were only some of the fears held in the military in the time of the South’s Reconstruction which ran adjacent to the World Wars which would shape the globe and its views on discrimination. I am glad to have found a book that would talk about this exploits in clear black and white. I only wish this book could be an oration, or a TedTalk that could reach a broader spectrum of people who could learn from this history of fear and doubt.
Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity.
Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar. John Hopkins University Press.
This book takes a far different spin than the others I have read thus far. This book hones in on a problem I have been facing with since my return to the South (GA) from the West (NV). I have interned for a couple politicians and done some campaign work and it is incredulous to see how radically different the politics between not only whites and blacks of the same street are, but also the difference in concerns between blacks of north Georgia and South Georgia. The implications of Booker T., Malcom X, and Martin Luther, have left different views, expectations, and exploits across the South in terms of political alignment and acuity. Even myself as Black Republican (not an oxymoron) have had to face severe hate and resentment by my own race and culture just because of my political leanings let alone my political actions.
I even recall knocking on the door (unbeknownst my knowledge) on a member of the dying Black Panther coalition, stating my purpose, and feeling an unnerving fear as they protested in utmost for me to leave their neighbourhood and never return unless I was armed and ready to die for my beliefs. I was merely taking a poll and was met with such harsh aggression from my own race just because I wore red rather than blue. The book speaks on black identity and its creation through the anguish of the years of civil rights, and what implications it will have going on in the future. It also pays note to the decisions my grandparents had to make through an unstable time in the U.S. What political leanings they would take, and what beliefs they would, or would not, instil in their children.
Celebrating Courage: Desegregation in Georgia for over 50 years
The 50th Anniversary of the Desegregation of the University of Georgiadesegregation.uga.edu
In 1961, by the efforts of Hamilton Homes and Charlayne Hunter well over tens of thousands of blacks had the opportunity to study at the University of Georgia. Only the future can tell how many more blacks students will be able to part-take in an education at a university that, at one point, was unwilling to even read their applications. This short piece is in commemoration of the political and social strife experienced by Holmes and Hunter, later joined by Mary Frances Early, during the shifting times of the ’60s for the South. They were rejected, forced in by court orders, threatened by white peers the moment they set foot on the campus. Escorted by police back home to Atlanta, withdrawn from the University, just to be ultimately sent back to the University by another set if court orders. It is indescribably difficult to imagine the anxiety, grief, and anguish Hunter and Holmes must have felt usurping their existence into an unfamiliar place, with hostile residents, just to make a better future for themselves, and their race. They would intrinsically be the pioneers that set forth a movement in Georgia that black people were here, black people were staying, and even if it took divine intervention, black people would be attending their previously all white schools. Separate, by all intents and purposes, is inherently unequal.
I chose to add this heroic story to my presentation because both my grandparents, who raised me, attended the University of Georgia in the few years following the court order for the school to integrate. Their attendance at the university, led to my enrolment, but was all a product of Homes and Hunter. I feel nothing but respect and honour to their courage and wish that we, if not the whole school, but even just the black community, could do more than just have a single commemoration of their achievements once every ten or so years. They deserve so much more, but I am glad their memory will still live on in so many young hearts. My grandparents still have many fond memories of their time spent at the university, and even when they came to visit the campus after I first enrolled, they were giddy at seeing their old alma mater. Some buildings were new. Businesses, just born, but the stone and brick left of their generation filled them with revitalizing nostalgia and a rekindled love for the old days.
Outkast: Hey Ya!
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. 2003. LaFace Records LLC
Hey Ya!, by Outkast, is a wonderful hip hop piece and a fun addition to this bibliography. This piece was performed by the group in the later years of their formation. “Andre ‘Ice Cold’ 3000”, sings about a lover and what he fears love to be like, while doing in an up-beat-funk manner. The music video show cases Andre in 8 different personas, each attributed to a different musical instrument/purpose. The crowd can be seen to be infatuated with the group and their electrifying music, even though the song is clearly questioning how genuine “love” truly is. This song would go down, next to The Way You Move, by Big Boi, as a leading single in the early 2000’s.
It was difficult in deciding what piece I would use by the group, as they have so many brilliant works, but I had to include the group no matter what. They hail from East Point, GA, attend Tri-Cities High School, and hold fame throughout not only Georgia, but also the world. They have inspired many new groups to music world, and their music continues to be aired on radio networks, even decades after their release. While the group does not really exist anymore, with both Andre and Big Boi doing more solo and feature work, my grandparents and I will always listen to track produced by either member and have nothing less than pleasant memories back to the times when the group shined above all others in the genre. It is great to see such an incredible group to come from my family’s heritage grounds, but something even more astounding to know that those grounds will have such fame and prestige attributed to it, thanks to the efforts of Outkast.
Film, 1989, TriStar Pictures
The story goes that the author of "Glory," Kevin Jarre, was walking across Boston Common one day when he noticed…www.rogerebert.com
This brilliant film retails the tale of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, volunteer infantry, and the unimaginable suffering they endured. The stage is set in the middle of the U.S.’s darkest moment in history, when it was forced to make a fundamental decision. Free, or not free. The 54th Regiment was composed entirely of black men who volunteered to fight in the war, but this regiment was met with little acknowledgement, and plenty of resentment. Though fighting for the side of the Union in the North, many white soldiers felt that the black men would be inadequate at the task, would fail in their responsibilities, were at risk to defect in fear of being recaptured, and were ultimately still seen as less than a full person. The regiment fell under the leadership of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who had only recently recovered from a wound he suffered amidst a previous battle. Shaw was raised an abolitionist and insisted on gaining the reigns over the regiment, but knew that he, and his men, would have many mountains to climb in the eyes of his colleagues and superiors before they would ever be accepted, or before they would even be sent to the battlefield and given the supplies they desperately needed. Ultimately this band of unlikely heroes would gain the respect of many Union soldiers, after their courageous sacrifice at The Second Battle of Fort Wagner.
This movie and the next movie I will write about, have a very important relation to my family’s history. Starting with my great grandfather on my mother’s side, and my grandfather on my dad’s, the meaning of “family”, has grown to include the many service men, and women, of the United States military. My mother’s grandfather was in the Navy for almost three decades, my mother’s father was in the Air Force for nearly the same. My dad’s father was also in the Air Force, along with my dad, both putting in over 20 years of service. It is still too early in the generations to call the military a family tradition, but fighting for the country, on any front, is truly a nondetachable aspect of my family’s history. We are always looking for ways to better the society around, whether as a superintendent of a school district, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or in the military. It is always a constant goal, before we perish, to make the world a better place than when we came into it. This movie reminds me of my family’s military experiences, and some of the many racial barriers they had to overcome. It also reminds me of my family’s strength to survive all of it, just so people can look back and realize that maybe, just maybe, this whole war on race is far too irrational and unstable with all the achievements to look back at as counter arguments.
Film, 2012, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
A crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program, having faced segregation while kept mostly on the…m.imdb.com
Another great movie show casing the struggle of minorities being accepted by the U.S. military, but doing their utmost to make a legacy and path for those after them to observe and rise above. These were the Tuskegee Airmen, a powerful fighting group known as the Red Tails (for the design of their aircraft) and fierce combatants in the sky during World War II. Their mission was to escort and guard bomber aircraft en route to their various targets. This group was reluctant to be formed, and even more so to be called into the actual fight. Just like in Glory, many feared the ramifications of sending black men into these wars, and the possible money, time, and lives lost should they fail to be adequate to the task. I would say that it was this unverifiable fear that gave the Red Tails the combat abilities they would need to prove that they were more than capable to complete the tasks they were given. No, I would say these men turned out to be overqualified and could have bared even more significance in the war had they been given the opportunity to. Regardless, these men would continue down the path set in place by the 54th Regiment, and guide a new hope into the future for blacks and all minorities in the military, so that they may not face the same hardships their predecessors withstood.
With so many of my recent family members being in the Air Force, two being pilots, I could not help but include this movie in the list. In fact, the romantic struggle during the movie plays some resonance with that faced by my mother’s parents during the mid-years of my grandfather’s service. I have seen this movie with my father at least 12 times and with my grandfathers even more. We love this movie and the message it sends to its viewers. It has almost become as necessary in my family as reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is also pleasing to see just how much events, units, and officers like those in this movie, influence and positive consequences are a result of such historic service and sacrifice. Especially when considering at the time what these men had to go through when the title of their work was thought of nothing more than “suicide mission”.
The Books of the American Negro Spirituals
James Weldon Johnson. Da Capo Press. December 3, 2002.
Johnson does a beautiful job of reconstructing Negro Spirituals in a way that readers can learn their meanings and share in their powerful nature. While their fundamental practice is a relic of the past, it is nothing short of religious practice to still hear many of these songs of old still song in the black Baptist churches, especially those found in the South. The collection he uses is also quite vast in songs and explanations. Of course, also including some of the spirituals that he constructed. For those that have never seen or heard a spiritual being performed, it is truly an incredible moment that deserves at least a short glance. A clear show case of the type of music to be heard is found in Glory during the campfire scene when all the men are gathered round to pray.
I want to pay special heed to that scene as it does truly showcase the nature of a spiritual. While many have their words and rhythms transcribed on paper, it is naturally the voice of the people that make the melody and harmony of the piece, it is the rhythm of their clapping that sets the beat. There is normally a leader, one who calls out the answer-and-response (type of Negro Spiritual) for the congregation to repeat and chant. From here the words of the song can be altered to whatever the leader is feeling in their soul at the time. Perhaps they change the words to be closer to the sermon that day. Perhaps they change the words to accommodate the people left in prayers that morning. Whatever the reason, the song never must be the same as it was performed that last time, and rarely ever is. The songs are living works that adapt and change with the era they are sung in, with the people they are sung by. For example, the song, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, can be heard with a different tune and words in a church singing it today than it did being performed by the church choir in the movie, The Fighting Temptations. No matter the version, the purpose is the same. To revitalize the soul and present worship. My family takes this to heart dearly with my mother’s grandfather, father, brother, and her, all being ordained ministers. Each with a different version of a spiritual that embodies their views and lives.
The autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: A soliloquy on viewing my life from the last decade of its first century
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, International Publishers, 1968
While he is last on my list, he certainly is not last in my family’s life. Mister Du Bois was a man of many attributes and acclaims. Sociologist, Civil-Rights Activist, mentor, or friend, he would go down in history as one of the most fundamental people in the fight for equality. He wrote, The Souls of Black Folk, and assisted in pioneering the creation of the NAACP. In 1897, Du Bois would leave Philadelphia to become a professor of Atlanta University in Georgia. Later, Du Bois would be the director of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and construct the Atlanta Compromise. He would become the editor of, The Crisis, a NAACP magazine, and publish, The Negro.
Books could be and have been written about W. E. B. Du Bois, and even after a hundred volumes there could be more to be said about his contributions to the future of blacks in the United States. It is an understatement to say that he played a key role in shaping the U.S. post civil war, during the countries reconstruction, while being born so soon after the war had finally ended. He had given black people a hope, a guide, into a possible future of equality, and shown them that origin and skin colour were merely obstacles, not limits, to what an American can do with enough dedication and determination to succeeding. Even his long life of 95 years was a testament to how incredible this man was and how he was born to lead a country, cloaked by ashes, into a brighter future. If it were not for his fight, not only would I not be here, but my family would not have had any of the opportunities they were granted because of his endeavours. Schools allowed us, businesses accepted us, the political arena welcomed us, all because this man was willing to fight for people he did not even know by name, but understood in heart