Saturday, October 25, 2014

New England Reflections 2014 (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LV

 The Wooster monument at Oak Cliff Cemetery Derby, Connecticut.  Many of the graves in this cemetery are arranged in family plots with a central monument that lists the names and dates of those buried there.  Small stones with initials mark the actual burial site of individual family members.  I have written about another family plot in this cemetery here.
Buried along with the Woosters in a place of honor is Harry N. Thomas, their African-American servant.  I'm in the middle of teaching The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Up From Slavery to my seniors.  We've had some hard conversations and will be having a few more.  One goal of those conversations is to help them see that slavery may have ended in 1865, but the effects of slavery continue on in all manner of forms down to the present day.

W.E.B. Du Bois begins his magnum opus The Souls of Black Folk by saying that there is one question he continually senses in the minds of white folk but that they are too sensitive to ask: "how does it feel to be a problem?".  The rest of the book attempts in some way to answer that question.  One way that Du Bois describes it is with the image of a veil that separates every African American from the white world beyond.  Face to face with this tombstone, I bumped into the veil, but from the opposite side.

You may bury me in the East,
You may bury me in the West,
But I'll hear the trumpet sound
In a-tat morning.

Rest well Mr. Thomas,  I'll see you in that morning where there are no more veils.

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