Seeds Of Freedom
In 1962 Huntsville, Alabama, like just about every southern city
and town, Jim Crow ruled. Black citizens couldn't eat in restaurants,
try on clothes in stores, or use the public library. Can you imagine
being barred from the library? Schools for black and white children
were separate and anything but equal. Imagine how it would feel to
have your beloved sons and daughters denied while white peers had
Black people were becoming fed up with the status quo, angry
enough to take risky actions. Students tried to be served at lunch
counters. Families marched around the courthouse carrying signs.
Residents boycotted businesses instead of buying Easter clothes in
what came to be known as Blue Jean Sunday...
Similar actions were going on in many other cities, leading to
escalating tension and violence. In Huntsville, however, the worst
conflict was avoided. The why of this is told quite eloquently in
Hester Bass' Seeds Of Freedom. Her spare, eloquent prose says just
what needs to be conveyed--no more, no less. For example, in a two
page spread about sit ins you read,
"Young black men and women--students--sit at lunch counters in
the stores downtown. They have money and can buy anything in the
store, except lunch. Can't use the restrooms either.
Just the way it is."
Her words are complimented perfectly by E. B. Lewis' paintings.
Take the one that accompanies those words. Several students bear
expressions of determination and fear except for one boy, radiating
calm, with eyes closed and hands clasped in prayer. The white woman
besides them is openly gazing at them with an expression of concern
and sympathy. The white man beside her, fingering his chin, seems to
be thinking "This can't end well." The last customer drinks her coffee
resolutely. Nothing to do with her. The server, resplendent in white
cap and shirt and black bow tie, is embodying the expression, if looks
could kill. In contrast to the loving care bestowed on the actors,
the background is sparse, bland, bespeaking universality.
Seeds Of Freedom is the perfect book to help children understand
the power of peaceful protest.
On a personal note, in Maine after an especially long winter we are
feeling seeds of hope for springs. Most lawns are snow free with
green shoots popping up. My front yard daffodils are a couple of
inches tall...and being baptized by rain. Mr. John Jemmison has just
sent word round to his community garden crew that we'll be getting
down to business pretty soon.
A great big shout out goes out to the Jemmison family (including
garden dog Mika Star), the people who will form our crew this year,
and all others who treasure this vital connection to the earth.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod