Celebrating Black History: Deep South – Deep North

From a painting by Columbia artist Calvin Legette

In this first of four excerpts from her book, Deep South – Deep North: A Family’s Journey, published in 2018,  Ridgeway native Lottie B. Scott tells both the heartbreaking and triumphant tale of her maturation into adulthood against a racially-charged, impoverished, yet fiercely loving backdrop in Longtown, S.C.

Red Dust

Mama’s parents, Solomon Stone and Ella Goins Stone, had thirteen children, one stillborn named Eli. Mama was the seventh. The older daughters had married by the time Mama became old enough to work in the field. It was Mama, Scillar, and King Solomon who helped Grampa Saul with the farming. Mama said the work was hard and Grandpa was a hard man to please. Mama learned a lot about farming from her brother King Solomon.

Our great-grandparents on both sides were landowners in Fairfield and Kershaw Counties. They planted vegetables, hunted and fished as a way to provide for their families. While most of the farmland was owned by whites, some black families became owners of many acres of land as well. We were lucky in many ways as our parents controlled our going to school because our grandparents owned the land we worked. The children of sharecroppers had to receive permission from the white landowners as to when they could attend school. This was usually after all the cotton had been picked and the harvest completed. We lived on Grandpa Joe’s land, as did Uncle George and his family, who moved there after Grampa Joe moved into a new house on the border of Fairfield and Kershaw Counties.

Our house was within walking distance to the Wateree River. We walked less than a mile through the woods to reach it. Mama sometimes would meet up with Daddy’s Aunt Laura and together they would walk along the narrow unpaved red dirt road passing Antioch Baptist Church. The families were all farmers, but they would fish for hours whenever time permitted.

We lived in houses without electricity and within a stone’s throw of our neighbors. When the sun went down, the lanterns came out. There was a rush to get all work done by sundown. The chickens began their slow march to their coops to be placed out of harm’s way. Stray dogs and foxes were always on the lookout for a meal. The farm animals were taken to the branch to get their last drink of water for the night. The hogs were fed. Children’s playing ceased as parents stood outside yelling, “Come home now!” It was early to bed and early to rise. We would go to bed with the chickens and get up with the roosters. Once they began their cock-a-doodle-doing, there was no sleeping.

Sundays were church-going time. Parents walked miles to churches carrying children in their arms and around their shoulders, with little ones trotting to keep up. Walking or riding wagons were the only means of transportation at that time for our family.

As children, we enjoyed picking blackberries, yellow and red grapes, and black locust on our way to church. The sweet-tasting juice was a joy. We learned early to watch where we put our hands and feet, as the snakes love the fruit as well. There also were plum trees along the road.

White fishermen terrorized us by driving within inches of our bodies, forcing us into the ditches and kicking up red dust.

During the long walk along the dusty roads, white fishermen terrorized us by driving within inches of our bodies, forcing us into the ditches and kicking up red dust. I recall the red dust sticking to my beautiful white starched dress, my black patent leather shoes, and my hair, which had been so carefully combed, lathered with pomade, and curled. Mama did her best to help me wipe the dust off my shoes, but there was no easy solution for removing it from my hair and dress, which were changed to shades of bright, glowing red. It was always a frightening experience while walking to church on a Sunday morning to serve a God of all the people. We prayed the men would miss us, but that rarely happened.

Comments

  1. This is simply marvelous! I’m fortunate to live very near Miss Lottie in Norwich, CT and have helped her at various times with her computer work and files. Her book is amazing, and she poured her heart and soul into the story. There is SO much here – looking forward to more excerpts.

    If you don’t already have a copy of Miss Lottie’s book, “Deep South, Deep North: A Family’s Journey” is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Deep-South-North-Familys-Journey/dp/1480960349;

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