Monday, April 8, 2019

Stony the Road

Thursday I listened to this wonderful conversation with Henry Louis Gates on NPR's Fresh Air. He's just published a book, Stony the Road, which explores the time after Reconstruction and how the newly acquired rights of freed slaves were taken away again--in short, it's about the birth of the white supremacist movement that's with us today.

While the whole interview is wonderful, I bring our collective attention to it because at minute 17:06, Gates sings the 4th verse of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." It's the verse that gives the title for the book, and Terry Gross asks Gates if he can quote it. He says, "You want me to sing it?" It was an unexpected blessing.

I was so moved that I hollered for my spouse so that he could listen too. I am tempted to listen to it every morning.

It's a moving song, just on its face. Gates reminded us of how we came to have this song:

"Well, this song was written to inspire young black children at a time when there was nothing on the horizon that was inspirational, nothing that would make black people think that the rights our people had been given by the amended Constitution in the 13th, the 14th, and 15th Amendments would ever come back because starting in 1890, those rights had been chipped away by the Redemption governments in the former Confederacy.

So that - the fact that our people never gave up hope, that we never stopped believing that a better day was coming and that if we worked hard enough and prayed hard enough and believed deeply enough, that one day the glories that we saw in Reconstruction would return. And hope against hope, that's what happened."

What a treasure--both the song itself and the willingness of Gates to sing it for us.

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