One of my monthly writing goals is to share a story with a theme that corresponds with that particular month. Well, today is July 31, and, though I tried to make the goal, you will not find a July Story of the Month posted on my website — but for a good reason!
I began my July story right after Juneteenth, imagining a newly-freed young woman and her reaction to the news. I decided to use the first name of one of my ancestors, who was born in 1845. Our family records list her without a last name.
My tentative title is “Tell Her About Freedom,” a theme in line with the Fourth of July holiday that we celebrate in the United States.
As I wrote the story, I also researched the origins of Juneteenth and came upon one Texas plantation owner’s reading of “General Order Number 3” to his slaves. The dispatch from Union Major General Gordon Granger was issued on the morning of June 19, 1865, in Galveston from the Union Army’s Texas headquarters. The details were fascinating, so I decided to incorporate some of them into my story.
The more I wrote, the more I did not want to rush to finish it. So, I didn’t.
But I will finish it soon, and it will be a better story without the rush. Here is a sneak peek:
My name is Aldine, born somewhere in Virginia in 1845 and taken to Texas when I was a little one. That’s what I’ve been told. Right now, it is July in 1865. That makes me 20 years being a slave. I chose June 19 as my birthday because I don’t know the real one, and this one is the day that I was made free for the first time. I got free for a second time, and I will tell you about that later in my story.
The only ones who got treated well — if you can call it that — were the old ones. They just smiled, got along, and made no trouble, knowing that soon they would be departing for that land called heaven, what we all wanted once we had learned about it. I remember helping to pick up old Ethel in the field one day. That was tough because I was just a girl, and she was heavy. Jacob, one of my brothers, was helping, too. And, oh, she was dead and she was smiling. Only way to do that is if you knew where you were going. It looked to me like she did.
You can call me Aldine Woods. I chose that last name because I like the woods. There, everything is dark. In a beautiful dark kind of way. Usually.
Reading and writing about slavery is tough for me. The humiliation, cruelty, and violence that I learn about often overwhelms me. But, when I think about what my ancestors had to endure — and endure they did — I find the courage to write stories that will give them a voice, respect, and the happiness and opportunities they deserved to have as human beings. Aldine was born a slave, and I can’t wait to finish the story with her experiencing true freedom.