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Rated: ASR · Letter/Memo · History · #1999973
Fragments from an African slave girl's journal.
One: March, 1787

I was born here in West Africa with my brother and sister Sakeem and Kadasha. We had a peaceful life abundant with smiles and laughter, and we would fill our days with chores and play. Our parents work in the fields most of the time with all of the other adults. My life was wonderful, and we had a kind community full of friendly people. I thought I would live my entire life happily like my ancestors, in peace as it has been for a long time.

Everything changed when the whites came to our country. Our brothers and sisters in the northeast told us they were angels from heaven, which is silly and foolish, for they turned out to be quite the opposite. Our town is located far from the ocean coasts and shores, so we did not hear of them until after a while. But we began to hear rumors of neighboring villages fighting each other in exchange for curious metal weapons. As neighbor turned against neighbor, and friend against friend, more and more people started to distrust others and live in fear. Few people laugh and smile in my village now, and even the adults in the fields are hostile towards each other. The villagers frown and cower so much that the only pleasure in life now is sleep, when I can't see people's glares and stares, away from all of this.

I wish I can leave. I despise all these people. I hate it all. All of it! Father tells me to be careful of what I wish for, but I still wish it.



Two: April 1787

The tribe marches straight into our town and begins to take our people hostage. There is no warning. They are carrying metal sticks and pointing them at

the crowds. A banging noise fills the air, along with screams of pain and moans of misery. I am scared. I am cowering inside my home with Sakeem and Kadasha. Someone is coming!



Three: April 1787

For the past weeks, we have been marching somewhere. Now I know we have been going to the ocean. I am in a dark ship right now. I managed to hide you in my clothes before the tribesman grabbed me. He and his tribe tied all of us and brought us to the river and rowed us away. I remember as much as I tried to lash out, I couldn't get away. My father and mother, Sakeem, and Kadasha had all been captured with me. When we got to land, we marched. And marched. And marched. And marched. And marched for hours, days, weeks, months, years, all of eternity. I lost track of time until one day, a girl in our line collapsed in front of me. I remember feeling a bit better, that the tribesmen would show compassion and allow her some rest. One of them walked over to her and nudged her with his foot. She didn't move or respond in any way. She was dead. So I thought that surely, surely they would be respectful and bury her with a proper ritual. But then they unchained her from the group and dragged her body to the side. And then they barked an order to resume or march. They left her there in the dirt. They left her alone. They gave her no respect. They left her there to rot. I do not have a murderer's heart, but in that moment, I would have killed every single one of those men slowly, and loved every moment of it.

And when we got to the sea, I saw two giant ships on the shore. And before entering, we were all branded with hot metal. Our flesh was burned away for something that is still a mystery. Men with white skin brought us all onto a boat, and shoved us into a place below the floor that was dark and cramped. I can barely move. But my family is here with me. As are you. So now I can only sit and wait.

Four: June 1787

It has been a while since I came onto this ship now. It has been a while since I wrote in you. There is no light. I have not seen any light in a while. There are no cracks in the floor above, but some things block the light. I cannot remember the sound of rivers. I don't remember the feel of grass. I don't remember the taste of happiness, nor the warmth of sunlight.

I only know now, and now has darkness and misery. I am seasick, and hot, and sticky, and tired, tired of it all. Our food is all scraps; all of it is partially or mostly eaten. It reeks of waste and stale air, and I feel as though I cannot breathe. My only solace is my mother, who is next to me. She whispers comforting words to me, hugs me, kisses me, and smiles in the dark. Her smiles are feeble and weak. She sings to me a lullaby she always would sing when I was a child, back at home.

"Lay down, little angel,

Succumb to your sleep,

The darkness is here,

And you're in twelve feet deep.

Close your eyes now,

And take my hand,

I'll pull you out and up,

We'll fly to our homeland.

Wipe away your tears,

For I can now see the shore,

We're going to comfort,

Fear things no more.

And when you awaken,

We'll be in a bright place,

Where peace flows in rivers,

And light bathes all space.

The sun will shine bright,

With warmth for us two,

You'll be happy forever,

And I'll be there with you."

I force myself to smile back, to not sorrow her. Even sleep is not an escape. I dream of the colors black and red and see death and destruction.

Five: July, 1787

I open my eyes after falling asleep. I want to write things in you that my mother says to me today, to remember that not everything has gone wrong. Yet. I will call my mother now.

She's not answering. One moment. She is probably asleep.

Six: July, 1787

They have taken her away. She is dead. I learned that they threw her overboard for the sharks. Mother is gone. I am all alone now. I can't hear father, or my brother and sister anymore.

I won't eat. I will die of my own will. These people will have no control over me.

Seven: August, 1787

They found out somehow. They burned my lips with coal so that when I screamed they could stuff food down my throat. I would have to swallow so as not to choke.

Where is father? Where is Sakeem and Kadasha?

I wish to die than suffer.

I wish it all to be over.

Eight: August, 1787

We were unchained and taken off the boat earlier. My back hurts. I could not stand after months of not using my legs. They did not care. They whipped us all until we could get up. I finally got to see sunlight, but it does not feel the same. It's warmth is a painful reminder of the happy home we had left behind, and the brightness was harsh and blinding.



After being taken out the ship, we were taken to a crowd of whites surrounding a big wooden block. We were made to stand on it. The whites started shouting randomly, until the man who seemed to be the head said something in their language, and a man and woman with a cruel scowl on their faces came forward with a wad of their money. We were being sold! I am still angry. We are not objects or animals! We are humans too, are we not? We can see, smell, taste, hear, and feel all the same! Sakeem was bought by one man and Kadasha by another. My father and I were separated from them. I remember fighting to keep the remainder of my family together, but we were pulled apart nonetheless.



Will I ever see them again?

My father and I, along with a few more people were made to walk behind our new masters' wagon, and we were driven like animals with whips all the way to--well, wherever we are going.

Later

The plantation was vast and green with grass. We were all brought into the field, and I was handed a tool to work with, which was great, but I didn't know how to work with it! An overseer whipped my back, and so I did the first thing that came into my mind, which was to dig the dirt out of the ground. The man didn't do anything else, so I knew I was doing the right thing. Once the entire field was churned up, we were walked to the place that we would stay in. My father and I now live with another girl and her family in a small, one-room wooden cabin with a bundle of old hay on the floor for a bed and no privacy.

The girl's name is Kanishka. We became fast friends. She is pretty, and has a bubbly personality although we have so many hardships we have gone through, and will go through. She wants to teach me a fun hand game now.

I will play.

Nine: September, 1787

Our cabin has a leaky roof and drafty walls. We work in the fields from sunup to sundown, churning the dirt, planting seeds, watering the plants, and picking cotton. It is backbreaking work, and we all collapse onto the hay late at night, but we do not complain. We cannot complain. Some slaves act dumb, pretend to be sick, or rebel. Others work well and obey with hopes of becoming a house servant, where you can earn money and buy your way to freedom.

I choose to work well, and hope to work in our masters' house.

Kanishka and I grow closer every day, hour, minute, and second we spend together. She reminds me of my sister, who had been so cruelly torn out of my life.

I do not even know if she or Sakeem are still alive.

I hope they are. I cannot bear to lose anyone else.

Not yet.

Ten: May, 1788



I was beaten by an overseer today.



I do not know why.



It hurts.



Eleven: March, 1789

Five nights ago, my father led a rebellion.

Five nights ago, my father and all of the slaves that were caught rebelling were hanged.

Five nights ago, I realized it has been a two years since my horrific journey started.

Five nights ago, Kanishka comforted me, sealing our bond tight.

Five nights ago, because of her, I was able to get up, work, and be strong.

Five nights ago, I decided I would protect Kanishka and her family to whatever cost.



Twelve: April, 1789



There is a slave name Awotwi. He has become a friend to Kanishka and I over the past weeks.

He speaks of escape from this nightmare.

He speaks of a group of white's who will help him escape.

He speaks of going to the north.

And he knows how to read. How?



I asked him to teach me. And he will.



I will learn to read!

Thirteen: May, 1790



Today, I am delighted to tell you that my master has hired me to work in his house. My job is to act as a maid and clean his house with other women who have been promoted with me. I am sad to leave Kanishka and Awotwi in the fields, but I will work as hard as I can.



Awotwi has taught me all he can about reading. I can practice by looking at the paper's my master and mistress read in the mornings. I am getting better. I only have a little trouble.

I am starting to learn to write in the language the white's call English.



Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz



See?



As maids, we can earn money for working on the Sabbath day and holidays.



I will buy my way to freedom, and I will also find away to free Kanishka and her family.



Fourteen: September, 1795



Rumors are being spoken between maids of slaves disappearing mysteriously. They say the slaves have help from whites and escape to freedom. The white's help slaves. They help them get to the north, where there is no slavery!



It all seems too good to be true.



Fifteen: April, 1807



Kanishka's little sister died today. They took her little body away, and no one knows where it went.



I was allowed to go to the fields and try to comfort her.



She looked different.



Like there was no hope anymore.



What should I do? What should I say?



I didn't say anything. I sat next to her and hugged her. Awotwi came and put a hand on her shoulder. When she broke down and started to cry, I sang her a lullaby my mother sang to me on a ship so many years ago.

"Lay down, little angel,

Succumb to your sleep,

The darkness is here,

And you're in twelve feet deep.

Close your eyes now,

And take my hand,

I'll pull you out and up,

We'll fly to our homeland.

Wipe away your tears,

For I can now see the shore,

We're going to comfort,

Fear things no more.

And when you awaken,

We'll be in a bright place,

Where peace flows in rivers,

And light bathes all space.

The sun will shine bright,

With warmth for us two,

You'll be happy forever,

And I'll be there with you."

She smiled.



The sun was setting outside, and it set the sky on fire.



Orange, red, and gold.



My favorite color is gold, Kanishka said.



Whenever whites see it, they think of money.



Whenever she sees it, she thinks of harmony.



She thinks of peace at last.



Sixteen: November, 1807



Awotwi escaped last night. He ran off, just like that, in the dark.



Master is furious.



Seventeen: December, 1807



I have come to an important decision.



I will find a way to escape like Awotwi.



And Kanishka will come with me.



Eighteen: December, 1807



I have told Kanishka of my plan. And she revealed something shocking.



She has been planning the same!



Awotwi has been telling her of leaving, she said. And she told him she wished to do the same. So he told her all he knew. The system is called the Underground Railroad, but it is neither underground, nor a railroad. There really are white's that don't like slavery.



Before he left, he told her that once he got the north, he'd make sure she and I could do the same.



On April 18th next year, I will have enough money to buy myself out of freedom. Kanishka and Awotwi know that.



When the sun leaves the sky, a white of the Underground Railroad will be waiting in the forest. He will hoot like an owl three times, and that will be the signal to leave.



There will be a boat waiting at a river two miles from the plantation. We will be rowed across and away to freedom.



I am writing this all down so I don't forget.

This is actually happening!



Nineteen: February, 1808



It is getting harder to hide you, but I am managing so far.



I will bring you with me when we go. You cannot be found here.



If you are, I, Kanishka and her family will be killed on the spot.



Twenty: April, 1808



The day has come to leave. I cannot seem to wait any longer, but I must.



So I will.



Kanishka and her father have managed to survive in the harsh conditions, but her mother has one foot in her grave.



I am going to give my money to my master, and I will finally be free this evening. When I return to my shelter to pack my things and leave, Kanishka will pack her things and also escape with me. Her parents do not know. Hopefully, we escape without being seen, and we won't be killed.



We will go north, and take the Underground Railroad.



My heart sings with joy that it really does exist, and that Awotwi was there to help. Without him, none of this would have happened.



And we would already be dead.

Twenty-one: April, 1808

Escaping proved easier than we expected. The white hooted thrice, and we were off.

His name is Walter.

We walked through the woods in the dark, and got to the wide river. It is almost as large as a lake. There was a white girl waiting with a boat there.

Her name is Margaret.

The moon and stars were beautiful as we rowed through the water.

Twenty-two: June, 1808

I almost dropped and lost you today.

I am glad that I didn't.

Twenty-three: September, 1808

Our journey is almost over. We were almost caught last night. Some slave catchers and their hounds chased us through a forest last night.

One of the dogs ripped my skirt. Kanishka tripped and almost hurt her ankle.

Margaret and Walter luckily helped her. Without them, we would have been caught a while ago.

I still cannot believe that whites as kind as them exist.

Twenty-four: October, 1808

Our journey is over.

After much walking, running, rowing, panting, screaming, smiling, laughing, and crying, it is done.

We are at Canada.

Margaret and Walter have big smiles on their faces.

Kanishka is laughing.

I am smiling now while a write. My cheeks hurt. In a good way.

We are free. Free!

Twenty-five: February, 1810

Kanishka and I have come to an agreement on a hard decision: we have decided to go back to Georgia and bring the rest of Kanishka's parents with us. It will be harder, with two extra people and possibly more night patrols, so we will have to be careful.

Walter and Margaret are coming.

It is possible none of us will come back here.

Kanishka and I have packed, and we are ready to depart.

Goodbye, Canada! I hope I will see you again.

Twenty-six: July, 1810

We are walking at the borders of our former masters' plantation. The moon is high, and we hope that we can quickly grab Kanishka's parents and flee safely back to Canada.

Kanishka is telling me to stop writing and start preparing.

She is scared.

A dark cloud now passes over the full moon. I hope that this is not an omen to our

fate.

Twenty-seven: August, 1810

We have escaped from Georgia. We have been running for weeks now. It was so hard, harder than before. Kanishka's mother was shot and died a week ago.

Margaret has a fever.

Kanishka has shown no grief of her mother's passing.

Her father has.

Twenty-eight: January, 1811

They killed her.

Kanishka.

She's gone.

Just last night she comforted me when I had a nightmare about losing Kadasha. Â Â Â

Now I have lost Kanishka.

I feel half dead, and half alive. It hurts more than any whipping or beating I have ever received.

My heart hurts.

The sun was setting outside when she died. It set the sky on fire.



Orange, red, and gold.



Gold, she said.



She died.

I will kill them.

They killed her.

I will kill them.

Twenty-nine: January, 1811

Margaret is better.

Walter is fine.

Kanishka's father is fine.

I am not.

I killed someone today. A slave catcher.

I grabbed his metal stick and blew a hole right between his eyes.

He dropped like a sack of stones.

My clothes were sprayed with red.

I did not feel remorse then.

I felt good when I did it.

I do not feel good anymore.

I do not want to kill anyone again.

I do not think Kanishka would be happy with me.

Thirty: February, 1811

We have reached Canada once again.

Awotwi is here.

Walter is here.

Margaret is here.

Sakeem is here.

Kadasha is here.

Kanishka's father is here.

I am here.

Kanishka is not here.

My father is not here.

My mother is not here.

Thirty-one: June, 1811

I have joined the Underground Railroad today. So have my brother, sister, Awotwi, and Kanishka's father.

I will make a difference for other slaves, too.



Thirty-two: July, 1811

I have never thought much of it in the past, but I realized that today, in the month of July, is the anniversary of my mother's death.

I think she would be proud of me.

I know she is in a better place now.

I miss her.



Thirty-three: July, 1811

Kanishka's father loves me like his own daughter.

He told me today.

I love Kanishka's father I love him like my own father.

I told him today.



Thirty-four: November, 1811

Today, I set off for my first rescue act as part of the Underground Railroad. We are going to South Carolina. We are to rescue two slaves who have been waiting for us since last month.

I will be going to two whites. Their names are John and George.



Thirty-five: December, 1811

It is strange. Only a month has passed, and we have already had more than ten close calls on the way to our destination.

Something is wrong.



Thirty-six: January, 1812

We have gotten the slaves we were assigned to, but a group of slave catchers were ready, and ambushed us.

We managed to get away with only minor injuries, but something is definitely not right.

Thirty-seven: April, 1812



I have found out why we have nearly been captured too many times!

George is a traitor.

I found out this morning when I saw him making signals into the forest we were camped next to.

A group of slave catchers ambushed us again, but we won the fight.

George tried to escape, but I caught him.

I didn't kill him.

But I did beat him within an inch of his life.

John and the slaves see me with a new respect now.

I will not stand for traitors.

Never.

We do not see any slave catcher's for the rest of the journey.



Thirty-eight: November, 1821

I have led over fifty slaves to freedom now.

I think Kanishka and my mother would be especially proud of me.



Thirty-nine: May, 1834

Kanishka's father is holding my hand. In his deathbed, he is an old man now.

It is peaceful, and quiet.

The sun is shining.

The rain stopped a minute ago.

He is smiling now.

He is saying, "Hello, Kanishka..."

His grip is no more.

"Lay down, little angel,

Succumb to your sleep,

The darkness is here,

And you're in twelve feet deep.

Close your eyes now,

And take my hand,

I'll pull you out and up,

We'll fly to our homeland.

Wipe away your tears,

For I can now see the shore,

We're going to comfort,

Fear things no more.

And when you awaken,

We'll be in a bright place,

Where peace flows in rivers,

And light bathes all space.

The sun will shine bright,

With warmth for us two,

You'll be happy forever,

And I'll be there with you."



It is raining again.

It is raining sunlight.

It is raining gold.



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