• Who Will Tell the African American Story?

    Posted on September 7th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    A Voice for the Voiceless: African American Women of Faith

    Part 1: Octavia Rogers Albert: Who Will Tell Our Story?

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    Note: Taken from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith. For more information on this book, please visit: http://bit.ly/YmaM1

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    Octavia Rogers Albert: Who Will Tell Our Story?

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    She lived a mere thirty-seven years, yet in The House of Bondage Octavia Rogers Albert (1853-1890) chronicles two-hundred-fifty years of African American history. Like no one before her or since, male or female, she provides a voice for voiceless ex-enslaved African Americans.

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    Her writing offers the immediacy of first-person accounts mediated by her sensitive interviews and empathetic conversations. She recognizes the insufficiency of secondary sources.

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    テ「竄ャナ哲one but those who resided in the South during the time of slavery can realize the terrible punishments that were visited upon the slaves. . . . The half was never told concerning this race that was in bondage nearly two hundred and fifty years.テ「竄ャツ

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    Her Lifelong Mission

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    Octaviaテ「竄ャ邃「s lifelong mission was to unpack the personal narratives of those whose テ「竄ャナ塗omeテ「竄ャツ was the テ「竄ャナ塗ouse of bondage.テ「竄ャツ When Colonel Douglass Wilson derides himself for telling his experiences of enslavement and of military service in the Civil War, Octavia insists that he testify.

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    テ「竄ャナ的 believe we should not only treasure these things, but should transmit them to our childrenテ「竄ャ邃「s children. Thatテ「竄ャ邃「s what the Lord commanded Israel to do in reference to their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and I verily believe that the same is his will concerning us and our bondage and deliverance in this country.テ「竄ャツ

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    Her resolve is steely. She writes to give God glory by giving African Americans a voice to answer the question, テ「竄ャナ展ho shall return to tell Egypt the story?テ「竄ャツ

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    The hymn (Sound the Loud Timbrel Oテ「竄ャ邃「er Egyptテ「竄ャ邃「s Dark Sea) that concludes her narrative of former slaves テ「竄ャナ都ummarizes her theme that abolition was the triumph of Godテ「竄ャ邃「s will over evil and that those who have been delivered must return to tell the story.テ「竄ャツ

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    Firsthand Experience

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    Octavia does not write as an aloof observer. Born on December 24, 1853, in Oglethorpe, Georgia, of slave parentage, she faced firsthand the horrors and humiliation of enslavement. While still living in Oglethorpe she joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was led by the legendary Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, whose ministry grounded her in her lifelong Christian faith.

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    After Emancipation, she studied at Atlanta University. Her first teaching job was in Montezuma, Georgia, where, on October 21, 1874, at age twenty-one, she married another teacher at the school, the Rev. A. E. P. Albert, D.D., who later became an ordained minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

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    Soon after their marriage, the Alberts moved to Houma, Louisiana, where Octavia began conducting her interviews with men and women once enslaved. She apparently suffered an untimely death, the circumstances of which are unknown. The preface to her book, authored by her husband and their only child, Laura, implies that she died in 1890.

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    The Rest of the Story

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    For the rest of the story, please return to this blog for part two . . .

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    Note: Readers can enjoy the empowering narratives of over two-dozen African American women (and scores of African American men) narrated in Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/XvsTu

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  • A Tornado of Sorrow

    Posted on August 28th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Voices of Healing: African American Women of Faith

    Part IV: Elizabeth Keckley: A Tornado of Sorrow

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    Note: Taken from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith. For more information on this book, please visit: http://bit.ly/YmaM1

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    Note: For Part I on Elizabeth Keckley, please visit my blog post at: http://bit.ly/FSNIt. For Part II, please visit: bit.ly/ENWjJ. For Part III, please visit: http://bit.ly/gI1H6

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    A Tornado of Sorrow

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    Just a few years after the death of young Willie Lincoln, at 11 oテ「竄ャ邃「clock at night, Elizabeth awoke to the news that Mr. Lincoln had been shot. In the confusion of the night, she finally learned that the President was dead. Her first thought was of Mrs. Lincoln.

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    テ「竄ャナ的 wanted to go to Mrs. Lincoln, as I pictured her wild with grief; but then I did not know where to find her. . .テ「竄ャツ[1]

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    Mrs. Lincoln was overcome. Mrs. Secretary Wells asked Mrs. Lincoln who could comfort her. テ「竄ャナ的s there no one, Mrs. Lincoln, that you desire to have with you in this terrible affliction?テ「竄ャツ

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    Mrs. Lincoln responded, テ「竄ャナ添es, send for Elizabeth Keckley. I want her just as soon as she can be brought here.テ「竄ャツ[1]

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    Itテ「竄ャ邃「s Normal to Hurt

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    Bringing her in, Mrs. Wells excused herself and Elizabeth was left alone with Mrs. Lincoln. テ「竄ャナ鉄he was nearly exhausted with grief, and when she became a little quiet, I asked and received permission to go into the Guestsテ「竄ャ邃「 Room, where the body of the President lay in state.テ「竄ャツ[1]テつ

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    Returning to Mrs. Lincolnテ「竄ャ邃「s room, Elizabeth reports, テ「竄ャナ的 found her in a paroxysm of grief. Robert was bending over his mother with tender affection, and little Tad was crouched at the foot of the bed with a world of agony in his young face. I shall never forget the sceneテ「竄ャ窶掖he wails of a broken heart, the unearthly shrieks, the terrible convulsions, the wild, tempestuous outbursts of grief from the soul.テ「竄ャツ[1]

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    Shared Sorrow Is Endurable Sorrow

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    How did Elizabeth respond? テ「竄ャナ的 bathed Mrs. Lincolnテ「竄ャ邃「s head with cold water, and soothed the terrible tornado as best I could. Tadテ「竄ャ邃「s grief at his fatherテ「竄ャ邃「s death was as great as the grief of his mother, but her terrible outbursts awed the boy into silence.テ「竄ャツ

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    In those days, of all people, a formerly enslaved black woman was the one human being on the face of the earth who could comfort the Presidentテ「竄ャ邃「s widow. And how? With her empathy. With her silence. With her physical presence. With her loving companionship.

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    Mrs. Lincolnテ「竄ャ邃「s Spiritual Friend

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    テ「竄ャナ摘very room in the White House was darkened, and every one spoke in subdued tones, and moved about with muffled tread. The very atmosphere breathed of the great sorrow which weighed heavily upon each heart. Mrs. Lincoln never left her room. . . She denied admittance to almost every one, and I was her only companion, except her children, in the days of her great sorrow.テ「竄ャツ

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    Mrs. Lincolnテ「竄ャ邃「s testimony says it all. テ「竄ャナ鏑izabeth, you are my best and kindest friend, and I love you as my best friend.テ「竄ャツ[1]

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    The Rest of the Story

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    For the rest of the story, please return to this blog for part five . . .

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    Note: Readers can enjoy the empowering narratives of over two-dozen African American women (and scores of African American men) narrated in Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/XvsTu

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  • Voices of Healing

    Posted on August 23rd, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Voices of Healing: African American Women of Faith

    Part I: Elizabeth Keckley: A Voice of Hope

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    Note: Taken from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith. For more information on this stirring book, please visit: http://bit.ly/YmaM1

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    African American Sisters of the Spirit

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    African American sisters of the spirit like Elizabeth Keckley, who ministered to the grieving Mrs. Lincoln, and Octavia Albert, who ministered to the soul-wounds of ex-enslaved African Americans, vividly demonstrate how to move beyond suffering to healing hope. Their courageous, hope-based spiritual care is a small sampler, an appetizer, if you will, of a great breadth of wisdom for soul care and spiritual direction contained in the history of women in the African American Church.

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    While space allows just this sampler, history is filled with powerful and empowering examples of African American feminine sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding.[i] Though some have tried to silence their voices, their speaking of Godテ「竄ャ邃「s truth in love with hope can still be heard by those with ears to hear and hearts to learn.

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    Elizabeth Keckley: A Voice of Hope

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    Picture the scene. Itテ「竄ャ邃「s Civil War America. Women have no right to vote. Across the South, blacks have no rights whatsoever. President Lincoln is assassinated. His widow, Mary Lincoln, is devastated. To whom does she turn?

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    To a black woman. To Elizabeth Keckley.

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    In the story of her life Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, Elizabeth (1818-1907) explains, テ「竄ャナ. . . I have been intimately associated with that lady [Mrs. Lincoln] in the most eventful periods of her life. I have been her confidante . . . I have written with the utmost frankness in regard to herテ「竄ャ窶拮ave exposed her faults as well as given her credit for honest motives.テ「竄ャツ[ii]

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    Given the inauspicious beginnings of Elizabethテ「竄ャ邃「s life story, her spiritual friendship with Mary Lincoln is staggering. テ「竄ャナ溺y life has been an eventful one. I was born a slaveテ「竄ャ窶掫as the child of slave parentsテ「竄ャ窶掖herefore I came upon the earth free in God-like thought, but fettered in action.テ「竄ャツ[iii]

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    How did a black woman of that cultural era become confidante to the slain Presidentテ「竄ャ邃「s wife? Elizabeth expresses her understanding with Christian humility. テ「竄ャナ敵od rules the universe. I was a feeble instrument in His hands. . .テ「竄ャツ[iv]

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    The Rest of the Story

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    For the rest of the story, please return to this blog for part two . . .

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    [i]Readers can enjoy the empowering narratives of over two-dozen African American women (and scores of African American men) narrated in Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/XvsTu

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    [ii]Keckley, Behind the Scenes, xiv, xv.

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    [iii]Ibid., 17.

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    [iv]Ibid., xii.

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    Elizabeth Keckley: A Voice of Hope http://bit.ly/FSNIt

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