It all started back in the days of the “Cotton Kingdom.”
(If there’s anything I hated, it was the Cotton Kingdom!)

My father was a farmer and a country doctor who succumbed to the allure of the Cotton Kingdom, or more precisely his belief that the wealth brought by cotton could turn him into a “Southern gentleman.” The extremely labor-intensive nature of cotton, however, not to mention the greater acreage under cultivation, led to his becoming one of the largest slaveholders in the county, and gradually a family farm with several Negro hands became a model of the Southern plantation system. “Doctor Pelham,” as we called him, initially aspired to being a benevolent master, but I’m fairly certain that his growing obsession with the farm’s profitability cost him his humanity, not an unusual occurrence in the Cotton Kingdom of the 1850s.

What can I say about my two older brothers, Charles and William?  While I found slavery grossly immoral and unfair, they eagerly accepted it as the way of things and relished the day they would become masters. They even idolized Ned, our vile cracker of an overseer, who reeked of alcohol and prided himself on “breaking” slaves.  However much I may have failed to achieve my ideals, I’d like to think I aspired to man’s loftier ambitions, especially in contrast to my brothers. At an early age, for example, I was fascinated by the solar system and especially comets. After all, it was Halley’s Comet that proved Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that for every action there was an equal and opposite reaction.  There’s reason to think that my extraordinary aptitude for cannon fire, downright genius some might say, was based on a unique appreciation of gravity and motion, principles essential to an artillerist.

Blackface

Am I the only one who can’t believe Governor Northam of Virginia still hasn’t resigned?  With the 24-hour news cycle being what it is today (vs.at best once a day back when I was alive!), it’s easy to forget about things that aren’t right there...

A National Emergency?

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

Ralph Northam Should Resign

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

Fear of “the Other”

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

The Confederate Flag

There was recently an article in The Guardian entitled “Pride and Prejudice? The Americans Who Fly the Confederate Flag” that is worthy of attention. As much as I loathe the Cotton Kingdom’s Confederacy, that evil cause for which I was fool...

One famous proponent of slavery once argued that the “peculiar institution” helped protect white women’s virtue.        I just can’t imagine what he meant by that.

Aryanna, that beautiful girl I mentioned earlier, was my first friend when Mammy (yeah, that’s right, I had a mammy) let me play outside in the yard. Mulattoes were considered no different from Negroes back then, but when you’re little you don’t really distinguish between black and white.  I’d climb into the thickets to pick her bouquets of snow flowers, and we spent idyllic summer days sitting under the giant sycamore tree down by the pond on Cane Creek. That was our Eden of sorts, I suppose, even if it was soon to be spoiled by the coming of “King Cotton” and the unset of adulthood. When I was about twelve my mother forbade my friendship with Aryanna. “You’re getting too old to play with Negroes,” she said.  If only she knew what was coming; or maybe that’s what she was doing her best to prevent.

It wasn’t long before Charles and William were abusing Aryanna unmercifully, and worst of all, they tried to force me upon her when I was finally old enough to perform the carnal act.  That’s why Aryanna ran away and was lost to me, because of my brothers, and because she probably thought that, being one of the master’s sons, I was no different from them. I later learned she became a “fancy girl” in New Orleans, just as a lot of the beautiful light-skinned girls did in those days, when the only alternative was to be a house servant.  There was a time when I thought my brothers were a disgrace unique to the Pelham family, but I long-since learned that such behavior was rampant across the Cotton Kingdom and the entire South. In fact, I became convinced that sexual exploitation was at the core of the antebellum plantation system and maybe the whole damn “peculiar institution” as well.

I’d have to say my youthful psyche was damaged further when I learned that my father had purchased Aryanna to serve as a sexual surrogate (a term we didn’t use so much in the mid-nineteenth century) for me and my brothers when we reached adolescence.  My first childhood friend, the girl who became the love of my life, turned out to be nothing but a purchased whore! Being only a child, apparently she represented a wonderful opportunity to buy a “fancy girl” at a bargain price. Lord knows, Charles and William certainly got their money’s worth!

Blackface

Am I the only one who can’t believe Governor Northam of Virginia still hasn’t resigned?  With the 24-hour news cycle being what it is today (vs.at best once a day back when I was alive!), it’s easy to forget about things that aren’t right there...

A National Emergency?

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

Ralph Northam Should Resign

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

Fear of “the Other”

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

The Confederate Flag

There was recently an article in The Guardian entitled “Pride and Prejudice? The Americans Who Fly the Confederate Flag” that is worthy of attention. As much as I loathe the Cotton Kingdom’s Confederacy, that evil cause for which I was fool...

If I were a black dude, I’d sure as hell rather be called a “buck” than a “boy.”

My father was a farmer and a country doctor who succumbed to the allure of the Cotton Kingdom, or more precisely his belief that the wealth brought by cotton could turn him into a “Southern gentleman.” The extremely labor-intensive nature of cotton, however, not to mention the greater acreage under cultivation, led to his becoming one of the largest slaveholders in the county, and gradually a family farm with several Negro hands became a model of the Southern plantation system. “Doctor Pelham,” as we called him, initially aspired to being a benevolent master, but I’m fairly certain that his growing obsession with the farm’s profitability cost him his humanity, not an unusual occurrence in the Cotton Kingdom of the 1850s.

What can I say about my two older brothers, Charles and William?  While I found slavery grossly immoral and unfair, they eagerly accepted it as the way of things and relished the day they would become masters. They even idolized Ned, our vile cracker of an overseer, who reeked of alcohol and prided himself on “breaking” slaves.  However much I may have failed to achieve my ideals, I’d like to think I aspired to man’s loftier ambitions, especially in contrast to my brothers. At an early age, for example, I was fascinated by the solar system and especially comets. After all, it was Halley’s Comet that proved Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that for every action there was an equal and opposite reaction.  There’s reason to think that my extraordinary aptitude for cannon fire, downright genius some might say, was based on a unique appreciation of gravity and motion, principles essential to an artillerist.

Blackface

Am I the only one who can’t believe Governor Northam of Virginia still hasn’t resigned?  With the 24-hour news cycle being what it is today (vs.at best once a day back when I was alive!), it’s easy to forget about things that aren’t right there...

A National Emergency?

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

Ralph Northam Should Resign

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

Fear of “the Other”

The separation of children from their parents going on at the U.S. border is a disgusting national disgrace for which we should all be ashamed. As the son of an antebellum slaveholder, I can testify to the fact that separating children from their parents is a vile...

The Confederate Flag

There was recently an article in The Guardian entitled “Pride and Prejudice? The Americans Who Fly the Confederate Flag” that is worthy of attention. As much as I loathe the Cotton Kingdom’s Confederacy, that evil cause for which I was fool...

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