4% Of My DNA

4% of my DNA strand by Wendy Harty 2021

He wanted something impossible. He wanted his freedom. The owners of his soul agreed and he raised the money to buy his emancipation only to turn the money over not once but twice and have them laugh in his face. He continued to do the hard thing never admitting defeat and he won. One can read the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, African Slave” Written by Himself, Boston 1845 that recounts his life as a slave and his ambition to become a free man.

I thought about omitting the following narrative because of its violence. And then I turned on the nightly news and thought about the terrible price paid by the slaves. I never thought I’d have to worry about history repeating itself again. I see a political battle brewing with my ideals of democracy becoming bloodied. It is like a dress rehearsal for a play, with vitriol and a thinly disguised power grab. It is my mounting doom, as 30 new laws in 18 American States makes it harder to vote. For the forgotten voices, and the unknown slave who gives me 4% of my DNA from Senegal, I feel compelled to put the words to paper. The time was known as the Antebellum, an era where laws were passed to protect the rights of slave owners while disenfranchising the rights of slaves. Today, time is known as 2021, when leaders of political parties make no secret that their objectives are to over rule the official count and give an alternate slate of electors in the name of the loser with a simple majority vote, no explanations needed. Consider how close they came January 6th. What will history books write about 2024? I hope I am wrong, in thinking another violent Civil War. This was rhetoric written in 1863 by a pro-Confederate, pro-slavery, Southern-sympathetic owner of the New York Daily News, stoking fears and violence that Southern emancipation would flood the North with former slaves who would surely, “take their jobs”. The government forced the paper’s closure for a year, for its lies. Today it is Facebook and Twitter shutting down the most powerful person in the world. I see a lot of parallels.

In 1739 Stones Rebellion happened, organized on the banks of the Stone River, South Carolina. A band of 20 slaves broke into the store, and armed with guns, asked for their liberty. The white colonists killed most of them and sold off to the West Indies the survivors. The laws of 1740 prohibited enslaved people from growing their own food, assembling in groups, earning money or learning to read. During the Revolutionary War many blacks went to war and were freed. In 1776 freed slaves could vote. In 1793 the Fugitive Slave Act was passed to help recapture escapees. The Panic of 1819 colonists sold their slaves into worsening economic conditions, abandoned their farms and went West or to Texas Territory. There was conflict in these areas over the expansion of slavery and succession. With continuing fears of revolt, they didn’t allow the enslaved to organize churches. In 1830 the Cherokee were forced from the south in the Trail of Tears. Planter politicians used their states’ rights and constitution for the defense of slavery.

I can not let her remain unnamed. I will call her by an African name, Fathiya meaning joy, happiness or a new beginning. Fathiya danced to the rhythm of the dazzling sabar drumming. 1000 miles above the equator on miles of beaches along the Atlantic was her home. The region’s greedy kings rivaled for the money and slave raiding and trading were major sources of revenue. Just a mile off the coast of Senegal, Fathiya’s nightmare began, as the island of Goree became the largest slave-trading center in Africa. During the 200 year period, millions of slaves were taken from their homeland. Fathiya was one of them.

North Carolina where Fathiya experienced motherhood, was subjected to the economic and social power of her white owner. The man she loves, the laws say Fathiya is forbidden to marry. The wife of her sexual harasser is jealous. When Moll is born, her first child is ripped from her arms and sold away. When her screams become to much to bear, she is taken to the post and flogged by the overseer. When Fathiya regains consciousness she does not cry in front of him again.

The sun made a strange appearance. The light was grey with no sunbeams. Fathiya could not know that Mount St. Helens had erupted, making the daytime sky dark. Neither did Nat Turner that August 13, 1831. Nat had been secretly meeting with plotters who beat their plow shares into weapons. When the sky took on its odd appearance Nat took it as a sign from God. The enslaved began a rebellion, sweeping through the countryside. They freed the enslaved and continued killing dozens of whites for the next two days.

Dozens stood trial for participating in the rebellion after hundreds of federal troops and thousands of militiamen quell the uprising. More than 20 were sentenced to death by 20 judges – all slaveholders. White mobs with minds on revenge lynched blacks even though they hadn’t participated. Nat Turner was hanged from a tree on November 11, 1831.

Blaming Nat’s intelligence and ability to read as a major cause of the revolt, the Southern States made it unlawful to teach enslaved people and free African Americans how to read and write. A radical American politics helped set the United States on its course toward the Civil War. The abolitionist movement that had begun was stifled and only the North lead in emancipation of slaves. In the 1850’s slaves like Fathiya were valuable property and owners had no intention of agreeing to sacrifice their wealth. They were considered personal property and could be sold at the discretion of their owner and conveyed in personal wills of slave masters to heirs.

By 1860, 85% of politicians in North Carolina owned slaves. 1/3 of the population was slaves, with 19 counties having more slaves than the white population. In 1861, North Carolina joined the Confederacy of the South and seceded from the Union. They legitimized slavery and racism to their benefit. A Civil War was brewing.

Fathiya is a piece of my imagination after reading a book written by Charlie Jane Anders, “Never Say You Can’t Survive – How to Get Through Hard Times by Making Up Stories”. Her struggle against adversity wins as Fathiya, obviously survived, as evidenced by my DNA.

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