With all the ugliness today coming from Charlottesville, Virginia – I thought I would share an excerpt from my novel, 5th&Hope that at present is being line-edited. I’m still picking out the little literary bugs, but I think the below excerpt will make my point.
As I created the story, I realized growing up in Lexington, Kentucky I have looked up at the John Hunt Morgan monument.
I have also read the words across the pasted photo from a nearby government monument about Slavery in Fayette County.
If you Google, Cheapside and Lexington, Kentucky, I think you’ll begin to understand.
I have not walked the streets in downtown Lexington in many years, but as I wrote the story I realized I was not aware of any grand bronze statue for human beings, for no other reason than the color of their skin, were whipped to death near the Confederate General’s monument.
To me, I don’t think it wise to waste tax dollars to remove a Confederate monument. Leave it there as a reminder of what happened. A reminder what happens if we lose our respect, our compassion for our brethren. If we lose our humanity, we lose ourselves.
Instead, spend the tax dollars to place an equally grand monument next door, a monument for other Americans who were legally brought to this country, and who earned their, and their children’s citizenship with their lives.
From the forthcoming novel, 5th&Hope, by Nathaniel Sewell.
Cheapside was an innocent looking grassy spot in Lexington next to the old domed Romanesque styled courthouse made from native Greystone topped with an aged slate roof. It was surrounded by green Kentucky State government historical signs that I had grown up walking and driving past as if they were as common as grains of sand on a beach.
But if you had been an outsider from the Southern culture or born in Southern California and you had never been exposed to the Old South, and you looked up at a pale greenish bronze of a proud Civil War general atop a horse, like Amy had that cold morning, it might have been the moment you understood the Civil War had been a reality.
Amy read the historical markers aloud and she read them several times more as if she had not been able to fully understand them.
“Lexington was the center of slave trading in Kentucky, by the late 1840’s and served as a market for selling slaves farther south. Thousands of slaves were sold at Cheapside, including children who were separated from their parents.”
“I don’t believe this,” Amy said. She walked back to inspect the first historical marker, she appeared in total disbelief.
“No,” I said. “It was quite real.”
Amy inspected the bronze statue, again, and with her mobile phone took photos and researched the Confederate General’s losing story.
“On the N.E. corner on the Fayette County Courthouse lawn stood the whipping post established in 1847 to punish slaves for such offenses as being on the streets after 7 p.m.”
“I don’t get it, maybe I’m just hormonal,” Amy’s said. He mouth gaped open. “He lost, but got a statue. They whipped people, to death, right here?”
“We don’t talk about it much,” I said. I looked up at the weathered bronze monument. “But when I said you’re in the south, this was what I was thinking about.”
“Why the statue to him?” Amy said. She looked at me. “Where’s the memorial to the slaves?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “A lot of senseless killing…”
It was not a romanticized Civil War reenactment party where no one would die. Robert E. Lee was not a soft grandpa character from a novel and, like Ulysses S. Grant, both were hard, well-trained military men. Each had done their duty. I thought their armies had done all the talking. The issue had been settled. It was about looking at you from outside of yourself to seek the truth about life. The truth about our heritage was not pleasant. For what I had been numb to though, I thought as common place from growing up here had triggered Amy’s emotions. She realized it was not a myth.
“I have a child inside me, it would have been a slave,” Amy said. She covered her face with her hands. “I don’t understand.”
“I was emotional, first was worst,” Ruth said. She looked over at Rebecca. “The first time, my second boy was totally different.”
“I’d like to see them,” Rebecca said. She tried to smile. “It’s been a very long time.”
I acknowledged a passerby as I stood staring at the sign. It had been a nightmare for real sentient human beings, who happened to have dark skin and, who had prayed to the same God that my grandparents prayed to. They must have wondered at night sleeping on dirt floors where their Moses was. I suspected Amy had a sick feeling, like I did. It reminded me the first time I had toured the Anne Frank house. I was neither Dutch nor European, but if I had been standing in Amsterdam in front of that house in 1943 I would have been shot dead on sight by the Nazis. I was not Jewish, but I was a Jewish loving American. They had to protect the fatherland from the Jewish infestation, it was their final solution for biological purity.
If the four of us had been standing at the same street corner in Lexington, Kentucky in 1843 before the Civil War, we would have witnessed the unthinkable. Like a large naked man with dark skin shackled to the ground so he could not run away. Whipped with a leather belt like a dog if he had disobeyed.
I had experienced that feeling from my own father until I was big enough to fight back. But I was not a captive slave who would have been paraded in front of an auction crowd in all kinds of weather, full of families holding their babies, enjoying court day within the Lexington town square beneath the oak and sycamore trees.
This slave being paraded around like a prized bull at a stock yard. His teeth checked to prove his good health. His body examined, gawked at, to determine his worth. And then the auctioneer would have asked for bids for the future estate chattel.
The same process had been repeated thousands as the sign had read at the same quiet spot I had stood near drinking my morning coffee, with an active farmer’s market behind me. Those auctions had also included innocent women, infants, and their terrified children. Whole families were either purchased together or separated at the same spot ten feet from where we had stood on a sandstone sidewalk near a line of oak trees.
“Are you okay?” I said. I put my arm around Amy’s shoulders.
“I feel sick,” Amy said.