Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reflections on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War

On April 12, 1861 the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter. A long, bloody war ensued and in some ways we are still fighting a civil war today although it seems to be more between political parties than parts of our country.

Reflecting upon what the war meant to southerners and northerners at that time, I was reminded of a book that I read this past year. It was called  "The Lost Quilter" by Jennifer Chiaverini. It is the fourteenth book in a series called Elm Creek Quilts and features a group of quilters who run a quilt retreat. They find an old stack of letters relating the story of their stop on the Underground Railroad (as told in "The Runaway Quilt"). Joanna, one of the runaway slaves, was recaptured and returned to Virginia in 1859 and then relocated to Charleston, South Carolina. The Lost Quilter is her story as a slave. I have read about slavery before but nothing has touched me as deeply as this story told by a woman whose every waking moment was controlled by others. When you go to bed and arise, what and when you eat, what work you do and where and how and when, who you can marry, if you can marry, where you live and with whom. Husbands are separated from wives, parents from children, and children from siblings at the whim of a master. A powerful and brutal narrative told in the first person gives us a glimpse of the greatest stain on the history of the United States. I felt as though I was living the life of a slave throughout every page of the book. And lest we not forget, there are still parts of the world where slavery exists today.

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