Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

« Cabins

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“The Measure of a Young Life” “I had ten children by Zeno Doctor and only one is now living. Victoria Doctor… was the only living child when he (Zeno) died and she will be 16 years old the last week in July. She was born on a Saturday at 11 o’clock in the day. She was born on the last Saturday in the month.” – Sarah Doctor, slave (from her deposition in the pension claim for her husband, Zeno Doctor). Approximately three out of ten slave children died before they were a year old. Few others reached the age of five. The combination of disease and inadequate food, clothing, and shelter drove up the death rate among all African-born slaves. According to one historical estimate, one-third of imported slaves died within the first three years after their arrival. Their average life expectancy was only about 36 years of age, though this is skewed by the high infant mortality rate. When I walk through the remaining cabins from the original slave quarters at Laura, I feel a watchfulness around me, as if the trees and the cabins have eyes and ears – or as if the eyes are those of shy black children, hiding and watching the movements of an unfamiliar white man. These cabins remember. This land doesn’t forget.

“The Measure of a Young Life” “I had ten children by Zeno Doctor and only one is now living. Victoria Doctor… was the only living child when he (Zeno) died and she will be 16 years old the last week in July. She was born on a Saturday at 11 o’clock in the day. She was born on the last Saturday in the month.” – Sarah Doctor, slave (from her deposition in the pension claim for her husband, Zeno Doctor). Approximately three out of ten slave children died before they were a year old. Few others reached the age of five. The combination of disease and inadequate food, clothing, and shelter drove up the death rate among all African-born slaves. According to one historical estimate, one-third of imported slaves died within the first three years after their arrival. Their average life expectancy was only about 36 years of age, though this is skewed by the high infant mortality rate. When I walk through the remaining cabins from the original slave quarters at Laura, I feel a watchfulness around me, as if the trees and the cabins have eyes and ears – or as if the eyes are those of shy black children, hiding and watching the movements of an unfamiliar white man. These cabins remember. This land doesn’t forget.

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