Gracie Hall-Hampton, the Arkansas Years, 1917-1953. Over the last several Arkansas , Gracie Hall-Hampton had become somewhat callous in her mannerisms. Friends, family, as well as a foe, say dealing with her could be a difficult task. Some say she’d gone from a sweet innocent young girl to a mean quick-tempered old woman. She always had her shotgun near, with a four- inch all-purpose pocket knife in the lone pocket of her trademark full-bodied specialty made homemakers apron. I guess over the years; she felt the need to defend her family, property, or self could come at any moment. She just wanted to be ready.
One can understand how a single mother must be the rock in the family, especially in the rural areas of a segregated South. Given where she and her family lived, one can also why she had to be tough to fend for herself and those she loved. In some ways, she took on the personality of a frontier woman blazing a trail for others to follow.
Raising five children, after her husband died was a tough assignment. She had to be a teacher after school was out, a mother when one of own was physically or emotionally hurt, a strong, kind, or stern disciplinarian whenever a situation calls for it. She had to provide the voice of wisdom and experience to young folks who thought they had the answers to all problems. But most of all, she had to be the protector of her family when it came to dealing with people, especially the local white folk of Banks, Arkansas.
She, maybe a little grudgingly, took on all those and other roles. As time went on, she realized that she could not be hesitant in making decisions. She had to convince some by proving that she was neither weak nor reluctant to do whatever was necessary for her and family to survive. Those who dared to challenge her authority found they’d better properly arm themselves. Whatever their choice of weapon, mental or otherwise, it would be a fight to the death.
To some, she was a sweet old lady who made the best tea cakes and other sweet treats. She was just as enjoyable as she had to be to get her way. A testament to her character all depended on who were providing the information. There was one common fact in all the conversations and inquiries. One did not cross this little five-foot mother of five, or there would be consequences.
For me, little Codis, a young, wide-eyed five-year-old kid, she was just Grandma. I was sent south because my father and mother, who were still living in Milwaukee, were going through a separation period which finally ended in divorce. I stayed with my grandma and her youngest daughter almost a couple of years.
She maintained her gruff personality even after moving to Milwaukee. She told me the story of a visit to the county hospital clinic. She was there for a physical checkup but quickly became annoyed while taking the exam. She told me, “I told that doctor to stop poking me all over and he would not, so I chased him out of the room with my pocket knife.” As I recall, there were no charges; they only told her she was in excellent health and could go back home now. I never did find out if she had the same doctor the following year.
Being brought up in the city, with all of its conveniences of indoor plumbing, electricity, modern medicine, yearly evolving personal and public transportation, along with open communication tools, i.e., Telegram and telephones, we took those things for granted.
Think about those who came before us in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Most were brought into this world by a midwife working under a kerosene lamp, using boiling well water and the determination of the expectant mother to deliver her baby as tools of the midwives trade.
I wrote this book so that my family and others could get to know Gracie Hall-Hampton, who was born in 1904 and died in 1985, eighty-one years later. I wanted my sons, daughter, and their sons or daughters to understand her. They should know how this five-foot woman survived in a segregated South. Limited to an eighth-grade education, living in the dark woods, nestled up to a tree line of timber. A tree line where black bears, wolves, coyotes, and an occasional mountain lion roamed, see how she rose above the circumstances and survived.
I wanted people to understand just who, and where this quiet little woman, until somebody got her stirred up, carved out her life. What motivated her to keep going? Readers get an understanding of what it was like to live in a place where a black person could disappear never to be found again in Jim Crow’s back yard.
After finishing the book, while lying in bed early one morning, I was thinking about what I tried to accomplish as a writer. I suddenly remembered how surreal I felt while proofing the section I wrote about the birth of my grandmother’s first child, who happened to be my future father. Thoughts of did I do it justice? Was I respectful enough to the moment? Was I detailed sufficiently for a reader to feel how it could have been? My answer to those questions and others were I wrote what I emotionally felt like as a member of the Hampton family. I carved out a storyline using a few fictitious characters and events to depict what it must have been like to live in those days. I wove stories told me by my uncles, aunts, cousins, father, and mother into each chapter. You and my family will judge my results as the book’s author.
I hope this book’s read by all people, especially black people and others of color. African-Americans can compare stories they’ve heard from their elders with those in this book. They will reach the same conclusion as did I. We come from a “family tree” of heroes who suffered in countless ways, survived and procreate, eventually paving the way for us to enjoy the freedom of being free from slavery in a country they helped to build. We should never forget that the struggle to remain free of racism is a never-ending job. No other race of people has been mentally or physically challenged throughout their entire world history up through today, for simply being on earth as have black people. The closest that come to this type of degradation and stereotyping is the Hitler Regime on the Jewish people during World War II. Keep in mind; I am not comparing slavery to the attempt at the extermination of the Jewish people by the Nazis.
As Americans, regardless of color, we have the chance and obligation to be the shining light that America is supposed to stand for these days. If we do that, this country will be truly recognized as the ideal society in which to make a life for you and our children.
Grandma Gracie had an abundance of common sense and loved her family. She always took the time to listen to me, as a kid and man, while offering advice where needed. I hope that she is standing at God’s side and are aware of this book’s publication dedicated to her memory. Love you, Grandma.
In a continuing effort to publicize Gracie Hall-Hampton, the Arkansas Years 1917-1953, I will join LitFires Publishing exhibit at this year’s ALA (American Library Association, June 22-27, 2017) Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. Go to http://exhibitors.ala.org/ for the full details. It’s my effort to expose the book to libraries and librarian personnel throughout the world. Thanks and I will see you in Chicago.
You can order this 356 page through my publishers, Author House, Bookstore website at http://www.authorhouse.com , through online stores like Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble (bn.com). You can also call our Book Order Hotline, at 1-888-280-7715. You can order by title, ISBN number listed below or my name as the author.
Published by Author House 11/20/2013
ISBN: 978-1-4918-3113-7 (sc)= Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-4918-3112-0 (hc)= Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-4918-3111-3 (e) = E-Book Format
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013919268
Peace, Blessings, and Keep it real,
Codis Hampton II
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Copyright 2011 Codis Hampton II, all rights reserved. A bi-weekly blog for your enjoyment.