Rereading “The Hairstons”
Last night I finally picked up my mom’s copy of The Hairston’s and started reading it again for the first time in at least a dozen or more years. This is my second local history narrative and I find it just as riveting as the first. As one who always ignored local history as my form of rebellion against my father, I wonder if that was a good thing. I now come to these stories with an open perspective and fresh eyes.
I have to say I’m a little nervous about blogging about this book, specifically because of the sensitive subject of slavery. Plus my blogging has fallen to the wayside in the last year and chances are high that this will be my only blog post about he book. But I hope not. Like Henry Wiencek, the author, I feel like somehow this book may hold the answers to why we are in our current predicament of an epic environmental battle in Stokes County against coal ash and fracking.
One thing I know to be true: I should not read this book at bedtime. Last night I woke up (again!) at 1:50 am to write down a list of questions I have for the author. I have already emailed with him once asking if there was anything unique about the Saura Town Plantation.
Clearly I had more questions, because when I woke this morning, I was in the midst of a very detailed dream. I was talking with a beautiful women with very light skin and reddish hair. She was dressed in a very fine knit outfit that cut like a V all the way to her waistline. It looked like something a Kardashian would wear. Perhaps Kanye designed it. A man was with her in the background wearing sunglasses. And I was asking her about her ancestors, her white ancestors, pronounced Harstons, and if they would participate in cultural activities on Tuesday mornings. I told her I noticed that the Judge did and a few other characters from the book. I was giving her full description of a pattern of their behavior I had picked up on. That’s when I woke.
Just before, I dreamed I overheard a conversation at a modern house where someone told a story with which my story connected. I didn’t want to interrupt or admit that I had been eavesdropping, but I had to. This dream was not unlike reading “Red Brick Black Mountain White Clay,” by Christopher Benfey. I have a long blog post in draft, which I hope to complete this week.
But I ended that book asking did the Quakers and the Underground Railroad located a few miles from here have anything to do with the Hairston Plantation? And when I opened The Hairston’s, the answer was on the very first page:
So here is to the mystery that has been perplexing me for months. The questions I ask are out of love and respect for the place I was raised and the people I was honored to play, live and work with throughout my youth. And the people I continue to stand with as we fight for environmental justice in my home county. I have no idea where this is headed.
Please find a copy and join me as I read this critical component to our local and national history.