Monday, September 29, 2003

Slavery is not an abstraction to me, but visceral, nor is the thought of reparations irrelevant ... .

My slave ancestor, Leontine Breaux Allen, died when I was a 27 years-old mother of two. She was born into slavery in 1846 and died in 1948 at the age of 102. She raised my mother, Lottie (born in the year 1894), along with her own children and many grandchildren, in a little house beside the Mississippi in Welcome, St. James Parish, Louisiana. I knew her.  I got to meet her during a visit to New Orleans when I was about sixteen. Her mother was Celestine "of no last name",  the wife of Eduoard Breaux, Cajun landowner. Among my papers is the marriage certificate retrieved from the Catholic Diocese in Baton Rouge. It is written in French, bearing his signature and her "X." The date of the marriage was 1865, one month after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Leontine was 19 at the time of her parents' marriage. Freedom came for both Leontine and her mother, but not before the day of the proclamation.

My mother lived to be 101. Miscegenation clearly does not foul the gene pool.