Abiding Faith — Letter 13

Abiding Faith — Letter 13


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The fall of 1967 Stokeley Carmichael, Bob Moore, and Walter Lively came to campus

encouraging militant action among the students in local and national politics. During t

his period the Vietnam War heated up. A student group names Dissent with its advisor Dr. Durand

stirred up antiwar sentiments and students wearing tearing up and burning their draft cards.


Letters of an Abiding Faith:

Legacy of a Slave’s GrandDaughter to her Son

written by Ella Lewis to her Son (Rudolph Lewis)

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Letter 13


June 17, 1980


Hi Doc,

I received your letter with surprise and much happiness. it found me and the rest of the family doing just fine.

I’d like to take time to thank you so very much; for all the work you did while here. It was needed so very much. I hated to have to pay someone for they cost you a arm and leg.

Doc I enjoyed you more this time than ever before. You seemed so relaxed and concerned. I felt so very proud of you in so many ways.

We haven’t had a storm like the one we had when you were here. It’s still very hot here some days but the nights are rather cool.

Have you gotten to Baltimore yet?*

Bunk got her ass up here again today bugging me to death. “Doc I’m sure you’ve guessed I’m here also who’s bugging who since I’m doing the writing. ha-ha.”**

The twins are walking now.*** I’m not babysitting now. I have four days work next week. I know I’ll be so tired until I can’t see straight. I’ll work Monday & Tuesday night. I’ll work Wed. and Thursday morning. I don’t know how long that will last. I pray just for next week.

I’ll have the paint and other things you’ll need when you come again. I’ll start getting them early.

I talk with Aunt Sallie Sat. morning. They all were doing fine.

Stith Parham died Sunday in New York. I’m sure you remember him, Anthony’s daddy.**** They’re burying him in New York, so I heard.

Everyone sends their love. Susie, Jane and all.***** They spoke of how handsome you looked with your hair trim and beard off. I told them sure diden they know I had a handsome son.

Bunk, Mike and Shelly along with Amos sends their love to you and also how they enjoyed the time they spent with you.******

Don’t wait so long before you rite and let me know how you’ve doing. Give my love to your girl friend.

Love always, Mom

*   *   *   *   *


*During the summer of 1980 I am uncertain where I was living. I changed addresses often. I recalled living briefly with a couple of guys in the department briefly. At one point Sibbie O’ Sullivan, a poet with a daughter, put me up briefly in her basement in Wheaton. She would later write a poem in my honor when I was preparing for my trip to Africa. As the reader has probably concluded, I have many to thank for my education. My only source of income was my fellowship money, about four or five thousand dollars a year.

As I recall, I moved back to Baltimore before I finished the graduate program. While writing my master’s thesis on Martin R. Delany the nineteenth-century black nationalist leader and one-time associate of Frederick Douglass, I lived for awhile with a buddy of mine from Virginia, Fred D. Mason. He, however, was not from southeastern Virginia but from the Eastern Shore. Yet both of us had grown up doing farm work.

I knew Fred from my student days at Morgan State. We both had worked with Bob Moore, who in 1968 was head of the Baltimore chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordination Committee (SNCC) and Walter Lively, who was head of U-JOIN (a local civil rights group). At Morgan State in 1967-1968, we were in a student group, which included John Clark and “Tiger” Davis, that protested the existence of ROTC on campus and the lack of black studies programs. All freshman and sophomore male students were required then to take ROTC and wear uniforms and pretend to be soldiers. I finished the two-year ROTC program in the spring of 1967.

For economic reasons, that spring, I signed up for the final two years of the ROTC program and passed the physical at Fort Holabird. But that summer, at the Edmondson Village of Enoch Pratt Library I met a librarian named Patricia who had attended and graduate from Hampton University. She was the first college educated friend I made since leaving the country. My perspective of the world then tended toward the status quo and I saw the world primarily world through the biblical, working-man lens of my family. I knew little or nothing of the black intellectual perspective.

Through the recommendations of Patricia, I became absorbed in the black intellectual world through discussions with her and the readings of Wright, Baldwin, Ellison, and others. She was not only anti-war and thought me foolish to be joining the military with the war in Vietnam, but she also viewed my world as exceedingly narrow. He social contacts went beyond the black world I knew. That fall I did not register for the junior ROTC program.

The fall of 1967 Stokeley Carmichael, Bob Moore, and Walter Lively came to campus encouraging militant action among the students in local and national politics. During this period the Vietnam War heated up. A student group names Dissent with its advisor Dr. Durand stirred up antiwar sentiments and students wearing tearing up and burning their draft cards. Fred and I were involved in leading a student strike at Morgan. Spring 1968, I dropped out of Morgan to join the “revolution”

Living with Fred in 1980, I argued with his third wife, Yvonne. I came home to their Madison Street house and she had thrown my thesis papers in the backyard. Fred saved them. But I was out on the street.

**Annie was at the house while Mama was writing the letter. ***The twins were Wanda’s children. Aunt Sallie (Sally Jackson Goodwyn) was Mama’s sister who lived in Baltimore.

****Stith Parham had lived in Jarratt, within a mile of Jerusalem, on the Cary Mason Road. His children and I were playmates and went to Creath together. He moved his family to Brooklyn, New York and sold their family land. On a trip to New York, I visited both the Parhams and Briggs in Brooklyn.

*****Jane was Susie’s daughter-in-law. She was married to Susie’s youngest son, Clinton McNeal Carter. Jane’s father Russell Sykes was a well-known tenor singer in Jarratt. I used to listen to him sing gospel on the Emporia station on Sundays. I was fond of one of Jane’s sisters, Margaret, while I was still in high school. With my two days’ pay of twelve dollars from chopping cotton, I took her once to the carnival.

******Annie, called “Bunk,” had three sons and a daughter. Mike and Shelly were children by her second husband, Amos Fleming, a real fun guy who had a thousand street tales, all humorous but none with a moral. Amos was raised in South Baltimore. Annie met him while living with or visiting her Aunt Sally, who lived at 300 South Fremont..

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update 31 December 2011




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