‘John Brown’s effort was peculiar, an enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt which ends in little else than his own execution.’
– Abraham Lincoln
And lo, let us journey back, back to those days when Adam & Eve first frolicked before the hearthrug of Jehovah. Come dear reader, let us take a gentle gander through the mists of time, back to that place fore mankind ate of that cursed fruit and, having ruptured their bond with the Almighty, were violently sent forth from the Garden of Eden. Come, let us skip merrily along behind a young gallant and his paramour as they journey down to Master William’s Plantation. For there can be no finer pastime, no hobby more congenial to the favour of god, than the hoeing of cotton. Witness whole families (pre-entitlement and pre-welfare,in the days when there were no young men in prison and everyone knew how to pick cotton), bag in hand, joyously plucking snowy white cotton bolls with the gnarled fingers. Harken unto the sound of male and female slaves (godly and happy),exulting in their labour! “*Wade in the water.Wade in the water, children.Wade in the water.God’s gonna trouble the water”. And oh the unbridled joy alighting on their faces! Did ever a Scottish Serf or an English Pauper feel himself half so fortunate! T’is a wondrous thing indeed to be born a slave on a cotton plantation!
“Anansie! Anansie! Oh! What is wrong with you boy?! Git yo self over here!” Mr Stanforth the plantation overseer is enraged and climbing down off his gleaming stallion he marches over to where Anansie sits, a blade of grass in his cupid’s bow mouth, watching the other slaves at work. Now there is an unspoken rule upon the plantation where the child is concerned and it is that he may do as he pleases. It is a rule borne of several mysterious household fires on plantations where he has been resident; four equally mysterious and horrific deaths and a near riot in Charleston, when it was learned that he had been sold to a physician living there.
But alas,Mr Stanforth is new to the plantation and so he has no knowledge of these events and so no inkling of what is about to follow. Gripping hold of little Anansie’s shirt front he jerks him up in the air and then tosses him into a cotton row,”GIT TO WORK! YO LAZY NO ACCOUNT N,-“
“Oh no! W’oh no! He ain’t gonna call Anansie that! Don’t he know better?” whispers Lathen Buckensaw his eyes widening with fear as he surveys this scene which with any other person (any other slave), would play out exactly the way it’s mean’t. With a tremor of fear a quick,”Sorry Mass-uh” and a shuffling off to work. “Ain’t nobody told him better! He new to this place” mutters Adele Remaine, her back has been bent low to the ground this past hour, hiding the tears she’s been shedding for her two children. But now she wipes her tears with the back of her dusty apron and straightens herself up, looks like she gon get retribution after all. “Somebody needs to utter up a prayer” whispers Neeta Ryan her wide eyed fearful gaze watching the foolish overseer making his fatal mistake.
“Oh, they been offering up prayers since that child got born! Can’t nothing cure that child of what he got!” declares Adele dropping her hoe and unwrapping the hunk of stale bread that is her lunch. The singing has stopped and now everybody has dropped their hoes and is watching this dreadful scene play out,”Fetch yo ass over here N-!” a communal intake of breath and all necks tense and stiffen as little Anansie picks himself up off the ground and ambles over to where the sweaty, bellicose overseer stands.
Anansie favours the overseer with his most brilliant smile, indeed it is so brilliant that it makes the people around him shudder, just as it provokes the overseer to unfurl his whip and fling back his arm, which is when Anansie begins to sing, “John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave,while weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save; but tho he lost his life while struggling for the slave,his soul is marching on. He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few, and frightened “Old Virginny” till she trembled thru and thru. They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew,but his soul is marching on!”.
“Oh Lord have mercy he’s singing!” whispers somebody, for Master Stanforth’s face has paled and then greyed, and as he pitches forward clutching at his heart, the whip falls out of his hand landing at Anansie’s feet.”Glory glory hallelujah!Glory glory hallelujah! His soul goes marching on!” Anansie favours the overseer’s prone body with another brilliant smile before skipping off, still singing and kicking up a dust storm as he departs. Everybody else stands rapt, they stare at the devilish child as one would a rattlesnake. For Anansie’s exploits are legend, “W’oh my! Once mass-uh hear of this he gon kill him!” declares Lathen.
“Oh?” replies Adele smiling grimly,”And who is gonna tell him? Cos we AIN’T!”
*The Negro Spiritual ‘Wade In The Water’ written by Harriet Tubman, was reputed to have been used to help slaves make their escape north, out of the clutches of their owners*