Marva Fisher Baldwin
Celebrating Black History...Week 2
Pass it Forward
My paternal grandfather, William Henry "Harry" Fisher, was born a slave in or between 1854 -1856. According to my father and his siblings, Grandpa had patterns of whip scars on his back so deep the children could run their fingers down the crevices in between.
While growing up, I heard the stories my older siblings had heard earlier of how night riders threatened Grandpa because he got that "nigger paper" every week and how with vigilance he sat on the porch at night with his shot gun on his lap; of how he taught his children to learn Bible verses, speeches, and poems; of how he took my father by train to meet Booker T. Washington, and of how he and Daddy would visit a white man and talk politics and world events!
Some years ago, as my daughter was researching family history, she found the deed to land purchased by Grandpa, his brother-in-law Ed Williams, and a friend to build a "colored" school. This man, born in slavery, who gave each of his six children names to reflect the history he cherished, was committed to educating children other than his own.
My father, Frederick Douglas Fisher, taught us, his four children, lessons his "Pa" had taught him. One such legacy lesson emanated from Lena Doolin Mason's poem "If You Educate a Negro, You Unfit Him for a Slave." So impactful was this lesson, three of us became educators. That legacy continues today through my daughter who is a school administrator as is her thirty year old son and through nieces who chose the same path.
This history is definitely not atypical of my family only. Many of us share this or a similar legacy. We recall family stories and traditions passed to us like young Alex who. sat on a porch listening to his elders pass on stories of their ancestors. From those remembrances, an adult Alex (Haley) was motivated to learn more. In doing so, he ignited an international passion for discovering and recording family history through his epic novel Roots. We should keep that passion alive and pass forward the history of our roots.
Sadly, we have often neglected the records our elders were trying to leave behind. A related biblical reference is insightful. Before the Israelites would enter the Promised Land, God issued this stern command to them: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children...” This emphasizes teaching children diligently, persistently, faithfully from the heart. Why? So future generations will know Him, their unique history and the power of their relationship.
Today our unique history is in jeopardy of being censored, diminished, purged or worse eradicated. There are those It is imperative we teach our children their history, heritage and responsibility. Ecclesiastes 1: 4 tells us, “One generation passes away, and another generation comes but the earth abides forever.” So should our historic legacy to future generations.
I declare what we teach our children today they will remember tomorrow; and they just might appreciate that you did…so pass it forward.