The plan was to write a sappy Thanksgiving post today, along with a syrupy birthday-recap and lots of pictures. In fact, it's already half written. And I'm sure I'll post it in the near future. But it's not really what I wanted to say tonight.
What I really want to say is...
Jack was a slave.
He lived right here, in Columbia, South Carolina.
He worked on the Hampton/Preston plantation.
He had a daughter.
And he was a registered member of the First Baptist Church.
This picture was taken in 1850. More than likely, these were the only photographs ever taken of Jack.
I wish I knew more about this man, but unfortunately, I don't. I don't know who he loved, or who he had to leave behind. I don't know what his thoughts and dreams were. I don't know how old he was, or when he died, or where he was buried. All I know is that we have walked on the very same streets, and that I have visited the plantation where he was forced into back-breaking labor for who knows how many years. We share the same city, Jack and I. We share the same faith in God. And we share the same humanity.
How at some point in the not-so-distant past human beings were treated and traded and worked like cattle is something I will never be able to comprehend. What dark years those were in the history of our nation. How one person could feel superior to another person strictly because of the color of their skin... I simply cannot wrap my mind around it.
So many African Americans today cannot trace their family histories back more than a few hundred years, as records for slaves were either loosely kept or not kept at all. Precious few pictures were taken. Even deaths were rarely recorded. And so countless family histories have been lost forever.
But they are not lost to God. Each of those precious people, who were stripped of their names, their dignity, and their humanity, were known intimately by their Heavenly Father - He who knew the very number of hairs on their heads. No, they were never forgotten by Him.
And so I will choose to remember Jack today. I will look at his kind, worn, and humble face and try to imagine the man he was when he walked the streets of Columbia in the 1800's. I will appreciate him for who he was - a child of God, created in His own image - and I will weep for him and the injustices that he endured.