Thursday, June 5, 2014

Back to Life--Back to Darkinboddy!

Summer is about to begin, and I will be getting back to my real passions--writing, reading, and preparing conference presentations for the fall. I am currently teaching an African American literature course focused on major writers--such as Frederick Douglass, David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet Frances E.W. Harper, Charles W. Chesnutt, Nella Larsen, and Toni Morrison. It is always a pleasure to teach this class--introducing students to primary texts by authors whom they may have heard of, but whose works they have not had an opportunity to read in depth. 

When the semester ends in three weeks, my focus will turn again to my (recently neglected) blog--click on the title to be directed to The Darkinboddy Chronicles. I have received messages from many of you urging me to continue with my web project, The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures of Melanie Darkinboddy, An American Negro: A Tale of Race, Cookies, and Theft, and that I will do. Melanie's adventures have continued--below is a bit of background--I will have fresh posts up this coming week--stay tuned!

Humble Beginnings

Melanie Darkinboddy was born on July 16, 1857. Her earliest memories, however, begin with the conflagration that engulfed the Colored Orphans Asylum during the New York City Drafts Riots of July, 1863, three days before she turned six years old. In a sort of “cover letter,” dated May 16, 1954, Melanie Darkinboddy sets forth, in a few brief lines, a prefatory note wherein she makes apologies for interstices and other disruptions of the narrative: 

Dear Reader,

Herewith begin my reminiscences of long-ago occurrences in my life. I was but a child when many of the earliest events took place; I trust that an editor will repair my crude narrations in a style that will render them readable and engaging.

     There was a little party on that day, with teacakes and lemonade set out for those of us girls who had birthdays that month. As it happened, I was the only foundling in the place at that time with a July birthday. Oh, I felt so special! I had received a pretty little red, white, and blue cup and ball game from my favorite teacher, Miss Eliza Hinton. 

     We had finished our lessons and were just then eating the little cakes when one of the other school matrons came running into the playroom, her eyes wide with panic. She hurriedly whispered to Miss Hinton, who made us stand immediately and form a line. As we were moved to the rear of the building with great alacrity, I suddenly began hearing awful sounds—hideous screaming, the sounds of shattering glass, breaking wood, and explosive blasts. We were all quite frightened, and some of the little ones began to bawl. The mistresses "shushed" them and brought us all toward a back door that led to the rear grounds of the school.
Playroom, Colored Orphans Asylum in NYC, ca. 1861
     Just then, I remembered that I had left my cup and ball in our playroom. It was the only gift I had gotten, and I was determined to retrieve it before escaping. I managed to slip into a bottom cupboard by the rear door when one of the mistresses turned her back, and hid there. As soon as she had gone through the back door, I crawled out in an attempt to reclaim my toy. 
     Suddenly, I heard a loud splintering noise behind me, followed by a loud bang. The doors had all come crashing down, and I glimpsed angry, red-faced screaming whites spilling into the school wielding rude clubs and knives. I squeezed myself back into the cupboard before they caught sight of me.
     Their wild shrieks filled the air. 'Burn the d___ed monkeys! Kill the abolitionists!' The screams and rough language filled me with terror. I knew that if they were to discover my hiding place, they would tear me to bits! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Would you consider doing a story writing workshop with Plainfield youth in an afterschool program?

- Terica