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POSTSCRIPT S Dear Family, By the time you wrote your letters, slave owners had obliterated traditions we brought from Africa, except for one. Through the ages we retained a love for each other that expressed itself by honoring the memory of those who had gone before. For us, ancestor veneration meant not blind worship but a living interaction, a conversation in which we question , challenge, and look for answers to questions that we feel are important to us. This work continues that tradition. In some ways you are as close to me as living relatives—in some ways closer. This book is my veneration of you, an extraordinary group of people. To Willis S. James, I honor you for your courage in escaping from slavery. If you had not, Grammy, Mother, and I would have lacked many opportunities. I honor you for moving to Connecticut and for your courage in living in an all-white neighborhood. Without that experience Bertha would not have learned the benefits of working for and around white people. I question your feeling that Negroes should stay as near white people as possible since the advantage was frequently all on their side. 186 I honor, and deplore, your thrift. You taught your children the value of saving, but you caused them untold pain by abdicating to others your responsibility for supporting them. I honor your sense of pride in your work, for which the governor of Connecticut praised you. I honor the impression you made on the residents of Hartford. You started a tradition that continued through three generations with the recognition of the James name as a respected one in Hartford. I deplore your failure to defend your children from harsh treatment by their stepmother. I question your silence about your early years, for your reticence deprived your descendants of part of our heritage. I honor, and deplore, your treatment of your son Willis. I honor you for coming to his aid when he was in jail. I deplore your refusal of other aid. I honor the persistence that compelled you to learn to read and write as an adult. I deplore your failure to recognize Louise’s great achievement in graduating from pharmacy school by refusing to acknowledge it or to attend the ceremony. I honor your religious faith and your dedication to Hartford’s colored churches. To Anna Houston James, I honor you for passing on a capacity for boundless love to Grammy, who passed it on to Mother, who loved me with all her heart. I honor your sense of racial pride that would not let you pass for white. Ihonoryourcourageintakingcareof yourbrotherafteryourmotherdied. I honor you for the way you tried to protect your children even when you were ill and away from home. I honor you for your great beauty, which you passed on to Bertha and to Ann. I honor the exquisite aesthetic sense that allowed you to surround yourself and your family with elegance. I honor you for raising your stepson Charles as if he were your own. Postscript 187 188 Postscript I honor you for your bravery in the face of debilitating illness and for your steadfast belief that you would recover. I honor you your religious faith. To Uncle Charley Hudson, I honor your bravery in joining the Army. I honor your ingenuity in escaping from your apprenticeship. I deplore your need to change your name. I question your trips across the color line, although I understand that it may have been necessary to make money. I honor you for caring for your sister while she was ill. I honor you for watching out for Helen and Louise after their mother died. I honor your continued support for Willis even after he rejected your overtures. I honor your patriotism. I honor you for the skills that allowed you to find work even in difficult times. To Bertha James Lane, I honor you for passing a mother’s love on to your daughters, especially to Ann. I honor you for your aesthetic sense, which has given me beautiful lace and linens, exquisite china and silver, and a memory of a beautiful woman. I honor you for your many talents: baking, hairdressing, linen-making, business ownership and management. I honor you for your religious faith. I honor you for your lifelong care of your brothers and sisters, especially in the early years after your mother died. I honor you for standing up to your father’s cruelty to Louise. I...


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