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Not Forgotten Paul Green Incident at the Depot [Editor's note: This occasional section of Southern Cultures will be devoted to the southern speciality of personal reminiscence. Some recollections (probably most) will be nostalgic. Others, like those in this first letter, will be painful. But all will deal with things that, for one reason or another, should not be allowed to pass from our collective memory.] In Abraham's Bosom, by Chapel Hill playwright Paul Green, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1927. In this letter Green tells of an incident associated with that play: [Greenwood Road, Chapel Hill, N.C.] 4 June 1948 Dear Ward Morehouse: I am very glad to hear that you are writing a book on the American drama. It is bound to be good, and I am looking forward to seeing it. You ask about an anecdote connected with my play In Abraham's Bosom. I remember something connected with the genesis of the play, but perhaps you wouldn't call it an anecdote. Rather it might partake of the nature of what the late philosopher Alfred Whitehead called an event. Anyway there were several people involved in the happening —and I am sure that ever since then it was remembered as an event. It was many, many years ago. I was a little boy come to the neighboring town of Angier on a bright spring day to get a load of fertilizer for our farm. 1 wanted to see the train come in. I stood by the little shack of a station waiting along with several others, among them an old Confederate soldier leaning on his walking stick, for the train to put in its appearance. Soon it showed its round black moon of a locomotive end around the bend. It puffed and wheezed along toward us and finally drew in with a rusty squealing of its brakes. It was an old wood-burner, and the climb into town had been tough. The engineer piled out of the cab, grease-marked outside and full of spleen and frustration inside. He began to work on the old locomotive and squirting grease here and there into its aged joints. I looked down the track and spilling out of the Jim Crow car—there were only four in all, a white car, a Negro car, a freight car and a caboose—spilling out was a swarm of little Negro school children all dressed in their pink and white and blue picnic garments and with ribbons in their hair. Also there was a sprinkling of young Negro boys all ironed and pressed and scrubbed clean by their mamas for this great day. At the head of them was a tall yellow Negro man wearing gold-rimmed glasses and with a white expanse 134Southern Cultures of white slick-ironed shirt front and wing collar and big black bolster tie. The little Negro children twittered and chirped in the sunny air, looking about them, happy as only children can be happy. They were on their way to Durham, North Carolina, on what was called in the springy parlance of those days "a 'skursion." The big yellow man was the teacher and he was taking the children on this jaunt as a wind up for his year's school teaching. He came strolling toward us and toward the irate and working engineer. He felt good. He was expansive. The world was sitting to his hand. "Good mawning, gentlemen," he said graciously to us. The old Confederate soldier blinked up at him, continued leaning on his stick, said nothing. I a little boy naturally said nothing. But I was already in my heart admiring this gracious, this genial, this successful and respectable representative of the Negro race. (Even as I looked at him there echoed in my mind one of the Southern commandments on which I was raised, oft repeated by my father even—"A Negro is like a mule. Treat him fair, work him hard, feed him good and you get the right results." Even then that morning—as much as I loved my father—I knew he was wrong. Here was a fine Negro man that showed he was wrong. No...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 133-135
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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