February 2017 . . .
A Bouquet for the Ancestors
A love story for the ages in two chapters
Never one to be outdone by what others deemed impossible, Frederick Bailey wanted a birthday—and a birthday he was going to have. But first, he'd have to find out when it was.
For Blacks enslaved, a birthday was as hard to come by as justice. He presumed his father to be the slave owner from whom he'd escaped; so he couldn't ask him. He’d been separated from his mother, Harriet, when he was only five; so he couldn't ask her. But, he could remember stories she'd told him before being sold away:
She’d said he was born on a Talbot County, Maryland plantation in the ‘teens. He chose the mid-teens, 1817, for his birth year.
She’d always call him her "little valentine." He chose February 14 for his birth date. Alas, he found the birthday he'd always wanted.
And then . . .
In 1926 author and scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson had an idea: to open the gates of history to Blacks and usher us proudly through. To promote his vision, he created Negro History Week (now, Black History Month) and chose the second week of February in honor of two birthdays: Abraham Lincoln’s (2/12/1809) as signer of the Emancipation Proclamation (2/12/1809) and that of Harriet Bailey’s “little Valentine” -- self-emancipated slave, Underground Railroad conductor, publisher, diplomat, and our venerated ancestor, Frederick Douglass.
A love that stands the tests of time
We never know how our children will remember what we tell them or what will come back to them when they need it most. Frederick's mother - a woman with so little to give - swaddled her son in the gift of her enduring love.
For this LOVE-ly reason, how fitting it is that we celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Black History Month. To honor our history and culture is to send a thankful bouquet to the ancestors – and to ourselves.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Black History Month to us all!