(For Barry Donald Jones)


Four hundred years, since your ancestors arrived at Fort Monroe.

Waves and surf and sand, the strange greenery and climate of the New World,


sights they’d never seen, after weeks at sea on a slave ship, far below deck,

no light, just the stifling heat, chains and stench and what they’d now become,


animals, beasts of burden, corralled and marched one by one onto the morning’s shoreline—

seized from a Portuguese ship, exchanged for much-needed food, “20 odd Negroes,”


carted off from Angola. Deemed indentured servants, they finally bought

their freedom from that hard labor by bowing to the Christian God.


Such was their lot, stranded in that colony, less persecuted than in years

to come; that is when their worth as cheap labor drove the industry


of “chattel slavery,” the trafficking of Africans from Senegal, Gambia,

Guinea, Sierra Leone—the fresh arrivals ploughing up fields, digging


furrow next to furrow, then sowing seeds—for whom? Europe’s neediness?

Cotton, corn, tobacco, rum? Sugar to sweeten the White man’s tongue? Coffee,


spice, and servitude, harnessed by the South as capital—four-hundred years

and not a day they didn’t pay for that ruthless trade, their lives someone’s profit;


no trace of past, history, or freedom—brilliant minds abused for the color of

their skin, for which the colonials attributed savagery, their inability


to surmount Man’s dark Original Sin—inferior, unclean heathens, likenesses

to the Devil;  Blackness from a lower evolution; less capable of civilized behavior—


“Get out of the car!”; “Stand back!”; be shot as some “likely threat.” Placed


in a chokehold, without




—in the airless hold; lain from head to foot and foot to