This is the 2nd in a new series I’m calling “In Their Own Words.”
Wilmington, North Carolina, ca. 1858. A 12-year-old boy named William runs toward a camp of men, women and children that had fled from slavery. “I had heard it told so often at my father’s fireside that I knew almost directly where they were.”
He goes to the Three Mile Farm on the edge of a large swamp and seeks out an elderly woman. “We were taught to call each old woman mother, and they called us son or daughter.”
He finds the woman, and she leads him to a spot hidden behind a thick canebrake deep within the swamp. “Then with her hand upon my head, she prayed.”
An older man welcomes William into the camp. “Uncle Amos was a prophet among us.”
A pair of foragers soon return with food for the 19 or 20 people in the camp. “There was always an understanding between the slaves that if one ran away they would put something to eat at a certain place and a mowing scythe with which to fight the bloodhounds.”
Every night Amos and William watch over the camp. “He took me as his companion, as I was the only boy.”
At night the old man often lies on his back and reads the future in the moon and stars. “Then the next morning he could tell almost anything you wanted to know.”
I have long wondered if the prophet Amos always told the others everything that he saw in the stars.
Source: W. H. Robinson, From Log Cabin to the Pulpit, or Fifteen Years in Slavery (James H. Tifft: Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1913), 3rd ed. First published ca. 1903.