Monday, April 15, 2013

13706. Joe Washington

I've encountered a lot of interesting things in cemeteries.

Once, when in Kentucky, I spent three days chasing a Confederate cavalryman named Lafe Arrington. I was fascinated by his stone, partly because I live in a part of the country where it's rare to find a Confederate buried. But he was elusive. I left without really learning anything about him, despite visiting libraries, historical societies and even more cemeteries. In that same cemetery, where the stones were laid out in concentric circles, I found a few stones distanced from the rest, at the edge of the woods, obviously segregated. Slaves.

Joe Washington was a slave, but not here in Hanover (there were plenty in Massachusetts in times before he got here - he just wasn't one of them). His story, though, was one of triumph in breaking free of the bonds, of escape. His stone - I'm guessing the original - just has name and dates. His other, seemingly placed much later, tells a longer story: "Born in North Carolina a slave, died in Massachusetts free. The reward of the faithful is certain."

There's nothing like a story about breaking through, of the release of the human spirit to soar on its own.

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