In the summer of 1955, fourteen-year-old Clement enters a general store in Money, Mississippi to purchase a soda. Unaware of the consequences of flouting the rules governing black-white relations in the South, this Chicago native defies tradition, by laying a dime on the counter and turns to depart. Miss Cuthbert, the store attendant, demands that he place the money in her hand, but he refuses, declaring, "I ain't no slave!" and exits with a sense of entitlement unknown to black people at the time. His behavior results in his brutal murder. This event sparks a war in Money, forcing the black community to galvanize its strength in pursuit of equality.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
St. Martin's Press
July 01, 2008
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Sacred Place by Daniel Black
Chapter One Come on, clement!” his cousins demanded. “you ain’t got no business in dat store! Granddaddy kill you if he find out you went in there all by yo’self!” Clement smiled at the thought of his own defiance, trying to imagine what eighty-year-old Jeremiah Johnson could possibly do to him, with one bad leg and two failing eyes. Of course a whoopin’ would hurt, he considered, but the pain was always temporal. All he wanted was a soda pop, and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t simply waltz into the General Store and get one. That’s what white folks did when they wanted something; why should he be afraid to do the same? “Clement!” the others screamed more vehemently as he approached the old wooden screen door. Sarah Jane’s tears were more than her mouth could speak. At twelve, she knew never to be found alone with white folk because her grandmother’s threat to whip her good was not to be taken lightly. Stories of Black kids who disappeared after being last seen with whites was enough to keep her at least fifty feet from any of them, so Clement’s audacity frightened her and rendered her mute. Only her tears expressed her fear that he was making a fatal mistake. The boys, Ray Ray and Chop, simply shook their heads, and murmured, “City boys. They think they know everything.” Hoping not to witness a tragedy, the three walked home in the ninety-degree heat and mumbled silent prayers that Granddaddy wouldn’t beat Clement too badly. After all, he was new to the place and didn’t understand the rules of Black Southern life. Chicago had groomed him for fourteen years prior to his arrival in Money, Mississippi, and left him believing that a resident of the Windy City could survive anywhere. Indeed, the day Jeremiah Johnson retrieved him from the Greenwood train station, Clement boasted of insight beyond anything his cousins could imagine. He spoke of prostitutes, pimps, and kids who roamed the streets long after the night-light appeared. The brand-new twenty-dollar bill he excavated from his front pocket elicited praise and envy from sharecropping children who had never seen anything beyond a five. Clement was the teacher who, with feigned exasperation, shared stories about Chicago Negroes who owned houses and never worked for white folks. “Whwhwhwhat d-d-d-dey d-do thththen?” Chop stammered incredulously. Silence was his usual mode, but the notion that Negroes somewhere didn’t submit their labor to whites unleashed an otherwise restrained tongue. At eight, his self-esteem, like rain on a rooftop, was falling in more directions than he could catch. His stuttering kept folks—both his own and others—from planting seeds of intelligence in him, having concluded already that he would make a marvelous field hand one day. His mother had allowed him to wear his one good pair of overalls to meet his citified cousin, who laughed at the only hole she had failed to patch. “They work for theyselves, fool!” Clement proclaimed, although everyone knew these weren’t his folks. “They own they own businesses, and they hire Black folks just like they white.” “Wow,” Chop mumbled. Everybody he knew picked cotton, washed white folks’ clothes, or worked on the railroad in Greenwood. “That ain’t all. Some of ’em even marries white, too. And they live together like it ain’t nothin’!” Clement continued. “You hush up dat kinda talk