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Home, Miss Moses: A Novel in the Time of Harriet Tubman by Margaret Ross Seward Peters and E.M. Anderson

"Patton’s Panthers", by Charles W. Sasser

"This Time" by Margaret Johnson-Hodge

 

 

Remembering “Black Moses”

Riveting New Book Celebrates the Life of Harriet Tubman

 As Americans celebrate Black History Month throughout the month of February, much attention is focused on the African-American fight for freedom and equality.  At the forefront of any discussion of African-American freedom is Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad.  Known as “Black Moses,” “Grandma Moses,” and “Moses of Her People,” Tubman stands tall as one of American history’s greatest and most important figures.

Her contributions to rectifying social injustice in America are significant.  During the Civil War, Tubman served as both a cook and a nurse, and even ended up spying for the North.  She helped lead hundreds of slaves to freedom during the Civil War and even led a military raid at Combahee Ferry in Colleton County, South Carolina.  This event signified the first time in U.S. history that a military operation was planned and led by a woman.  In her later years, she acted as an activist for both African-Americans and women of all races.  She also founded a home for the indigent aged in New York and toured as a speaker.

Although she is considered by historians to be a “giant” in American history, very few in-depth books have been written about Tubman.  Almost a decade in the making, authors Margaret Ross Seward Peters and E.M. Anderson have put together Home, Miss Moses: A Novel in the Time of Harriet Tubman (Higganum Hill Books, 2006).  The courageous novel, written about one of the darkest periods in American history, seeks to raise further awareness about the significant accomplishments of Tubman.

Like 2005’s publishing sensation, The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, Home, Miss Moses is a meticulously researched fictional account of a much-admired historical figure.  Written in the first-person, Home, Miss Moses follows Tubman’s life as a child and culminates in her later years as she toured the country, interacting with famous American social and political figures.

The book is an unblinking view of the intolerable life lived by many slaves.  It also exposes the brutal incompetence of the military leadership of some Union units and acts as an unforgiving examination of the post-Civil War reinstitution and suppression in the South.  At a time of great strife in the United States, Tubman acts as a beacon in the darkness, guiding us ever closer toward freedom and equality.

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 Patton’s Panthers, by Charles W. Sasser

 The African-American 761st Tank Battalion in World War II

 Charles W. Sasser, author of Patton’s Panthers: The African-American 761st Tank Battalion in World War II (Pocket Books Original Trade Paperback) has conducted several intense interviews with the few remaining survivors of the 761st Battalion, bringing readers close to their experience by revealing the thoughts and feelings of these remarkable men. Charles W. Sasser has interviewed these brave men and written an accurate account of their exploits in spearheading George Patton’s European offensive.

            On the battlefields of World War II, the men of the African-American 761st Tank Battalion under General Patton broke through enemy lines with the same courage with which they broke down the racist limitations set upon them by others—proving themselves as tough, reliable, and determined to fight as any tank unit in combat.

            Beginning in 1944, they engaged the enemy for 183 straight days, spearheading many of Patton’s offensives at the Battle of the Bulge and in six European countries. No other unit fought so long and so hard without respite. The 761st defeated more than 6,000 enemy soldiers, captured 30 towns, liberated Jews from concentration camps, and made history as the first Africa American armored unit to enter the war. Patton’s Panthers is the true story of the Black Panthers, who proudly lived up to their motto, “Come Out Fighting” and paved the way for African Americans in the U.S. military—while battling against the skepticism and racism of the very people they fought for.

About the author: Charles W. Sasser is a veteran of the U.S. Navy (journalist) and U.S. Army (Special Forces, the Green Berets), a combat veteran and former combat correspondent wounded in action. He also served fourteen years as a police officer in Miami, Florida, and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was a homicide detective. He is author, coauthor or contributing author of more than 30 books and novels, including “One Shot-One Kill”, “Crosshairs on the Kill Zone”, and “Hill 488”, all available from Pocket Books. Sasser lives on a ranch in Chouteau, Oklahoma with is wife, Donna.

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 Excerpt (Chapter 2) of Patton's Army

 Assumptions about the inferiority of black soldiers as combat troops dominated military thinking and supported a policy of segregating blacks into support and service units to provide cooks, stevedores, truck drivers, orderlies, and other noncombatant personnel. Only five black commissioned officers served in the army in 1940; three of them were chaplains.

            Such thinking had developed through a long history. General John J. Pershing penned a secret communiqué outlining how black troops should be treated in France during World War I:

            “We may be courteous and amicable… but we cannot deal with them on the same plane as white American officers without deeply wounding the latter. We must not eat with them, must not shake hands with them, seek to talk to them, or to meet with them outside the requirements of military service.”

            Colonel James A. Moss, commander of the 367th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division, held a poor opinion of black soldiers.

            “As fighting troops, the Negro must be rated as second class material, this primarily [due] to his inferior intelligence and lack of mental and moral qualities.”

            “In a future war,” said Colonel Perry L. Miles before World War II, “the main use of the Negro should be in labor organizations.”

            Even Colonel George S. Patton, Jr. had little confidence in black soldiers. In a letter to his wife, he wrote: “A colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor.”

            On the other hand, General Leslie J. McNair, chief of U.S. Army ground forces, was a main advocate of allowing blacks to serve in combat. He believed the nation could not afford to neglect such a large potential source of manpower. He, along with the black press, the NAACP, the Congress on Racial Equality, and Eleanor Roosevelt pressured the War Department and the Roosevelt administration to permit black soldiers, “Eleanor’s Niggers,” to serve on an equal footing with whites.

            With war looming on the horizon, Congress passed into law the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. It stated, “In the selection and training of men under this act, there shall be no discrimination against any person on account of race or color.”

            Three months later, however, in October 1940, the White House issued a statement saying that while “the service of Negroes would be formed, including the 5th Tank Group with its three battalions of armor—the 758th, 761st, and the 784th.

            In March 1941, ninety-eight black enlisted men reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training and assignment in the first of these three activated battalions, the 758th. They trained in light tank operations, mechanics, and related phases of mechanized warfare.

            Ranks swelled until a cadre and a core of enlisted men were sifted from the 758th to form the second of three battalions, the 761st. The 761st was activated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, on April 1, 1942, under the command of Major Edward R. Cruise.

            “Probably the most important consideration that confronts the War Department in the employment of the colored officer,” the War Department General Staff submitted in a memorandum to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, “is that of leadership qualifications. Although in certain instances, colored officers have been excellent leaders, enlisted men generally function more effectively under white officers.”

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This Time, by Margaret Johnson-Hodge,

( Sutton Place Publishers)

Excerpt from Chapter Four

"This Time" by Margaret Johnson-Hodge

Dancing.

Dajah knew exactly the last time she had—New Year’s Eve at Frieda’s boyfriend Barry’s house. It was almost February. It had been a minute too long. Besides, she was feeling stagnant. Movement, motion, working up a sweat would do her good.

            She called Frieda, asking if she and her boyfriend Barry were up to some clubbing that weekend. In truth Frieda could have taken it or left it, but a good friend was a good friend. Frieda told her sure.

            The minute Dajah got off the phone, she was in her bathroom mirror, checking out her eyebrows—they needed waxing, and her braids—they were a week short of being redone. If she could get an appointment for early Saturday morning, she could be out of the shop by mid-afternoon. She made a mental note to call her braider.

            Friday night caught Dajah standing in her bathroom, the sink littered with real and fake hair. She had been taking out braids since she got in from work. Four hours later, she was still at it.

            Of course she’d taken some breaks in between, eating some dinner, just plain sitting down on the edge of the toilet seat. But for the most part, she had been in the bathroom, taking out too many micro-braids.

            It was always a little startling to see just how jacked up her hair looked when she took the braids out. Her hair stood out from her head like porcupine quills intertwined with greasy white lint. Flakes of dead skin covered her from forehead to chest and as always, her arms felt like they were going to fall off.

            What price beauty?

            Past midnight, Dajah found herself with just three more to do. She hurried up and got the braids loose, reached over and turned on the shower. When the water got hot, she stepped in, head going under the fast spray, making her sigh.

            It felt good. Real good. Damn good. She could have stayed that way forever, head hanging under the spray, but there was hair to be washed, detangled, dried and greased. It was already close to one in the morning.

            Shampoo in hand, her fingers were working more magic when she thought she heard a noise. No, not a noise, a specific noise. Her doorbell.

            Head full of shampoo, eyes closed against the sting, Dajah reached blindly for a towel and found one. Turning off the water and stepping on the bathmat, she grabbed her robe and hurried out the bathroom, her eyes finding the clock. Twelve forty-five, just as she thought.

            Twelve-forty-five was the witching hour.

            Twelve-forty five was the time Rick used to ring her doorbell after he finished his shift at Rikers Island. A corrections officer, he had worked the four p.m. to midnight shift. Forty-five minutes after his shift ended, he would be at Dajah’s door.

            Like now? She wondered as she opened her upstairs apartment door and made her way down. She was halfway there before she remembered she hadn’t made a decision yet and to see him now, drippy-wet and butt-naked under her robe, was a bad idea.

            She headed back up the stairs and slowly went to the window. Gently, she eased back a blind and looked out into the night street. Nothing but parked cars, none of them the black Navigator he drove.

            She was about to turn away when something caught her eyes, taillights glowing feral in the dark. By the time her brain registered the information, the vehicle was turning the corner, but she was certain she’d seen it—the black SUV.

            The Italians had done it with pizzerias and bakeries. The Jews had done it with delis and diamond shops. The Asian population had done it with fruit stands and nail salons. The East Indians, with gas stations, and fast food chains.

            Immigrants coming to this country had found a void in the service industry and filled it, making their way through the American Dream. It was now the women of Africa’s turn, hair braiding stores popping up like street vendors on nearly every corner.

            Dajah entered the shop, every braider’s chair filled, with half a dozen more clients waiting. Like so many others, she wore a hat to cover her wild spiky hair. Catching Abena’s eye, she waved and took a seat on the hard folding chair. Picking up a magazine, she flipped through its tattered pages.

            Outside, the world was going by with a quick pace of a sunny but cold Saturday morning. Sunshine was all any shopper needed and Jamaica Avenue was filled with people willing to spend their hard-earned cash on good sales—perceived or actual.

            Dajah alternated between the magazine and the world outside. She was just about to flip the page when she saw something that stopped her heart—Rick and Gina—together. Together and talking. Together and not looking unhappy at all.

            “Dajah, Dajah, come. Come.”

            It took her a hot second to disconnect from her thoughts. Taking one last look out the window, Rick and Gina disappearing from sight, she made her way to the chair, wishing for X-ray vision.

            “You think she gonna like them?”

            “What’s not to like? They’re Baby Phat, right?”

            “Yeah, they are.”

            “And that’s what she likes, right? Baby Phat?”

            Gina nodded her head, sensing an argument and not wanting one. The last time she and Rick had gone shopping together, had gone anywhere together, had been last Christmas.  Being out in the daylight with him felt good.

            “Yeah, she’ll like them.” They bypassed McDonald’s, Gina cramming her neck to look inside.

            “Tarika still works there?” Rick asked.

            “Yeah, she still hanging in there. She got a promotion and everything.”

            “Umm.”

            “I know you want to get home and stuff, but could we go down to Margharita’s? I’m dying for a slice of pizza.”

            It was early and Rick had more than enough time to take the long block down, but he found himself sighing and glancing at his watch anyway.

            “We don’t have to stand there and eat. I can eat it on the way back to the car. Just that I’ve been fending for some for a while.”

            Rick thought about the stop he had to make to Hack’s, the men’s clothing store he favored and how crowded the barber on Guy R. Brewer was going to be later. He wanted to get his SUV detailed too. But even with all that to do, he couldn’t make time an issue. Could not use it to tell her no.

            Gina could but it wasn’t about pizza. It was about sharing a meal with Rick. She shook her head. “Nah, never mind.”

            He looked at her cautiously. “I thought you were fending for a pizza.”

            “Nah, I’m cool.”

 

            That night Dajah stepped into the dance club, Frieda and her boyfriend Barry by her side. She was determined to get her party on. She was going to let it all go, including any chance with Rick. She had seen the truth this morning and truth was all her life would ever be about again. Gina wasn’t gone at all.

            Dajah wore her suede buckskin skirt with the tassels at the hemline and a black knit midriff that showed her belly button. Rounding out her outfit was her suede buck high-heeled boots. She was ready for some serious dancing.

            She had barely entered the club when the music claimed her. Her head started moving, her fingers started snapping and she walked along, shaking to the beat. Someone tapped her shoulder. Asked her for a dance. She told Frieda and Barry she would catch them later. Went on the dance floor.

            Dajah was out there for five records before she gave into the sweat on her face, the fast beats of her heart. She thanked her dance partner and went to find Barry and Frieda. Taking a seat, she flagged a barmaid. Ordered a drink.

            “God that felt good.”

            “I bet it did,” Frieda told her.

            Another man approached the table. He extended his hand to Dajah but she declined. Winded, she just wanted to sit a few records out. Chill.

            Two more men came by before her drink arrived. To each of them she politely said no. Frieda leaned over. Sniffed at her neck.  “What do you have on? You’re just pulling them in.”

            Dajah laughed. It felt good to be noticed. “Maybe it’s because for the first time in a while I’m free. No lies, no drama. No trifling men.” The last part empowered her. The last part, a new pact she’d made with her soul.

            Barry reached into his pocket and pulled out his sunglasses. “You’re glowing so bright you blinding me.”

            Dajah laughed again. “Don’t hate.”

            “Oh, I’m not hating.”

            She flipped her hand. "Forget you.” She was turning away from Barry when another hand appeared. ‘No thank you’, was already on her tongue when she looked up.

            “One dance, that’s all I’m asking for.”

            Dajah blinked. She looked at Frieda quickly. Looked back up at Rick. “No.”

            “One dance Dajah?” Just one?”

            “Which part of ‘no’ don’t you understand,” she said hotly.

            Barry stood up, extended his hand. “Hey Rick.”

            Rick leaned over and hugged him. “Hey, Barry. Good to see you.” His eyes found Frieda’s, unsure of her reaction, relieved to see a smile on her face. “Hey, Frieda.”

            “Hey Rick.”

            Rick looked at Dajah, but her eyes were elsewhere. He looked at the empty seat. “This taken?”

            “Yes.” Dajah insisted.

            He didn’t sit down. “Well, it was good seeing you all.”

            “Same here,” Frieda and Barry said quickly.

            Rick took one look at Dajah, then slowly headed off. Reality had taken hold and now he knew. Dajah had made her decision and it wasn’t the one he hoped for. Her reaction confirmed it. Obviously she just hadn’t gotten around to telling him yet.

            Frieda looked peeved. “Damn that was cold.”

            Dajah’s eyes flashed back at her. “Was it?”

            “Yeah, Dajah it was. All the man did was ask you to dance floor.”

            “It’s a whole lot more than that, Frieda.”

            “Yeah? What is it then?”

            Dajah shook her head, refusing to speak it. There was no way in the world she was going to admit to her friend that once again, she’d been had.

            Her drink arrived. She picked it up and took a long sip, feeling Rick’s eyes on her. Despite herself, she began looking back.

           

            Was she looking for him or just looking? Rick wasn’t sure as he stood behind a row of bodies three deep at the edge of the dance floor. The way her head as moving around, the way she seemed to be studying faces, it looked as if she were looking for him. A good sign?

            Rick couldn’t trust his instincts.

            “Must be interesting.”

            Rick looked over, saw a pretty woman standing next to him with eyes like sunshine and lips like two slicks of caramel. “Excuse me?”

            She smiled, showing a gap between her teeth. “I said, must be interesting.”

            “What?”

            She cocked her head. “Whatever you were thinking about?”

            He couldn’t help but smile. “I guess you can that.”

            A hand extended his way. “I’m Faith.”

            He extended his own. “Rick.”

            She took a deep breath as if it took all her effort to speak her next words. “So, Rick, did you come to think or did you come to dance?”

            “I came to dance.”

            She took his hand. The contact warm against his palm. “Well, come on, let’s go.”

            A while since he had shaken a leg, Rick found himself winded after three records. He begged off the dance floor.

            “Let me buy you a drink,” Faith offered.

            He took in the sunshine eyes, the creamy lips. Nodded. “Sure.”

            They made it to the bar but there were no seats. They stood off to the side nursing their drinks, making small talk. “Never seen you here before,” Faith confessed.

            “I guess because it’s been a while.”

            “How come?” Rick looked away. “Oh, is it a secret?” She smiled. “I like secrets.”

            “Do you?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Why’s that?”

            “Because it keeps everybody guessing what the real deal is, that’s why.”

            “Really?”

            “Absolutely.”

            “So what’s your secret?”

            She shook her head, eyes never leaving his. “Can’t tell.”

            “Why’s that?”

            “Some things you just need to keep to yourself.”

            Mysterious. Rick didn’t know why he liked that, but he did. He relaxed a bit. “So what’s so bad about your secrets?”

            “Now didn’t I just tell you I’m not telling?” Her eyes glittered, witchy and beckoning. Rick felt his dick get hard. Her hand brushed over it. The surprise tough, electrifying.

            She saw his eyes widen. Cocked her head again. “You want to go somewhere?”

            “Do you?” his voice thick.

            “I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t.” She looked off. Looked back at him. “You know where the Capri is?”

            He did. It was a little motel on Sunrise Highway. “Yeah.”

            “Let’s go.”

            Faith looked sumptuous in her clothes. Out of them she looked even better.

            Rick laid on the Queen-size bed, boxers on and nothing else, staring at her.

            “You like?” she asked.

            Yes, he did. Rick had only slept with three women in his whole life and seeing Faith stand there, naked, curvy, luscious and brown made all of them long-ago memories.

            She moved to the bed, eased him back. Straddling him, her thighs cupped to his hips. She began moving her pelvis like a belly dancer, wave after wave of shiny black hair, dewy fusciaxxx lower lips in his line of vision.

            He reached for her but she shifted away from his grasp. Carefully she got to her feet and stood, a tower of womanhood over him. Rick sat up, nose-dived between her thighs, rubbed his face against the thick, damp bush.

            Wet, drippy wet, the inside of thighs glistened in the soft lift. He slipped a finger into her, wishing it could be his tongue. He worked it in and slowly, each withdrawal making a sucking sound.

            Rick went on that way until her eyes pinched for a final time and her legs started to tremble. Reaching over, he got a condom.

            “You don’t need that,” she insisted.

            “Yes, I do.” It was a fire dousing moment, a streak of bright light in the smoky dimness of lust, but Rick was too far to turn back, too deep into it to stop. Underwear off, condom on, he eased her back against the bed and slipped into her hot wetness. Rode away his demons in the magic of her thighs.

            Barry held her coat and Dajah slipped into it. “Ready,” she announced as the three friends headed out into the night. Her shoulder was anticipating contact, her ears, buzzing for the calling of her name. Her arm tingled for a surprised grasp; her hand, the same sequence.

            But as Dajah, Frieda and Barry walked up the block to Barry’s car, as their footfalls took them further and further away from the club, the sensation faded as a new one emerged.

            Dajah silently chided herself for even thinking it. Her face drew tight, angry at herself for eve considering it. It was just her ego, she knew this. Just her ego wanting Rick to appear from nowhere begging for another chance, a chance she would not give.

            Payback was a hard thing to resist and though she had gotten some, Dajah wouldn’t have minded a little more. She would have loved to have Rick begging one more time.

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