Chapter one

The Overland



I's heard tell of another place, one that's far away, where slavery's against the law and Negroes live like Whites. Over there, I hear, we'd all be free, an there's Black folks friends with White folks, and no one thinks twice bout our color. Over there, I heard, they once had a Black president, an he was the best they ever had.

Course some slaves don't believe it, and the Massas say it ain't true an that anyone who says so's gonna get whipped real good, but me an my family all believe.

We never get worked on Sundays, cause we supposed to go to Church and read the Bible an be good Christians. But instead, all the N*****s in New Orleans gather in Congo Square, around the stature we built of Marie Laveou that the Whites keep tearing down, and we sing and talk about the free land.

We like to tell stories about escaping and about what we're gonna do when we get there, and we wonder how it's all gonna happen. We don't got too many songs about the free land, so a long time ago, our grandmommas and grandpoppas borrowed one from the White folks. It goes like this:

"Somehwere, over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby."

Course, it gets much more fun when you add drums and clapping and dancing. No one really knows where it came from, but they say that it came from the free land, from a White named Judy. We do the song cause it talks about a land over the rainbow where bluebirds fly, and that's where we all wanna get to.

We ain't supposed to talk bout it, so we use a codename so the Massas don't know. We call it after the song, the Overland, cause it's over the rainbow. Best part about it is, when we say it, the Whites think it's heaven we talking about an they just smile at us bein good Christians. All the same, Whites never sing the Somewhere song, cause they think it's a slave song and don't wanna be singin it.

When we have those Sunday meetings, I usually do most of the preaching. That's cause I'm one of the only N*****s who can read, and I know a lot of stories. At first I was real scared of standing up in front of all those good folks, but Momma said I'd do fine an I did. Lotsa people say I'm a real good story teller, and Miss. Chelsea says that when I get to the Overland and become free, I'm gonna be a writer. Well, that suits me dandy, so that's why I'm tryin my hand at it now. I'll probably make a lot of speling mistakes, but I don't care. When I'm free, I'll get a good teacher to teach me proper things, and I wont mess up no more.

By the way, my names Grace. My Poppa says that it suits me fine and I agree. Slaves are supposed to take the last names of their Massas, so my name should be Grace Thilditch, but I decided that name didn't fit at all an if I was ever gonna be free, I'd need a right proper name. I told my Poppa, and he said I should choose one for myself, one that sounded right. I decided to name myself after the real name of the free land.

When I get there, my name will be Grace America.