FRAZIER: Margaret Walker’s writing holds a special place in my heart
Published 4:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2022
As I turned the pages, tears rolled down my face.
This was a new experience for me. I had never actually shed a tear while reading a book. Sure, there had been times when I would smile or wince at a passage, but never had my emotions brought me to tears.
The book was “Jubilee” by Margaret Walker (Alexander).
I don’t recall exactly when I read the book, but it was while I was in high school.
“Jubilee” is a story about a slave family and was based on Walker’s great-grandmother’s life.
In her book, Walker takes you inside a slave ship where she describes the horrors of how Africans, who had been captured by slave traders, were literally loaded on the ships like they were nothing more than cargo.
As a teen, it was hard to fathom the cruelties these people had to endure.
Obviously, the brutalities did not end once the ships made it onto American soil, and while the descriptions of these heinous acts were told throughout her novel, it was the life she brought to her characters that touched something inside of me.
Even through all the suffering, one family never lost hope.
Some may remember the miniseries “Roots,” which was based on the novel of the same name written by Alex Haley in 1966. The television episodes aired the following year.
The storyline was so similar to Walker’s “Jubilee,” released in 1966, she sued Haley for copyright infringements. The suit was, however, dismissed.
But let me just say, when I watched the miniseries, I immediately recalled some of the storylines in Walker’s book, especially the scenes of the Africans piled on the boats.
Regardless of whether Walker won her suit or not, “Jubilee,” for me, will be on my list of all-time favorite books. It was the first that revealed to me the power of writing.
I chose to share this information with readers because Saturday, an event will be held at the Catfish Row Museum titled “Margaret Walker: Food, Fellowship and Forms of Activism.”
Unfortunately, I will be out of town and unable to attend but have no doubt Dr. Robert Luckett, who has served as director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University, will present an inspiring program on Walker.
Because the program revolves around food, Luckett is scheduled to discuss how Walker chronicled many events in her life, even detailing shopping lists, recipes and menus.
However, as written in the story that ran in the Vicksburg Post this week, I found it interesting that Walker’s most notable dish — Gumbo — was nowhere to be found in her diary.
That’s okay by me.
Her recipe for writing is all that mattered.