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The Marjorie E. Peale Memorial Prize

Sandra Marshburn
Edisto Island, SC

Descendants: List


Word got out that a famous museum

was coming to dismantle and pack up the last

Edisto Island slave cabin.  It stood but barely

on land where Europeans first settled.

Descendants of slaves on the island

began naming their ancestors who had lived

in the cabin before the Civil War

and as freedmen into the 20th century.

When she lived there as a young girl,

one woman told how Black Angus cows

stuck their heads in the door.  Others talked

about two rooms, a loft, chimney fires.

They arrived the day it came down,

board after board numbered, hand-forged nails

collected, one descendant photographed looking

out a window frame before the wall was taken,

his expression hard to read.

As the day wore on, a woman sang herself

into the spirit of her great-grandmother.

While pieces were loaded onto trucks

people surprised themselves with tears. 

Ground the cabin had covered gave up

evidence of lives there: coin, button,

pottery shard, animal bone.  We hear

about the restoration and wait for the cabin’s

placement in public halls some will visit

and some will not.  Marked by a palmetto

near the bluff above the North Edisto River

we know where it stood.

Descendants: Text
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