Reverend George Lee
Once upon a time, a girl was born. Let’s call her Mary.
Mary was born in a small house, and there was no electricity.
Emmett Louis Till
Some nights, when she was little, she and her mother blew out the candles and hid under the bed.
John Earl Reese
And some nights, her father hid with them.
Willie Edwards, Jr.
But other nights, her father sat on the porch and whispered, “I dare you, I dare you, I dare you bastards.”
Mack Charles Parker
One night, her father didn’t come back in, and the next day, Mary and her mother moved into town.
Because they dared, those bastards. Oh yes, they dared.
Corporal Roman Ducksworth, Jr.
In town, there was electricity, and the small school, and Auntie Jane.
And in town, her mother’s feet and hands swelled while she scrubbed other people’s clothing, made other people’s dinners, watched other people’s children.
William Lewis Moore
Then one day, Mary’s mother put down the wash and said, “I may have to leave you,” to her daughter.
“I don’t want to, but I know in my soul your Daddy died doing what was right, and I don’t want to have to turn my head when I meet him on the other side.”
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley
After that came nights, two, sometimes three in a row, when Mary’s mother didn’t come home.
Virgil Lamar Ware
And one night when she did come home, but she was bloody and silent.
Mama and Auntie Jane went in the bathroom together for a long time that night.
Johnnie Mae Chappell
Then, Mama only went out to go to work.
Reverend Bruce Klunder
After that, Mary went out herself.
Henry Hezekiah Dee, Charles Eddie Moore
She was too young, but she went anyway, and every time she came home, Mama whispered, “Brave girl, just like your Daddy.”
James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Henry Schwerner
And Mary said, “I’m always going to be like him.”
Lieutenant Colonel Lemuel Penn
When she was old enough, Mary did not take a job doing wash, making dinner, minding children.
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Mary went to college.
Reverend James Reeb
She worked and got a two year degree.
Viola Gregg Liuzzo
She moved to a little apartment where she liked the manager.
And they got married.
But there were no babies; only work.
Jonathan Myrick Daniels
And her manager drank, and one day Mary walked home to her mama bloody and silent.
Samuel Leamon Younge, Jr.
And she told Mama, “Now, I’m just like you.”
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer
But Mama had a friend from the old days, and he helped Mary get a job.
Ben Chester White
And Mary moved to another little apartment and met another man.
And by the time they walked down the aisle, the first baby was already on the way.
Then one March, when Mary’s Mama was decrepit, Mary still holding on, and that first baby was grown and going strong, the whole family went to Selma, to the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Samuel Ephesians Hammond, Jr., Delano Herman Middleton, Henry Ezekial Smith
They watched Peggy Wallace Kennedy and Attorney General Eric Himpton Holder Jr. embrace.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And it didn’t make everything all right and perfect. But it went a long way. A longer way than any of them would have dared to believe.
This one was for the Flash Fiction Month prompt requesting a story with themes of change and forgiveness. The story is fictional, but the names in red are all real people. And George Wallace’s daughter really did embrace the nation’s first African American attorney general in 2009 in Selma in celebration.
The list of names is taken from The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Martyrs’ page.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.