Earlier this week I saw a fantastic photograph documenting that West Point’s class of 2019 graduated 34 African-American women, a record number in the academy’s 217 year-old history. Here it is published by Time magazine: http://time.com/5594906/west-point-graduates-black-female-cadets/. The pride on those young women’s faces put me in mind of Black women who served in the military when black people were considered property. So, on the weekend we officially remember and honor the service of those who “gave the last full measure of devotion,” I thought I’d reflect on African-American women and the military.
Black women served as nurses, laundresses, cooks and spies, the most famous of whom was probably Harriet Tubman. One woman, Cathay Williams, enlisted as a man named William Cathey in 1866 and served for three years with the 38th US Infantry. You can read more about the military service of black women in all US wars here: https://www.womensmemorial.org/history-of-black-women. As I write historicals set during Reconstruction, I thought it appropriate to share a bit about Susie Baker King Taylor, the first African-American army nurse.
Born into slavery in 1848, Susie served as a nurse during the Civil War in the same regiment as her first husband, Edward King. Because she could read and write, she taught blacks and former slaves in addition to her nursing duties. She was never paid for her work. She published a memoir of her experiences, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp in 1902. You can learn more about Susie’s contributions and those of African-Americans in Civil War medicine here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bindingwounds.
As an ex-slave and a military veteran, I like to think Susie King Taylor is smiling down from heaven on those 34 African-American female West Point cadets for whom her service paved the way and for whom we will be giving thanks for their service.
One Breath Away
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman is his mate foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
Arousal—fondly remembered and sorely missed—sizzled between Mary Hamilton’s well- rounded thighs. Moisture coated her nether lips and threatened to stoke the sizzle into a blaze. The sensation surprised her, as did the owner of the gaze that lit the flame.
Eban Thurman stood against an opposite wall of the town’s community hall. Although the room was wide as two barns and filled with revelers, neither the distance nor the presence of the crowd lessened the power of his gaze. He studied her with a curiosity that didn’t grope with disdain, but caressed with approval.
This kind of appreciation was never given to women as dark and as large as she. Gratitude heated her face.
Gratitude and embarrassment. Her lavender toilet water couldn’t hide the fragrance of arousal. She shuddered with shame then glanced around. Had anyone else detected the odor? All the merrymakers seemed too caught up in the rhythmic fast fiddling and foot-stomping of Safe Haven’s seventh annual Juneteenth Revel to notice her discomfort.
In 1872 Texas, who took note of a black woman who ain’t been asked to wed? Yet Eban’s perusal said not only did he take note, but he liked what he saw.