Born enslaved in 1861, Callie married William House in 1883 and supported her children after his death by doing washing. Many former slaves had to support themselves in unjust sharecropping arrangements or doing menial work. Seeing how elderly war veterans received pensions, Callie along with Isaiah H. Dickerson theorized the same could be done for the formerly enslaved. Their idea gained so much support they chartered the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association (NEMRB&PA). Some sources cite they had hundreds of thousands of followers.
In My Face Is Black Is True, Mary Berry quotes federal officials as saying House’s movement “is setting the negroes wild.” They moved quickly and in 1899, the organization was charged by the Post Office with using the mails to defraud slaves. Undeterred, NEMRB&PA got legal representation and pressed on. In 1915, they filed a class action lawsuit to provide former slaves with pensions for their unpaid labor. They claimed $68 million in taxes on seized rebel cotton could be used to provide the compensation. Their suit was denied by both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court.
While NEMRB&PA had strong grassroots support, this was not the case with some of the Black Elite. Mary Berry suggests Callie, being a washerwoman, worked against her receiving the respect that was her due. She found no champions among African American leaders and newspapers when the Post Office had her arrested in 1916 for using money for her own purposes. Despite the prosecution’s inability to show proof of how much money she was supposed to have embezzled, she was convicted to a year in prison. No surprise then that when the government wanted to stop Marcus Garvey’s grassroots movement in 1922, mail fraud was the route they took.
Callie was released in 1918 and continued to support herself as a seamstress and washerwoman until her death ten years later. While the government may have stopped her, ex-slaves continued writing Congress demanding they be granted pensions. Chapters of NEMRB&PA existed until the 1930s.
History doesn’t always give us the HEA’s that romance guarantees. So as heart-rending as Callie’s story is, I don’t get discouraged. It’s just proof of what the late congressman, John Lewis, told us: “Those of us who are committed to the cause of justice need to pace ourselves because the struggle does not last for one day, one week, or one year, but it is a struggle for a lifetime, and each generation must do its part.”
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Better to Marry Than to Burn
Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…
A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.
Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.
Excerpt from Better to Marry Than to Burn…
She sidled up to him, cupped his erection and fondled his balls.
“Ready for bed or ready to bed me?”
He moaned, placed his hand atop hers and increased the pressure. Already hard, he hadn’t imagined he could get any harder.
“Is that beautiful brass bed new?”
He gulped. “Ye—yes. Bought it—bought it for the honeymoon.”
“I’m ready to be bedded now,” she whispered. “Or is that something we must negotiate?”
All thoughts of dinner vanished.
“No,” he rasped, leaning forward, as hungry for her lips as he was to be inside her.
“Good.” She stepped back, out of reach. “But, let’s be clear…” She bent over, so her butt protruded toward him. She massaged each buttock so her crack parted invitingly. “Tonight it’s the Greek way or no way.”
He blinked, stunned by this demand to be taken anally. His master had had books filled with drawings, depicting naked Greeks wrestling. Those pen and ink depictions flashed before him now. Arms constrained by arms, legs entwined with legs, butts and groins enmeshed in snug contortions. He’d love to take Queen that way, experience first- hand the erotic intimacy etched in the men’s struggle-laden features.
He took one step toward her then stopped. No. One day, he would…but not tonight. Not their first time. Their first time would be the nose-to-nose, chest-to-breast, cock-to-vagina coupling he’d hungered five years for.