Melody Ellison’s story:
The year is 1965. Ten-year-old Melody Ellison is doing a special project for school. For her history project, she is going to talk to her class about the Civil War. With the Civil Rights movement gaining traction, she figures now is the perfect time to educate her class on the history of her people.
Melody goes to her local library and checks out at least a dozen books in the 1860s. Late into the night, she reads them faithfully, wielding a flashlight when the sun goes down. She goes up to the attic of her house and retrieves an old photo of her great-grandparents and their families, who were alive at the time of the Civil War.
She hears stories about the days of the war from her grandparents. Her grandmother, “Big Momma” tells her the story of her mother, who was born a slave. During the war, when Melody’s great-grandmother was her own age, she and her mother escaped slavery on a dangerous journey to freedom. Separated from her father, her brother, and her sister, she never lost hope in reuniting her family, learning important lessons in her new life as a free girl. Melody writes all this down for her school project. When she leaves for school on the big day, Big Momma gives her a special present to wear.
Melody repeats her great-grandmother’s life story to her class, along with the pictures and other facts about the war. Everyone is horrified by her recounting of her family’s history as slaves. The class is also awed by their tales of daring adventure and heartwarming moments with family and friends. As her teacher awards her an A-plus for her work, Melody smiles and touches the shell necklace that Big Momma gave her, that once belonged to her great-grandmother.
Melody Ellison of today:
We imagine that Melody Ellison would have grown up to be a civil rights advocate. Surely she would have followed the current events, leading to the US passing a law earlier this week, declaring Juneteenth the 13th Federal Holiday. Perhaps she would even be educating young people, not only about her own family history but the significance of Juneteenth, commemorating June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Galveston Texas were informed of their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Agreement was signed.