Henry served multiple purposes in Silent Ties. He allowed me to share a little about a Black family living in “Colored Town” and dependent on the canning factory for their livelihood. His story also highlighted the challenges, difficulties, and dangers in desiring an education.
The challenges he faced began with living in a community that did not have a black high school and the commute necessary to reach a school. We witnessed the difficulties when both parents didn’t believe in the importance of education. His story demonstrated how much families relied on the children working to provide for everyone. Traveling to the closest school took time he could use to bolster the family income. His father couldn’t look to the future for Henry. His concerns were the problems immediately facing the family. However, his mother was focused on the future…Henry’s future. She made tough decisions and great sacrifices to give him that opportunity.
Addie proudly tells us about Henry, “But he’s the smartest boy in the class. He’s goin to college. Gonna be somebody.” And Missy enlightens us to the dangers with one statement, ‘Henry’s arrival in our town had a significant impact. His goals and desires inspired many to want the same. As she (Addie) was talking, I prayed Uncle Roy would never find out. He and his friends would make sure those dreams never came true.’
Through Henry we saw the desire to escape life under Jim Crow, to want more, and to work to be more. He showed us the importance of education, having a dream, and the desire to achieve in an environment that made it not only difficult, but dangerous.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana