What’s in the Book? Highlights from the Text

* * *

“I think flying is in my genes. It’s part of my background. You know, my family has a real honest-to-goodness aviation pioneer. He made flying history. He inspired me. That’s what kept me going. I wanted to fly too.”

Maria perked up. Now there was a bit of information she hadn’t heard before. She scribbled in her pad:

Family background??? Aviation pioneer??? Flying history???

Maria thought, “What is she talking about?”

She had to find out.

* * *

I was half asleep but in the darkness I could make out a dim figure heading for the door. By his shape I saw that it was Ol’ Mose sneaking out into the night.

By the sound of their breathing and snores, I could tell the others were just where they were supposed to be, eight of us, snugly tucked away in our little wood cabin, with just enough room to roll over.

Everyone had a place on the floor. Our beds were nothing but boards covered with straw. At least we didn’t have to feel the cold earth knifing
through our bones. We didn’t mind the hard beds so much. Time to sleep was far more important.

* * *

“Look, boy,” he said. “I done told you. This here is nobody’s business but mine. And I aim to keep it that way.”

Mose reached into the brush and pulled out a box. He lifted the lid and what he pulled out sent shivers through me. Mose was holding a dull silver pistol. The sight of it took my breath away. It was the first time I had ever seen a black man with a gun in his hand.

* * *

I took several cautious steps and stopped at the very edge. I looked down into an abyss of darkness.

Maybe it was better that I couldn’t see. It was a sheer drop of several hundred feet straight down to a ledge of sharp craggy boulders.

I knew the mountain range extended north. That is why Mose picked this place. All we had to do was follow the mountain and keep going north. That was where we would find our freedom.

* * *

We were hanging in the air several feet from the cliff. It was startling, horrifying, exhilarating, miraculous. We had nothing supporting us, nothing to hold us up. There was nothing underneath us. All around us there was nothing but air. Nothing.

I leaned over the side of the flier and looked down. Below and on every side as far as I could see, there was only darkness.

* * *

Auntie Rema reached for small wooden box. When she opened the lid, a thick musty smell spread through the room. In the box was a large piece of paper, yellow with age and folded several times over. She picked it up gently and set it on the table. It was an old newspaper.

Then, she began the delicate process of unfolding the paper, licking her fingers to separate the frayed edges. Even so, the page was disintegrating in her fingers.

“Easy now,” Maria said, concerned that history was turning to dust before their eyes.

When the paper was opened, Auntie Rema smoothed it flat on the table. It was a page from an old Philadelphia Inquirer. The date was July 5, 1928.

* * *

“Interesting. Amazing. Fantastic.”said Dr. Gates.

“Do you think it’s possible? Is it even plausible?”

Dr. Gates nodded confidently. “Of course! So much of African American history is still buried in trunks, attics, basements and closets. They keep finding Mayan cities and tombs of pharaohs. They’ve got to find more manuscripts from black people in the 19th century. I’m confident of it. It’s just the way it has to be.”