Copyright Ross F. Lockridge, Jr., 1947, 1948 / All rights reserved

Selected Writings From Raintree County

Black had builded this republic.

Ross Lockridge, Jr.,
Raintree County,  1948


From flashback, 1859-60, pp. 438-9

     They were all slaves, human beings whose dark skins made it legal for other men to rule them. They were also all Christians.
     There was nothing South that wasn't impregnated with their presence. Black had builded this republic. Black had bled and labored for White and borne the casual lust of White so that this republic might lift its Doric columns from the Great Swamp. Black had planted and picked the white cotton that made White wealthy. Black had dressed the pampered bodies of White in satin gowns. Black had built the levees that held the dreaded river at bay. Black had bred and trained the swift horses with which White won the stakes at New Orleans. Black had distilled the fine whiskeys and the syrup rums that White sipped on long verandahs. Black had picked and dried and rolled tobacco leaf for White's long smokes. Black had dug the ditches and tied the bales, had reared the houses and built the roads. Black had erected the court houses and the state houses. Black had made White strong and proud and warlike, leaders of men, statesmen who shaped the course of empire South and West. Black had done it all, nameless and unrewarded, and would go on doing it, nameless and unrewarded.
     So the secret of this culture, white and proud, was that it had all been built over the stinking marsh of human slavery. Often when Johnny was driving through New Orleans, in a maze of old streets, he would notice green scum in the gutters bubbling with gas. And when he had gone a little way beyond the City, he would see, heaving up to the very rims of the negrobuilded roads, the swamp from which the City had been rescued. The delicate iron festoons and romantic walls of New Orleans had in a few miles given way to Spanish moss swinging in soft scarves from the trees. Roots of twisted willows bulged from the unreclaimed, unreclaimable muck.
     Yes, it was there always, a dark secret. When he lay in bed at night, it throbbed in the warm dark that settled like a mist, scented, miasmal, on the City. Here, in the American Republic, men openly committed the darkest of all crimes. The bought flesh lay forever beneath whiteblossoming summer.

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