Redoshi – The Last African Slave

Photo of Redoshi and her husband William Smith
Redoshi and William Smith circa 1900 | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Zora Neale Hurston located and interviewed Redoshi, known as Sally Smith,  in 1927, while doing research on slave stories for a novel.  Hurston never published Redoshi’s story but wrote to Langston Hughes about her, saying Redoshi would be their secret.  However, Redoshi was found by others writing  slave stories and she appeared in an interview in 1932, an educational film in 1938, and was referenced in a memoir in 1979.  By doing a search of these sources and census information we can piece together a picture of Redoshi’s life.

We know Redoshi was kidnapped by Dahoman warriors when she was 12 during a night raid.  She was transported in 1860 to Mobile Bay, Alabama on board the Clotilda, the last known slave ship from Africa.  Redoshi was married off to another slave and sold as a couple to Washington Smith.  She remained a slave for 5 years when the 13th amendment was passed.  After that she remained with her husband and daughter on the Smith plantation working as tenant farmers.  Eventually she moved with her family to a community known as Bogue Chitto in the Black Belt region of Alabama where they lived in a 1-room shack.  Redoshi died in 1937 at approximately 90 years old.

Screen capture photo of Redoshi from the film The Negro Farmer
Redoshi | Courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture National Archives

Redoshi is important not because she was the last surviving slave from Africa, but because we have her story.  Because Redoshi resisted white assimilation, we can learn about the culture, spirituality, and language of her West African heritage that she passed on to others.  Redoshi provided a deeper understanding of what it was like to be an African during that time in American history.  She also serves as a source of potential new information.

Survivor Tree

photograph of Survivor Tree from the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC
Survivor Tree at World Trade Center Memorial Park in New York City | Courtesy of Tyler Sleeter

Found burnt and damaged in the rubble of the World Trade Centers, Survivor Tree survived the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001 and later survived Hurricane Sandy.  The tree was removed, nursed back to health, and returned to Trade Center complex as part of the memorial.

Standing near the two memory pools, the tree serves as a symbol of life and strength in the wake of all the death and destruction of that day.   It is a reminder of the strength of all those affected by that day.

Castroville’s Original St. Louis Church

Photo of St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX
St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX | Courtesy of Tyler Sleeter

Castroville’s original St. Louis (Catholic) Church is one of only a handful of remaining churches built before Texas was a state.  It sits on the grounds of a convent that maintains and cares for the structure.  The parish has a newer church a block away.

Photo of historic landmark placard on St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX
Historic St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX | Courtesy of Tyler Sleeter

 

 

This is an amazing piece of Texas history that serves as a reminder of the age some of these small communities.  The church has been a commonality for Catholics in the Castroville area since it was built as it remains the only Catholic church to serve the community.

Little Chapel on the Border in the Path of the Wall

photo of La Lomita Chapel
La Lomita Chapel | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At 170 years old, La Lomita Chapel near Mission, Texas, sits on land that is embroiled in the battle for the Border Wall.  Located near the border, the chapel continues to provide mass and other religious services to it’s congregants on both sides of the border.  The local Roman Catholic Dioceses is fighting the government’s right to eminent domain based on religious freedom.  The dioceses claims the land is sacred and that any wall would require the cemetery to be relocated.  The dioceses is prepared to fight to prevent any changes to the land as it now stands, beginning with preventing government surveyors from having access.  Church officials are worried about the effects of the 150 foot perimeter required on both sides of the wall, stating it would leave very little land for the chapel and its congregants to celebrate their religious beliefs as they have since the chapel was first built.

Photo of interior of La Lomita Chapel
La Lomita Chapel is still used for weekly masses | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

La Lomita Chapel has been serving the people of the Mission area since the area was still part of Mexico.  The people in this area have deep ties to the church and to the cemetery.  A border wall and it’s required perimeter would be a detriment to the people of this community and their right to religious freedom.  It would turn their sacred ground with all its meaning into a uninhabitable and unusable space.  La Lomita Chapel deserves to be left alone and to remain the religious and historical landmark it is today.

 

Woodlawn Lake: Little Lake in the Big City

 

photo of boat ramp at Woodlawn Lake
Boat ramp at Woodlawn Lake | Courtesy of Tyler Sleeter

Woodlawn Lake turned 100 years old in 2018.  The lake serves as a place for community events, celebrations, and outdoor fun.  Boating was once common at the lake, but now all that remains is the boat ramp and the former boat house.

It impresses me that Woodlawn lake changes to keep up with the needs of the community.  Recently the city has focused on health and an exercise station was added to the main trial around the lake and a dog park was built at the casting pond.

New Deal Program Benefits San Antonio Zoo

Image of WPA plaque at San Antonio Zoo near lion exhibit
WPA plaque located near lion exhibit in San Antonio Zoo

Lingering around the lion exhibit, visitors to the San Antonio Zoo might spot a plaque reading “Works Progress Administration 1935-1937.”  The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a New Deal Program developed to reduce the unemployment rate during the Great Depression.  The WPA built this section of the San Antonio Zoo.

Image of enclosure at San Antonio Zoo built by WPA
Brief section of San Antonio Zoo built by the WPA

This surprised me because it took something from a textbook and made it interesting.  I have passed this plaque on countless trips and never noticed it before.  Until seeing it, I was unaware New Deal programs built anything, let alone zoo enclosures.