Since I am away from Bridgehampton in my South Carolina home, I will miss the exhibition of Sam Johnson’s collection of black memorabilia, including the 15 dolls at the Rogers Memorial Library [“African American Rag Dolls On Display At Rogers Memorial Library In Southampton For Black History Month,” 27east.com, February 4].
My most cherished possession of my childhood was a doll purchased by my mother, to shut me up, on a train trip from Penn Station to Clearwater Beach in 1948.
At a brief stop in Georgia, mother bolted off the train and bought my doll from a peddler at the station. Boysie, as I named him, was a soft brown boy wearing overalls. He went everywhere with me and comforted me through my early years of constant parental correction for my misbehavior.
I stupidly told mother, when I was 8, that I sucked my thumb because Boysie told me to do so. The next day, Maud, our housekeeper, was ordered by mother to discard that “old rag.” I never held Boysie again — and I have often hoped Maud took him to her home. Simply, Boysie was my friend.
I am appalled that connotations are placed on items, perhaps unfairly, perhaps with justification. However, sensitive and intelligent individuals should be able to embrace, historically, the good and the bad, and refuse to negate something simply because it is uncomfortable or perceived as evil.
All African American art and craft should be celebrated, regardless of the circumstances in which it was produced. The pottery designed and made by slaves is currently auctioned for large sums. The sweet grass baskets still made by Gullah people on the islands off Georgia and South Carolina sell at a premium in Charleston markets.
My doll Boysie should not be negated — I loved him, and whatever evil he currently may carry never occurred to me.
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One fine body…