The Tears Streamed Down My Face

Author: Emalie Jacobs

Grade: 12

Teacher: Tracy Bouslog

School: Parkway South High School, Manchester, MO

 “Get up against that wall, you n*****s! Boys on one side, girls on the other!” The first words I heard as I got off my bus in Selma, Alabama, at the Slavery and Civil War Museum. I was frightened, not knowing exactly what was going on; all I knew was that someone was calling me something that I did not like at all. I had been called this word before; however, there was never a lesson behind it.


 I was screamed at and told I was the n‐word repeatedly. Then this “master” told my friends and me that we were no good, lowly beings and needed to look at the ground; we were not worthy of looking “master” in the eyes. All of us were struck with fear, as if standing against a wall in 110 degree weather wasn’t bad enough, now we had to be yelled at too. Some of my friends were told to step up to the curb but keep their eyes down. I didn’t know when I would see them again. After this, the “master” screamed at us, “Get inside and put your face against the wall! Don’t talk.” I am not used to being told what to do in such a manner, or at all. Who is this person? Why should I listen? I did, though. I was struck with fear and could only obey my “master.”


Once in a room, bright and hot, it didn’t seem like it would be bad. After all, we were in Alabama and beginning to get used to bright and hot. Then we heard someone banging on the door; we weren’t sure if we were to open it or not. When the banging stopped, our “master” came in and told us to run into another room, pitch black, muggy, and frightening. “Master” closed the door and yelled at us not to move. “Master” said, “Imagine your ancestors in a room like this, where they could be raped, beaten and pulled away from the only family they had.” We were told not to move no matter how scared we got, don’t move. Then we heard terrifying screams of women saying, “No, please, no.” Immediately hot tears sprang in my eyes; I tried to brush them away, but I was too scared. The voices went away, and I thought maybe this was all close to over.

 Next, I was rushed into a room and told to get in a very tiny boat with 30 other people by the time “master” counted to five or else. We all rushed the best we could; we barely made it. A screen depicted an ocean rolling along and sounds came, so realistic I was almost sea sick. Packed on this boat with no breathing room, I wasn’t quite sure whose hand I was holding or who was clutching my arm. I just knew it was dark, scary and I needed my friends.

 “Fifteen seconds to get through this hole and stand on the black line you d*** n*****s!” “Master” screamed at us. How were we supposed to get through this small hole in fifteen seconds and then get on the black line? This room was so incredibly dark I could hardly see my hand in front of my face, much less a black line on the floor. I rushed to get there; once again we barely made it.


 “Master” selected five good n*****s; they were told to pick one bad n***** each. They selected a person because they had to but feared for what would happen to them. Other people pulled those chosen from our room and put them behind a door; I didn’t know where my friends were going. Then I heard them scream. Tears welled in my eyes again, but I pushed them down and swallowed as if it would help to prevent the tears.

 The next thing I knew I was put into another room and told to stand on one side. Dark as night, once again I was unsure of who was clutching my hand. The door opened, and all I could see was a silhouette of “master” coming in. “N*****s for sale! N*****s for sale!” I was pulled out of line and pushed into the middle of the room; my friend who was clutching my hand did not let go until her hand was ripped from mine.

 I heard the sounds of a woman screaming for a baby. “Are you my baby? Where’s my baby?” I felt a hand on my arm. It was warm and sticky; I did not know whose it was. It felt as if it were the embrace of a mother, a mother separated from her children, a mother who thought she found her baby. She asked me, “Are you my baby? Be my baby, please will you be my baby?” I could not hold it in any more. The tears streamed down my face. These were hot tears that burnt as they touched my cheeks. I tried to make them stop, but they kept flowing.


 Then, incredibly everything stopped. The lights came on, the tears stopped rolling, and a feeling of safety swept over the room. Our former “master” came to each of us. The same woman who had been screaming orders at us was now our friend. This African‐American woman grabbed my face and told me to look her in the eyes, for mine were beautiful eyes that belonged to a strong woman. Her statement made a strange feeling go through me, something I had felt, yet it was so much more. Self‐gratification. I was really proud of myself. I knew she was right and that I was strong. She had a powerful hold on me; this woman taught me more in fifteen minutes than I ever thought I could learn in a lifetime.




After a minute of reflection, the woman introduced herself as Afriye WeKandodis, a name she gave herself when she dedicated her life to teaching people the truth about slavery. On this day in Selma, Alabama, with my friends from Cultural Leadership, I experienced 15 minutes of what my ancestors went through for hundreds of years. I will remember this day for the rest of my life. That day I learnt what it would have been like to go through something this terrifying. I learnt to appreciate what my ancestors struggled through. More than anything I learnt that I am a strong, determined woman and that I can do anything I set my mind to. I will never forget that day; my empathy for all those poor people will stay in my heart forever. While I cannot change the past and the horrifying things that happened, I can work to make a better future in which nothing this atrocious ever happens again.

Author: Emalie Jacobs

Grade: 12

Teacher: Tracy Bouslog

School: Parkway South High School, Manchester, MO


Selma, Alabama: 2…by two

July 7, 2012

Saul: There have been many experiences that have changed our entire group, some people, and just myself. During our time in Selma, Alabama, we had the honor to meet with one of the most inspirational people I have ever met in my life. The experience we had with Afriye We-Kandodis depicted the journey a slave ship would take from Africa to America.

Naomi: Ready for a change and a new experience was what I yearned for and exactly what I received in Selma, Alabama. We were demanded to get off the bus and told to line up against the wall. “Don’t look at me, I am not your equal” were the words spoken as we were led down a trail and into a dark garage. Suddenly we all became aware that this was a reenactment of slavery.

S: Despite the whole experience only being about 1 hour, so much of the process is still present. When we got to Selma, Afriye came up to us and yelled for the men to get off of the bus, run and face a wall with our hands on the wall. Then the women followed. Afriye warned us that if anyone looked at her in the eye, someone else in the group would die (not in real life though). Of course some people looked at her in the eye, and the people they were standing next to them would die.

N: 2 minutes were given to run up the ship and into the basement and scared as we all were, we did as told. Silently we waited in the dark space, grabbing ahold of one another, not knowing what to expect and after 5 minutes we were set free.

S: The most powerful part of the entire experience, for me, was when Afriye acted as a mother who had lost her child. She yelled, cried, screamed, and anything you can imagine a mother doing after losing a child. She yelled at the man who took her child away and said that he promised if she did everything he asked, she would not take her child away. She then said that before this child was taken away, six others were also taken. While still in the mother role, she went up to every single person and said something about how it was not their fault. When she came up to me she said, “It’s not your fault. You’re a good white man. You didn’t take my baby from me”. I still don’t really know why that got to me so much, and why there were tears in my eye, but it made me mad. I know that I personally was not there during slavery, and could not make a difference during the time, but it made me mad to be white. The people with the same colored skin as me, from the same country, did something I would never be able to even think about doing. I know that they were different times, but those Africans were people and were treated much, much worse.

 N: 16 students in a small capacity for 5 minutes does not compare to the thousands of slaves who traveled for months in poor conditions. With this thought, I became frustrated with what happened and also with myself for not embracing this part of my history. We listened to the passionate cries of a mother who was separated from her child. I instantly thought of my mother and I being separated, never being able to see each other again. I appreciate that exercise and the emotions it brought out of me and I appreciate my ancestors and all that they did and for that I will never neglect my roots.

S: I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to go through the experience. Even though it was sad and I could not really compare to the time and torture the slaves faced. Afriye said that it is important to forgive, but never forget. I know that I will never forget this experience, and I thank Afriye so much for the way she helped our group.

- Naomi Winters OU ‘12 Academy @ Palumbo

- Saul Shaaltiel OU ‘12 Cherry Hill East




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