Friday, May 30, 2014

You Never Know

For more than 200 years, until 1865 slavery was legal and practiced throughout much of the United States. Today's Fable was taken from a real life story:

From his birth on a tobacco plantation James and his mother only had each other, for his father had been sold to another plantation, and James would never meet him.

And being owned as a slave meant either James or his mother could also be sold at any time.

But James' owner Julius Atkins and his wife Agnes liked him so well, that even though it was against the law to educate a slave they educated James with Mrs. Adkins, a former school teacher, serving as his primary teacher.

James not only learned to read and write but to do math as well. And as he had access to the Adkins' library, he became very well read, a real scholar.

He began to have big dreams for what he could do with his life, a life that did not belong to him.

This was why it was illegal to educate slaves, for education could only frustrate them with dreams that could never be fulfilled and it could lead to revolution or to slaves fleeing from their owners.

Yet despite being slaves James and his mother were living relatively well. That is until tragedy struck.

When James was 16, Mr. Adkins died suddenly and the executor of the estate sold James to another plantation. Mrs. Adkins could do nothing to stop the sale for women had no property rights.

And James' mother joined Mrs. Adkins as their hearts burst in sorrow and tears for he would soon be gone, seemingly never to be a part of their lives again.

James brought a premium price on the slave market for everyone knew he was well educated and could actually help to run a plantation as well as labor on it.

And that was what his new owner did. This owner served in the Confederate Army and left James in charge of a portion of his cotton plantation.

But when the U.S. Civil War ended, James like all slaves, was freed. Penniless and hungry and in his tattered clothing he walked hundreds of miles to New Orleans. There a firm hired him as a wharf laborer, but soon they learned how bright and educated he was.

James began learning the import-export business and as he did, his employer sent him to Mexico to run that segment of their business. James ran that business extremely well, while meanwhile saving every cent he could.

Eventually he established his own import-export business, moved to Guatemala and did business with his former employer and with many other firms.

As time passed James became one of the wealthiest men in the world, with vast holdings including many thousands of acres of fruits and vegetables, gold mines, banking, shipping and numerous other enterprises.

But for the Atkins family and most of the other Deep South plantation owners the Civil War was a disaster. Their plantations had been plundered for resources to fight that war, and the loss of their slave labor made it hard to recover after the war.

When James learned the Adkins family was broke, he hired an Adkins son to work for him at a high wage. And when he learned Mrs. Adkins was living in hardship and poverty, he visited her and then provided her with a substantial sum of money so that she could live in comfort for the rest of her life.

For James always remembered her many kindnesses and he knew the education she had provided him had been the foundation of the fortune he later built.

He knew that to many people, before he became so rich, he had been called a "nigger," but to Mrs. Adkins he and his mother had always been treated with love and respect.

Now this former slave would care for his former master so that she would want for nothing. And it reminds us all that in life, you never know what could happen.

In this case, a man who had been the poorest of the poor against all odds had risen to the top of global society. And now he could and did bestow marvelous favors upon those who had treated him well.


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