Time on the Cross

by Nika

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These hand-forged nails were used during the original construction of the house almost two centuries ago.  I found them while cleaning up and have been carrying them around in my pocket to remind me of what life was like for the people who built 815 17th Avenue.

The house was built in 1838 using slave labor.  The men and women who built it the property of Mr. Marmaduke Williams.  He gave the house to his daughter, Agnes, as a wedding gift.

One of those anonymous slaves was the blacksmith who forged these two nails and hundreds (thousands?) like them.  Other slaves would have been busy making bricks, planing timbers and carving trim work.  The work of many hands went into building this grand old home.

What was life like for the slaves whose labor created such beauty?  I really can’t imagine a life without the freedom to live my dreams or without the security of knowing my family can’t be separated at the whim of a capricious master.  We know so little about the lives of those African-American men and women.  Even their names are lost to history.  Yet, the work of their hands endures.

I hope they enjoyed working in the spring sunshine, as I am doing now, to create beauty.  I hope they were proud of their work.  They built something strong and beautiful, and I wish they could know it has endured to carry forward their voices from the past into the future

I promise to do my very best to preserve their legacy.  And, to never forget what they suffered during their ‘time on the cross’.