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Thursday, March 27, 2014

What's in a Name? By John von Daler

                    A good friend told me about his family's burial ground. The old graveyard is located next to the property on which his family had been slaves up until the civil war. After the war the slave owners whose name he bears and the slaves who were his ancestors went on using the divided plot, slaves on one side, former owners on the other.

                 There still is a fence down the middle between white on one side, black on the other, but now only my friend's family tends and frequents the slave side. The other is deserted and rundown. I suppose maybe he and his family could have tended to the other side too, but, well, their ancestors had already done more than enough of tending to that family's business.
                When I asked him about his name which has an Irish, patriarchal sound about it, he shrugged his shoulders.  "There's no real history in it for me. I can't work back very far on That Irish name is just what I am called. Our history of bearing that name didn't start until fairly recently. I don't know what our name was before we became slaves."
                I who have always taken such great joy in hearing about my quirky, interesting, heroic, wonderful, awful ancestors, had to stop a moment and think. I know a lot about slavery and about the fights of minorities throughout the world. I've taught and studied the issues for decades. But I had to mull this angle over.
                You have to ask yourself Shakespeare's old question, What's in a name?
                You know what's in it? The right to remember, that's what: the right to have your own history, not somebody else's.

My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click here to buy Pieces. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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