I tend to be somewhat of a bah humbug about Halloween, but in the spirit of being a good sport, a grabbed a book that looked decent from the library with the intention of reading it to the kids. It's entitled The Dark Thirty - Southern Tales of the Supernatural, by Patricia McKissack. It's a collection of stories inspired by African American history ranging from the times of slavery and the civil rights era, all the way through to the twenty first century. It's a great collection, but it's definitely something that you'll want to screen before reading to your children. Some of those stories have me wanting to keep a nightlight on at night :-).
Here is a poem from the collection. It's the only poem (the rest are short stories), and it's not spooky, but it's one of my favorites none-the-less:
You ask how we all got free 'fore
President Lincoln signed the paper?
Write this what i tell you.
Massa's driver . . .
Master of the whip . . . Got power!
Hear it crack! Hear it pop!
Can pluck a rose off its stem,
Never once disturbing a petal.
I can snap a moth in two
while it's still on the wing,
Pick a fly off a mule's ear
And never ruffle a hair.
One day Massa say,
"Ajax, see that hornets' nest over there?
Snatch it off that tree."
I say, "Naw sir. Not that i can't do it.
But some things just ain' wise to do."
I come back with,
"Them hornets be trouble.
Tried to warn ol'Massa,
But he never once listen.
He a poor man..marry money.
Money prove him a fool. A mean fool.
Massa turned out Pappy Sims;
Say he too old to pick cotton
No more use.
Be careful, Massa!
Beat Lilly Mae;
Say she too lazy to breathe.
Have mercy, Massa!
Sell Sally 'way from her husband, Lee;
See her no more.
Watch out, Massa!
Slap cook --
No reason, just wanted to and did!
Then Massa bring trouble to his own front door.
He make a promise to free Corbella, the Congo Woman.
We not do it.
Big mistake, Massa.
Just wouldn't heed a warning.
So when the lilacs bloomed,
Massa be missing a button off his coat . . . never mind.
Deep in the night,
Hear the music, long refrain.
Digging a grave with words . . .
Old words . . .
We pin massa's black button to a straw doll.
Hang it in a sycamore tree.
Calling the names of the ancestors . . .
Old names . . .
Three days dancing in the dark.
Three days chanting till dawn.
Way in the night Massa hear the music in his head.
He hear the whispered words
In a long refrain . . . and he come screaming.
But it's too late.
Come harvest-time Massa be low sick.
Near 'bout wasted away.
All the mean gone out of him.
Massa call all us to him
He free the Congo Woman
He free everybody -- glad to be rid of us!
Wrote out the free papers, right now!
Then he turn to me.
"Ajax, git gone!"
He didn't have to say it again.
Now, you ask me how we all got free
'Fore Massa Lincoln sign the paper?
Like them hornets, we organized!
By, Patricia McKissack, from her collection The Dark Thirty