All I Got Is This Singing I Does
by Henry Hardee
My boy is dead now. Death took him and laughed at my crying. When I had my child I held him up to the sky so that God could see him and bless him. He was all I had to give to Jesus. Why the devil have to take him away from me. I and Jesus gave life to that boy and evil took it away like it wasn’t anything. Now, I stand before the Master empty handed. All I got is this little singing I do, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child¨.
He was fourteen years old when he was taken away from me. We were living on the Southside of Chicago when I sent him back down South to Money, Mississippi to get to know our peoples. My boy was always into something. I guess it was his way of making up for the way he stuttered after getting polio when he was just beginning to walk. I talked to him the best I could about staying away from them white people while he was down there. I guess when trouble wants to find you there is no way for you to hide from it.
His cousin and him drove down to the “Bryant Grocery and Meat Market." You know how children are at that time of their life--they can't sit still for nothing and got to always be going some place and being with each other. They were outside the store playing checkers when my son took out his new wallet and showed the boys a picture of a white woman that probably was inside the wallet when he bought it. He told the boys that this was his girl back up in Chicago - you know, showing off like. So one of the boys dared him to speak to the white woman that was working in the store and he went in there, bought him some candy and said, “Bye Baby¨ to her. Just as my son got into the car and was about to drive away the white lady came out and saw him and the people he was with. Just from that she knew where to find him. One of my chile's friends told him while they were in the car that “when that white woman's husband get back he was going start some big trouble over what he had done!” My boy didn't think nothing about speaking to no white lady-- in his heart he couldn’t see nothing wrong with it because after all he was just playing- “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child¨.
When that white woman’s husband drove up in his car, to where my peoples were staying-- he wasn't playing. He wanted to know "Where that colored boy was that sassed his wife!" and didn’t care if he was from the North and didn’t know any better and didn’t care if he was just fourteen and "Didn’t know how to act like a good coon yet!" It was like he had to make my son repent for the sin he had committed against his wife by talking to her.
That man took my child and made him haul a seventy-five pound fan for the cotton gin --they wouldn't even treat mule like that. He said that my child was talking back to him and it wasn’t anything he could do but to kill him to shut his mouth but I knew that was a lie because when my baby got scared he couldn’t hardly talk--let alone curse people out. I knew that when he got scared all he was gonna do is he call out “Mama! Mama! ¨for me to come help him. I couldn’t help him this time because I was too far away.
That white man put him in the back of his pick-up and took him out to a shed on the old plantation. That’ where he beat my baby. That’s where he killed my boy. Folks heard him getting beat and call for me, “Mama, Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy! ¨ but they were so use to colored folks getting beat that they didn’t say anything. They didn’t say anything even when that white man brought his body out wrapped in a tarp and rolled his body onto the back of his truck and drove away. They didn’t even say anything when that white man made them wash my child's blood off his truck with water from the Mississippi River when he came back.
When they found my baby he was floating in the river hanging from a root by a piece of barb wire from the cotton gin they had made him carry. They had wrapped that wire around his throat and pulled it tight. They had whipped my child up so bad he didn’t have a face no more. The only way they knew it was him was by the ring on his finger that had his initial on it.
The Sheriff wanted to bury him before anybody could see him but I wanted my son sent back to me because it was my place to do the burying not his. They had the undertaker sign some kind of paper that said I couldn’t open his casket when it got back up to Chicago but I didn’t pay it a mind. He was my baby, my blood and I could do whatever I wanted to do with his body and no white man from the South was going to tell me different. I saw him coming into the world and I was going to see him leaving it.
I couldn’t help but fall down when I saw him in that casket. Lord, Lord that white man had shot my chile in the head, poked one of his eyes out and bashed his forehead in. I couldn’t help by hollah out “I want my baby back, I want my baby back!" That white man didn’t have no business taking him --he didn't have no business taking him away from me. Now all I got is this little singing I does "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home, a long way from home."