Friday, May 20, 2011

A testimonial to homeownership.

I am reading Howard Bryan's The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron.  The first few chapters are especially interesting, as they are about life in Mobile, Alabama in the early 20th century.   

Henry's father, Herbert, did something that few African-Americans did in the American South after Reconstruction: he owned his own home:

For Herbert, ownership meant protecting his family from outside forces that could, at any time, take away what he had... 

Herbert purchased two adjascent lots for fifty-three dollars apiece on Edwards Street and began culling wood.  Herbert collected ship timber from Pinto Island.  Young Henry, all of six years old, collected wood from abandoned buildings.  Some of the wood came from houses that had partially burned down, and some of the original walls of the house still contained deeply discolored streaks, charred from fire.  Herbert construction a six-to-twelve-foot triangular gabled roof above the front door.  He used the smaller, miscellaneous pieces of wood for the inside walls.  The floor was made of yellow pine.  Like most of the houses of the South, the structure itself stood on concrete blocks...

"The only people who owned their houses," Henry would often day, "were rich people, and the Aarons...."

...Herbert fought for his space, but he used non-traditional weapons..."

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