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This image is of Peggy (R), then a 19 year-old SNCC member, next to future civil rights icon, Dr. Dorothy Cotton (L), after a 1962 church burning in Georgiathe state that Peggy's great-great grandparents, William & Ellen Craft, famously escaped from slavery nearly 115 years earlier...


W E E K L Y 



Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely

Dr. Dorothy Cotton

Christmas Day marked the 172nd anniversary of my enslaved maternal great-great-grandparents, William and Ellen Craft, finally arriving to freedom in Philadelphia with her––as a biracial woman––disguised as the white male slaveholder of William.  I continue to be in awe of their daring, courage, and ingenuity to obtain those Christmas "passes" as the first step toward their unshackling, followed by their racial ruse, which launched their abolitionist mission once free by escape nearly two decades before freedom for ALL was the law of the land...  With that in mind, I ask that you take a moment, and just imagine not only being enslaved, but knowing it was immoral and inhumane, yet because of racism, white supremacy and complicity it was all legally emboldened by the Constitution... Which was not only perfectly fine with many, many people, but 13 years after Ellen's and William's "self-emancipation", 11 of the 15 slave-holding states––including their home state of Georgia––decided enslaving human beings was so "necessary" they waged a war against the "free" Union states over it in 1861 AND tried to create an entirely new 24/7 slave-holding country...  The irony of all of this, aside from my mother being named for Ellen, is that 100 years after the Civil War began and 113 years after William's and Ellen's escape, two of their great-great-grandchildren––my brother, Henry and I––would embark on our own mission of fighting for civil rights, except we were leaving the North and going South, back into "enemy" territory... I captured our "trek" in a poem I wrote as a young woman, not long after the experience, that included Baltimore––the city that was my great-great-grandparents last stop in a non-Confederate, but still legally slave-holding Union state... The poem is called Just Leaving...

J U S T   L E A V I N G

by Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely

We left the next night, after the phone call from Angeline.


My brother and me on that night train to Baltimore.


A darkened Penn station and no real goodbyes.

Soldiers in our first real army.


A jittery time so we kept laughing and jiving

like we had some idea of what to expect.

But no...we didn’t

but we were going anyway.


We just left our Harlem apartment.

Did not ask for permission.


Me and my brother: bound by blood and daring.

bent on sharing


bearing witness.

So, when we sat-in...

When the boy spit...

When the siren screeched...

When the sheriffs came...

When the handcuffs cinched...

When the darkness dropped...

When the jail door shut...

When the people sang...

We already remembered...

We had always belonged.

© 2020 Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely. All rights reserved.

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