Listen to this story, narrated by C. S. E. Cooney:
After slavery was the Jubilee, the great-wandering-down-the-road time, the where-I-go-is-my-own time. And during the Jubilee, there was plenty of names. People shuffled them like cards and drew new ones out the deck, tried names on their tongues like new year clothes, whispered and shouted them into the bright clean air to see how they fit, licked their lips to see how they taste.
Names like Mercury Lincoln and Josiah I. M. Freedman, names like Hallelujah Williamson and Blessedbe Jones…
And some kept them old slavery-time names, but not out of loyalty, no indeed. Not out of remembrance but out of hope. The old names was a bead in a prayer of the same longing, a map to the future, a map to the past, leading lost ones and loved ones and never-forgot ones, sold or stole-away ones, back home to them.
Have you seen Thistle? Do you know a Milkweed? My child, my brother, my husband, my sister, my mother
Do you know…
In this way, all the names, the new and the old, were a witness, to the beginning of a prayer long lit on the candle’s wick, to the changing of hands in the new land they called Freedom.