The Jubilee

Edited by Julia Rios

April 2019

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.

© 2019 Sheree Renée Thomas

About the author

Sheree Renée Thomas

Sheree Renée Thomas is a Memphis-based award-winning short fiction writer, poet, and editor whose “black pot mojo” creative work explores ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. She is the author of Sleeping Under the Tree of Life (Aqueduct Press), honored with a Publishers Weekly Starred Review and longlisted for the 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and of Shotgun Lullabies (2011), described as “a revelatory work like Jean Toomer’s Cane.” Thomas edited the Dark Matter black speculative fiction volumes that won two World Fantasy Awards. She has been awarded fellowships from Bread Loaf Environmental, the Millay Colony of the Arts, VCCA, Blue Mountain Center, Art Omi/Ledig House, the New York Foundation of the Arts, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Her work appears in numerous anthologies and literary journals, including FIYAH Literary Magazine, Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Memphis Noir, So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories for Chip, Revise the Psalm, Jalada, An Alphabet of Embers, The Ringing Ear, Ghost-Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, Blacktasticon, Mojo: Conjure Stories, Mojo Rising, Callaloo, and Harvard’s Transition. She is the Associate Editor of Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora (Illinois State University, Normal) and the founder of BSAM Memphis, a festival held in the historic South Main Arts District that celebrates Afrofuturism art, music, artivism, and scholarship.

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