The Cotton Breath
by Robin Throne
Who owns a life? Roman civil law was the basis for eighteenth century South Carolina slavery legislation, and partus sequitur ventrem meant literally "that which is brought forth follows the womb," meaning a child was born a slave if the mother was a slave, free if the mother was free. This sparse yet dense tale captures the centuries-long emotional battle for seed, life, and land proffered, then repossessed as parcels of Lowcountry heirs' property. Along the African Gold Coast, deceased spirits often gathered at the waterside to prepare for the souls' return from whence they came; amidst Sea Island coastal views and tourism ridden over forgotten slave cemeteries, this detached narrative echoes three women who still hover there. Whisper. Drifting. May you stumble upon this allegoric account of captains, traders, planters, soldiers, and cotton and listen just long enough to hear these murmurings from this oceanside graveyard, the aching ancestral chatter above the din of tourism development.
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