Editor, Commonwealth:

This is a picture of my Grandpa Tom from 1970. It was in a box with my now deceased mom’s treasures.

Grandpa Tom

On the back it says my grandpa is at the grave of his grandfather, who died in the Civil War and is buried in the National Cemetery in Vicksburg.

He died for the slaves to be freed.

Am I mad he lost his life? No. Did I know if he was Union or Confederate? Not until two weeks ago when I thought about writing this letter. It still doesn’t matter to me which side he was on. I did not know him nor anyone that knew him. I don’t like or dislike him. I know nothing about him. I don’t know him.

I feel it is the same with people today who are still upset over their relatives who were slaves. They don’t know them or anyone who knew them.

Do I deserve anything from anyone because my great-great-grandfather lost his life to set the slaves free? No.

What I can say is Grandpa Tom had 21 children starting back before the Great Depression and having the last one when he was 63. He lived to be 104 years old.

He didn’t get an indoor toilet until around 1966. As the saying goes, “He literally didn’t have a pot to pee in.”

He toiled in the field with mules, picked cotton, grew a garden and raised animals to feed a large family, as did his dad, his granddad, etc.

My mom left the farm in 1938 to go to St. Louis. She said she had no clue about the Great Depression because they always had plenty to eat on the farm. Everyone in the country was equally poor.

My grandpa had no money, but he did have an old wooden farmhouse and some land.

He refused to take his Social Security when he was eligible. He was not going to take what he considered a government handout. He had too much pride. They finally convinced him he had to.

If there’s something to be learned and passed down from my great-great-grandfather who died in the Civil War, it is this: “There ain’t no free lunch. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” We learned about God, patriotism and love for one’s country.

Bad things happen to everyone who has ever lived on the earth. Everyone. No one has escaped that fate. However, we are blessed to live in the greatest country this world has ever seen.

I don’t look at the United Daughters of the Confederacy statue on the Leflore County Courthouse lawn and think, “Those Confederate soldiers killed my great-great-grandpa.” I don’t blame that statue for anything that has happened in my life. It’s a statue. I’ve read it’s one of the most beautiful in all of Mississippi. A gorgeous piece of history carved out of the finest Italian marble. Who knew?

Neither that statue nor any statue or monument ever kept one person from going to school, getting a job, traveling the world, getting married, starting a family, rising above where they started or attaining their dreams. A piece of marble has no power to do that.

Mississippi brings in billions a year in tourism dollars, a lot of which is spent in Greenwood. Our beautiful courthouse and monument are on visitors’ “must see” places in Leflore County.

History is indestructible. What happened in the past is still our history, both good and bad. That’s true whether that statue remains or not.

Susan Spiller

(1) comment

Leland Reader

Susan Spiller, what a beautiful statement. We all need to rise from our past, be better than our ancestors. Learn from their mistakes.

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