Recent writings

s brent plate

  • Did the Erie Canal help put an end to slavery? 

    Austin Steward was born into slavery in 1793 in Virginia, where he worked as an errand boy on the plantation of a cruel master. Whippings were common, and meager food and clothing were all he was given for his excruciating labor. Yet he was a person of remarkable energy and spirit. He managed to teach himself to read in secret, an act for which he was beaten.

    Steward eventually escaped after his master sold the plantation and moved his household and slaves to New York state. Steward gained his final freedom with legal help from the New York Manumission Society, an abolitionist group, and made his way to Rochester. In short order he opened a butcher shop and then a general store on Main Street, creating a thriving business. He was just 24. He saw his success as a reason to help others and found time to teach Sunday School, host black reform meetings and distribute abolitionist newspapers. Freedom was not simply the release from a former state of being. For Steward it was a call to action and responsibility.

    [Read the rest at America]


  • Gods with Wet Noses 

    I do not know much about gods, but I think that my dog is a small, black god.

    Faithful with a wet nose she prods me in the mornings, looking for a scratch and some scraps of food, to take a walk in the sensual heaven that is the out of doors. “A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world,” Mary Oliver suggests, “but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.” I can scarcely imagine a better spiritual discipline than learning from my dog, and each day I try to learn something of her world. She has proven a patient instructor. 

    [Read the rest at Killing the Buddha...]