Tennessee was cursed. Initially, she assigned the devastation of Tennessee, the blaze and the disease, to justice. The whites got what they deserved for enslaving her people, for massacring another race, for stealing the very land itself. Let them burn by flame or fever, let the destruction started here roll acre by acre until the dead have been avenged. But if people received their just portion of misfortune, what had she done to bring her troubles on herself?

Isn’t it great when you’re a kid and the world is full of anonymous things? Everything is bright and mysterious until you know what it is called and then all the light goes out of it…Once we knew the name of it, how could we ever come to love it?…For things had true natures, and they hid behind false names, beneath the skin we gave them.

Cora’s mother and Ava grew up on the plantation at the same time. They were treated to the same Randall hospitality, the travesties so routine and familiar that they were a kind of weather, and the ones so imaginative in their monstrousness that the mind refused to accommodate them.

He spills his guts, it was the last sip that sent him over the edge but she has her hands full with her own loneliness, she’s not about to take on his. Reach inside to muzzle the broken part of you that is now talking.

No, Fulton was colored. She understands this luminous truth. Natchez did not lie about that: she has seen it in the man’s books, made plain by her new literacy. In the last few days she has learned how to read, like a slave does, one forbidden word at a time.

Tonight the song you always despised strides from the jukebox full-bodied and you hear the lyrics for the first time, understand the lyrics for the first time after all these years. This new you with an older soul. Now it’s your favorite. All this time singing the wrong words.

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