Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5: Birthday of Margaret Anna Miller

PARIS, MARCH 5, 2012:  Today is my mother's birthday.  Had she lived, Margaret Anna Miller Slaughter would be 101 years old today.  Born March 5, 1911 in Victoria, Virginia (near her mother's ancestral home of Coleraine), she grew up in Sperryville and Flint Hill, moving to the town of Culpeper in the 1920s in order to attend the "better" high school there.

She boarded at my Grandmother Kate Slaughter's and there, met my father, Jack who was attending VMI.  After graduation from high school, she went off to college at Ward Belmont in Nashville, returning when her father died in 1930. 

Shortly after this, she saw my father again and they began dating.  She wrote that she knew she wanted to marry him after only a few dates.  But the Depression was on, and they did not marry for six years.

She loved books, and to this day, I still have many of her original copies -- poems of Rupert Brooke and Edna St. Vincent Millay, An Anthology of American Negro Poetry, art books, Anna and the King of Siam (which I re-read last summer after seeing The King and I in production by Ashlawn Opera).

Like many women of her generation (and even after), she began to dream of greater vistas but she did not have the opportunities that have occurred during my lifetime.

She was troubled by life in many ways, but despite ups and downs, I always felt loved by her.  As a mother, grandmother (and now great grandmother). I know how important that is for a child. 

Here in Paris, as I remember her, I think how happy she would have been to see this beautiful city along with all the other beautiful places I have experienced in my lifetime.

Happy Birthday, Mama. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lincoln in Virginia?

I wrote the following piece for the Hook, to be published this Thursday, a few days before Lincoln's birthday but already on line at

It begins:

About 20 years ago, I saw an illustration of Abraham Lincoln entering Richmond, the familiar Jefferson-designed Capitol building looming in the background. I figured the drawing was Union propaganda; I had never heard of Lincoln in Virginia during the Civil War.

Eventually, I learn that the picture had accompanied a Harper’s Weekly story reporting Lincoln’s visit with his son Tad April 4, 1865, the day after Union troops occupied Richmond, five days before Appomattox, and 10 days before Lincoln is assassinated on Good Friday.

Emancipated slaves and black laborers greet the President, falling on their knees. “Don’t kneel to me," Lincoln allegedly tells them. "You must kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.”

With further research, I find that Lincoln had in fact visited Virginia at least nine times during the War.

I query friends from Virginia and elsewhere: “Lincoln in Virginia during the War? No, I never heard that.”

Like most Americans, I learned in childhood about Lincoln’s humble birth in a Kentucky log cabin; his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves, and the simple eloquence of the address delivered in the cemetery in Gettysburg.

As a Virginian, I visited many Civil War battle sites and cemeteries dotting the Commonwealth and observed numerous silver roadside historic markers noting every campsite and bivouac of various southern generals, as well as the ubiquitous statues of Rebel soldiers in court house squares.

Union General Custer crossed the Rivanna, and Sheridan burned Scottsville. But Lincoln– what did I know of the Great Emancipator in the Old Dominion? How did so many of us miss the presence of Lincoln in our landscape?


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