SOUTHERN LEGITIMACY: I lived all my life in Georgia until I graduated from the University of Georgia. My mother was born in Paducah, Kentucky, and her mother in Tennessee. My mother’s grandfather used enslaved labor on his farm, fought with the Confederacy, and remained unreconstructed through the beginning of the Twentieth Century. I no longer live in the south, but I still believe in courtesy and grits.
Mother demanded belief, never
argued rightness, faith-based white supremacy
a gift from her grandfather, her mother’s father,
J.M. Payne of Cumberland City, Tennessee.
Lover of horses, hater of “negroes,”
bitter his wealth, his property, taken,
a rich man humiliated to weeds,
argued all should be corralled and killed.
This seigneur sired seven white daughters,
the youngest the mother of my mother,
fierce in her blind tribal devotion, this
the nonnegotiable price of her love.
Mother dutifully regretted the loss
of the enslaved as if they’d just been freed,
approved “Southern traditions,” even if cruel,
awaited return of the family’s fortune.