To the editor:

On this 4th of July, my pilgrimage to Martinsville, was spurred by an investigation. Over the last 14 years, I had been researching my roots. When I discovered an article on African-American cemeteries honoring Lawrence Mitchell, I was jubilant. I am the offspring of the Mitchell and Pritchett clans. Sadly, Mr. Mitchell and I are not of the same family. But the happy news is, he and his wife, Deborah, received me and my son, James, into their home and took us under their wing. From there our tour of Martinsville began.

Most disquieting was seeing the slave cemetery. The slender birch like trees, growing tall among the graves, made it feel sacred as a temple. The random stones were the single evidence that people were buried there. Slaves from the distant shores of Africa ended in the hills and farms of this place called Martinsville.

Here they died in bondage. My spiritual and physical connection to those souls now gone fills me with completeness. For I am a part of them. My children are a part of me, which connects to them. My thoughts are from their psyches and touch all others that I meet.

If God gives me the strength, for I, too, am growing old, I wish to return to Martinsville and bring other family members with me. They need to learn of their roots planted so deeply in this red clay called Martinsville, home of Mitchells and Pritchetts, our ancestors.

CHARLENE MANNING 

Mechanicsville

VA

23111

(540) 659-5821