Monday, June 16, 2008


In 1915, when Elise left Charleston to become a schoolteacher, it was against South Carolina law for blacks to teach in her hometown's public schools, so she had to teach in rural South Carolina.

Her younger sister, Marie, and Teddy Harleston's brother Robbie had married earlier in the year, and Elise was eager to become a bride, too. She was clearly trying to make Teddy jealous in this letter, which she wrote from Fowlers, South Carolina.

Fowlers, South Carolina
November 25, 1915

My dear Edwin Augustus,

This is Thanksgiving's Day, and there are lots of things for which I am thankful. You are chieftest among them all. I am thankful to have met you; I am thankful to have had the opportunity of knowing you so well as I do. ...

You asked me not to think hard of you. I never shall. Rest assured on that score. You are a man, and human. I do not see you with a halo about your head; neither do I look upon you as a beast, but somewhere between the two I have placed you, the One Man, the embodiment of men, the Alpha and Omega of my too short life.

I shall learn to ride horseback before I return, perhaps we will take a jaunt or two during the holidays. My lessons begin Monday after work. Ben will teach me. You don't know Ben, but he is as fine a specimen of young American Negro as you will find anywhere. Tall, nearly six feet, broad shouldered, with a nice, kind open countenance and as kindhearted as they come. He is black, with a wide mouth, white teeth set apart, flat nose, large nostrils and soft dark eyes set just the right place. And best of all, a large heart and the best disposition in the world. He is my friend. ...

I had for Thanksgivings Dinner, pork, chicken, turkey, 'possum, coon, squirrel. Do you like 'em?

Ben just called to ask if I want to go to town with him in his road cart -- do I? "Well I reckon!!" Bye.

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