Morning, Brightleaf Plantation: Haney cleans the schoolroom – sweeping floors, scrubbing tables, washing windows. Soon she’ll rouse the children, get them dressed and fed, tell the tutor they’re ready. The other slaves are already toiling in the hot sun, but Haney is surrounded by books, maps, alphabets and sums on slates. For a minute, she imagines that she too could be a student, and sees a little room nestled inside a world of books, a young woman earnestly studying.

Morning, University Library: Christa’s in her study carrel, working on her dissertation. In a few months she’ll be finished with school and ready to work. She can almost taste the excitement of teaching eager young minds. For a minute, she’s visited by a different vision – a grown woman with a clean white apron and starry, determined eyes.

Evening, Brightleaf Plantation: The children are in bed, the tutor’s downstairs practicing piano, Haney’s back in the classroom. She picks up a piece of chalk and a clean slate, laboriously forms an “H”, then a crooked “a”. What comes next? A voice whispers, “Next is ‘n’. Down, up, curve, down.” The unexpected visitor smiles, shimmers, disappears.

Evening, University Library: Christa falls back into her chair, stunned by the meeting. She can still feel the deep commitment to learning, see the resolute hand guiding the chalk. She’s blinded by grateful tears. She was born to teach this extraordinary woman.

Graduation, University: “This University was built on the site of an old tobacco plantation, where Haney, a woman born into slavery, created a special school for slaves, indentured servants and other underprivileged women. Her passion has inspired generations of our graduates.”  Christa looks at her watch, willing the speaker to wrap up soon. It’s getting late. Haney will be pacing the floor, eager for their nightly lesson. She tip-toes out of the auditorium, fills her pockets with bits of chalk and slivers of chocolate, and arrives at her carrel just as the gateway starts to glow. She slips through, shushing Haney’s welcoming cry. “Tonight, we explore the exciting world of verbs,” she exclaims, grabbing the nearest slate.

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Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
10 months ago

A lovely story Julie. Being able to travel back through time just for a moment to pass on some of the knowledge of today would be lovely. Especially if it could be put to good use, as in your story. Well done.

Fuji
Fuji(@fuji)
10 months ago

How exciting to imagine a recent university graduate giving thanks for her unexpected calling – teaching this extraordinary woman to read and write and to soar with words. I do love stories that transcend time, as you can probably tell from some of my own stories. The love of learning is one thing that truly transcends time, and gender and circumstances. Bravo on an excellent story. Incredible picture, by the way.

Last edited 10 months ago by Fuji
Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
10 months ago

A wonderful story, Julie, and an interesting take on the topic of time travel. I got curious and looked up Brightleaf Plantation and saw that it actually was a place in Virginia where tobacco was grown with the help of slaves. However, I thought that slaves owners wanted to keep their slaves uneducated. Did Haney’s school and education exist in reality or only in your story?

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Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
10 months ago
Reply to  Julie Harris

It’s a bit spooky and adds on to the mystery that our thoughts have creative power. You can search for Legacy of the Bright Leaf, Virginia. In a small town called Canville, they had a tobacco plantation with that name. There is even a video about its history.
As you imply, the relationship between the kind Christa (close to my name and I used to be a teacher!) and Haney, thirsting for knowledge and certainly very bright (pun intended!) could lead to complications for both of them. And she would have problems explaining her presence in that time, haha. This calls for a continuation, Julie, don’t you think? To me, it sounds like an idea for a soap opera.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
10 months ago

This story is very inspiring, Julie. I love it. The passion for teaching and learning is there, which I love the most. Good job. 

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