Tall Cotton Fable
by Reginald C. Holmes
During the time of slavery in America, African-American parents had to be creative in order to motivate and instill self-confidence in their children. Often uneducated, these parents could not recite the names of kings or queens nor great hunters or great statesmen of Africa to inspire their young. So, they conveyed stories that made sense to them. One such story is the fable of the Tall Cotton. As the legend goes . . .
One day, in the 1830s on a plantation in Mississippi, a young black boy asked his father, “Popo, where did we come from, who are our kin folks?” Not knowing the answer himself, he took his son to see, Ogogoro, a man whose wrinkled face and all-white hair affirms his status as the eldest occupant of the Sand Creek slave quarters. Upon hearing the boy’s question, Ogogoro immediately rose to his feet, with the help of the boy’s father and a sturdy cane made of oak, and marched directly over to a large cotton field. There he took a knee and drew the boy close while he spoke.
“Kinjana, look out over this vast cotton field. Of all this cotton, the strongest and best cotton grows from the tallest cotton stalks. This is because cotton yearns for the sunlight and, indeed, needs sunlight to grow. So those stalks that can elbow and muscle their way up, to rise above the other cotton stalks, receive the most sunlight and, thus, grow the strongest branches and most bountiful leaves. And that’s why from those strong branches and bountiful leaves grow the biggest, softest, finest and most pure white cotton bolls in the whole field. So Kinjana, don’t worry about the names of ancestors no one can recall. What matters is what they were. And I can tell you firsthand from knowing your father since he was your age and your father’s father since he was a young man, I tell you this, they were all like the Tall Cotton . . . strong, proud and beautiful! The Tall Cotton was their pedigree and now it is yours! Kusherehekea!!!