A Talbot County title published in 1981 came to my attention this week and I spent a few hours late Saturday evening reading some of the chapters. “Praise the Bridge That Carries You Over: The Life of Joseph Sutton” by Shepard Krech, III presents the life of an African-American farm laborer and waterman from the Eastern Shore.
Sutton was born in a former slave community in 1885 and during some 80-hours of interviews, this book opens a window to 19th and 20th Century life on the mid-Shore, from the perspective of an African-American born in Copperville, a hamlet in Miles River Neck. He died in 1980 at the age of 95 and is buried beside Saint Stevens African Methodist Episcopal Church in Unionville.
Professor Krech, an anthropologist, says it is an attempt to show the history of “common black folk on Maryland’s Eastern Shore from slavery to the mid-twentieth century.” It begins with interviews about what Sutton learned from tradition-bearers about African-American in the Civil War, slavery, family-relationships, and the community in postbellum years up to his birth. The pages progress through Sutton’s life and continue until near the time of his death. The lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore was 93 years old when he competed the interviews and he died two years later, in 1980. Suttons’ recollections include descriptions of slavery, details of his childhood in the 1890s and commentaries on his life experiences during the era of segregated life on the Shore.
Considering that Sutton’s long life spanned the period of the immediate aftermath of the slavery and Reconstruction-period to modern times, this title adds valuable transgenerational perspectives, opening yet another window for us to understand long ago eras.
I will have to return the book shortly, but today I’m ordering a copy for my library, from one of the out-of-print book services.