I’ve been reading Magic Tree House books to my son at bedtime every night. These are books that are fiction, but based on history. In each book, two young children, a brother and sister, are sent back in time to accomplish a task.
The book we are currently reading is set in the time of the Civil War. The story explains that makeshift hospitals are set up with tents for the injured soldiers. As I’m reading about one tent being filled with African-Americans, Luke nudges me to ask what that means. What is an African-American? he wonders. He will be 7 years old in less than two weeks, and he doesn’t know this term? I explained, this is another term used to describe a black person. Like two of his very best friends, C & D.
I continued to read about the War and slavery, and I can see in his eyes a sad sense of confusion. As I’m explaining what we are reading, it dawns on him that in that world – that horrible world – he wouldn’t be able to play with C & D, or many of his other friends. And even worse, his friends would be chained and treated like dogs, less than human. I can tell by the look in his eyes that this is just incomprehensible.
I went on to explain that the North wanted to end slavery, and the South didn’t, and that is why they went to war with each other. And then, with the charm only a child can possess, he asks me: “We are in the North, right?” Proud to be a yankee!