Keep on Steppin’

Origin: U.S. African American

Theme: Sometimes you have to endure abuse, but you can break free and leave.

This is a story about a slave named Dave. And this is a story about how the white slave owner never let Dave become a man. Back in slavery time Dave was slaving on a plantation somewhere in Tennessee. Dave was working in the field one day, he looked up and saw a terrible sight, and started yelling.

“There’s ol’ massa and ol’ missy’s two children out in a boat. They are out there screaming. They’ve lost their oars. The boat is out of control, spinning around. They’re going to be thrown in the water. Somebody help them!” Dave screamed.

A field slave, called High John yelled back, “Why don’t you leave it alone, Dave? White people beat us and tell us what to do, we don’t need to help them.”

“I’m not doing that. What’d you talking about, that’s pure mean. Them’s people and I’m going save them. I gotta hurry.” Dave yelled back.

Dave ran up to the big house and told massa and missy. Then he jumped into the river, swam out and took hold of the boat and stopped it spinning. Dave was strong from working in the field, and he kicked the boat. Then he kicked his legs strong, moving the boat to the shore.

Massa and missy had run down to the river to meet their children. They were mighty happy.

“Dave, you’re the best slave we have. If you make a good crop this year and fill up the barn then I’m gonna give you your freedom,” Massa said.

That’s how it worked in slavery. It was good enough that Dave had saved massa’s children, he had to plow, plant and hoe for a year, and then just maybe he could be free. Dave was free all the time, he just didn’t know how to enforce it. Dave worked like a champ for a whole year. He made such a good crop, it filled the barn and half of the house.

Finally Massa said, “Well Dave I’m a man of my word. I sho’ hate to get rid of a good slave like you, but I promised. I’ll give you this suit of clothes. Look at that my wife and children they are sniffy and crying.”

Dave was glad to finally be away. He tied the clothes in a bundle and put ‘em on a stick, then he started walking, walking real slow. He never turned back, he kept walking even when massa was calling him.

“Dave! The children love you,” Massa called.

“Yassah,” Dave called back, even though he didn’t look back.

“Dave, I love you,” Massa called.

“Yassah,” not turning back.

“And missy, she like you,” Massah called again.

“Yassah,” not turning back.

“But remember you are still a slave, even though you’re free,” Massah yelled.

As long as Dave was in sight massa was standing on the porch yelling.

“Dave! The children love you. I love you, and missy, she like you. But remember Dave! You still a slave inside!” Massa yelled.

“Yassah,” Dave yelled back almost out of ear shot now. He never looked back and kept on stepping until he got to Canada. Even though they had let his body free they wanted to keep him a slave.

You ain’t free long as you let somebody else tell you who you are. But you be like Dave. Just keep on stepping, children, when you know you’re right. Don’t matter what they yell after you. Just keep on stepping.

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