My Family’s Slave

She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.

The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.

Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido.

  • Drunk_by_Noon

    Yeah, how long have we all heard that immigrants are more fervent Americans than us natives?
    I stopped believing that lie in high school.

    • Clink9

      Written by an Obama voter.

  • Dana Garcia

    Interesting that some of the cultures not considered barbaric can be pretty repulsive.

  • That was one of the saddest stories I ever read. I wouldn’t know about it if you hadn’t linked it since I typically avoid The Atlantic, so thank you for sharing.

    • Dink Newcomb

      I will not try to add anything to that comment. It is as if Zilla had read my mind.

      I will burden you with my personal experience “with” slavery though, if you don’t mind.

      I am vintage 1947, the product of a middle class Yankee Mother and upper middle class Southern farmer Father whose paternal lineage goes back to the late 1740’s in the same SW coastal corner of South Carolina where I still live. In 1956, we moved off the farm and fled to Long Island to escape the poverty where, with four kids, my Father worked as a tractor mechanic during the day and worked the farm afterward, often plowing by headlights on the tractor. At nine, I knew very little beyond what I heard in conversation (we did not get even a badly used TV till 1955) and living surrounded by miles of swamps and timberland out on the far end of a point between two creeks I did not hear much of race except from my moderate family. The 200 acres of family land was part of a colonial plantation that was dis-articulated during reconstruction and a parcel just to the mainland of my home given to the ex-slaves by the Yankees as reparations. To this day, there is an isolated black community there and still few whites within miles. In the 50’s race was a wild monster and very few casual inter-racial FRIENDSHIPS developed.
      Growing up blue collar in an upper/upper-middle class area near NYC with excellent schools I got a good education with a (considerably more than the present) objective world view and saw the world through more critical discriminating eyes.
      We went back every year during my Father’s summer vacations so he could help his parents and I got the advantage of becoming bi-cultural, in a sense.
      Sorry for the long intro but I felt it was necessary to establish how I saw/see life.
      We would often make an obligatory trip inland a ways to the old family church with so many of those markers placed by the State of SC that denoted the graves of Confederate veterans and as kids, we would run around locating those of our family who lay there. The cemetery was on a high knob with a perennial creek bordering it about 1/2 its circumference with an elegant brick spring fed.baptism pool just slightly above the creek water level to the north. This was an ancient place full of unsettling memories and almost forgotten traditions. My Grandmother’s family (also English and also arrivals in colonial times, lay on the high end of the knob, just along the border where the land quickly dropped down to the creek 15′ below and just over the edge on a little hollow in the hillside, a lonely detached grave. My Aunt (my tutor in family history) told me that the occupant of the was an old ex-slave negro counterpart of Lola. A well loved mammy to my Grandmother, she had been freed after the War and had no family after living many years as a retainer and asked to stay with the family rather than strike out into a world she was unprepared for. She stayed with the family through more generations of children until death. The family, (slightly more respectful than Lola’s) asked to have her buried with the family but the church would not let her lie with the whites and compromised by exiling her outside the cemetery on the slope to the creek!
      I am sorry to admit that I had no firsthand knowledge of the players in this drama except my Grandmother who died in 1958, years before I even knew of this person. Indeed, my Grandmother herself was born in 1884, about a generation after this woman, already an adult, had been “freed”. For myself, I am ashamed to admit that I can not even tell you her name or age at death– I had then inscribed in my heart once but age and time have dimmed them. I used to drive up there a couple times a year to pay respects to my Daddy and leave a Nehi grape soda and a sack of Squirrel Nut Zippers at his grave (they made him smile like a beacon when he was alive and I hoped he still felt the same) and I would always walk to the back and have a word or two with that old lady who seemed to me to need someone to express a little caring in her loneliness out there. My Ma died ~ 4-5 years ago and Daddy is not without our nuclear family and advancing age gives me an excuse not to go anymore. That lady has again become a victim of sorts of disrespect and being ignored.

      This is not to mark anyone as guilty! Its all long ago and it was the way things were done. It serves me as an index of how difficult it is to imagine being someone else, ANYONE else, from a different age and how ultimately, we are what we make of ourselves with all our human frailty.

      • Shebel

        Oh—baby boy—-
        You are lapping at milk—–

  • Shebel

    What Native Tribes were displaced so that you could purchase your Slave ?
    Or do they not count ?

  • Shebel

    Some day , I should tell the story of “Lightening John”.
    He was called’ Lightening’– because he worked at one speed– Slow and Steady.
    It was amazing the work he could get in a day for $7/week and room and board.
    This would be late 1950’s.

    That was the going wage.
    When John decided to leave–He just left— he would just start walking up that long lane way. It made no difference to him if he was going 1 mile or 100 miles.

    Everybody knew him.
    His real name was John MacMillian. (I think)

  • Pretty normal by world standards I’d say. Benign, almost. Not normal by North American standards, but they’re working on that. This novel deals with this sort of thing – including the protagonist spotting an Arab woman with her slave boy in London in the 1960s.

    “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”

    • Shebel

      That is a fairly arrogant quote.
      Lucky me. I didn’t have to walk into gas chamber and become Nothing.
      I have a Family. Some were not as lucky as me.

      • It’s one of the best opening lines in a novel ever. It’s up there with “It is a truth universally acknowledged” and “Call me Ishmael”. There was an (apparently; I haven’t read it) devastating biography written (with his cooperation) about V. S. Naipaul which used that for a title. Naipaul being apparently something of a psychopath. I find it bone-chilling.

    • WalterBannon

      It is nearly an identical thought to one expressed by Hitler in justifying his lust for lebensraum.

  • k1962

    Wow, what a story!

  • Tooth&Claw

    Apparently the author died one day before this article appeared in the Atlantic. It got a lot of flak.

  • K1

    I know everyone likes to think of Filipino’s as being nice, kind, warm and Christian
    and they rate HIGH on the likability factor …
    so Canada brings them in as NANNIES, PSW’s, NURSES etc
    …. I think differently of them now
    These people have been…
    -poisoners of our seniors & me
    -my stalkers (a lot)
    -411 operators giving me a hassle
    -torturers of Seniors