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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)

TITLE: Hallelujah! Daddy Grace
By Leigh MacKelvey


Amazing grace, the sound was sweet to me. I wished my little sister would stop squirming and get to sleep. Shortly, she curled up on her side of the bed and I sang softly, amazing grace, amazing day. Now, I could think about this most amazing day in a billion, trillion years. You see, today I went with mammie Dot to Daddy Grace’s funeral.

Dot gets paid five dollars a day to keep the house and take care of us “chillun.” She said Papa pays her more than most mammies get in Charlotte.

Every afternoon at three o’clock, before he dropped dead from what the newspaper called liver something or ruther, Dot and I tuned into Daddy Grace on the radio. The show opened with Daddy Grace singing “Amazing Grace” in a deep low voice all by himself. Then a band joined in and the beat got faster. The choir came in and we sang with them. The music got wild and Dot raised her hands. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, sing it, Big Daddy,” we shouted. I spun round and round with my hands raised high until mama called down from the sewing room and told us to lower the noise. We listened to the rest of the program on the sofa, my head in Dot's lap. She stroked my hair as the preaching went on and ever-now-and-again she whispered words that sounded like angel music.

I begged Dot to talk mama into letting me pay respects to Daddy Grace.

“Child, your Mama and Papa is giving me a day off with pay to go to dat funeral and I don’t want to lose my job by losing you. So if you gets to go, you best hold my hand tight as your fingers can curl up, and anyways, I ain’t at all certain a little bitty girl belongs in a crowd of weepin’ and wailin’ colored folk.”

“But, Dot, it’s Daddy Grace ” Please make them let me go. I won’t get lost.”

“ I swanny, child, you surely do wants to go, don’t you? You mind me today and I reckon I’ll sees what I can do.”

I was good as sugar. Later, at the supper table, I saw Mama give Papa the look she gives when she wants him to talk with me bout something ‘portant.

He cleared his throat and said, “Little girl, you hear me good. Your mama is going to permit you to go with Dot tomorrow. Now, mind you, we didn’t care much for Daddy Grace, but we understand the colored thought highly of him and Dot tells us you loved his singing and preaching. So you stay close by her and don’t stray off. Folks will be coming from all over North Carolina and it’s going to be one big hoop-de-do. Remember, these folks aren’t our folks and we want you to be safe.” He looked at mama as if to ask if that was good enough. I guess it was, cause she smiled and he popped a buttermilk biscuit in his mouth and that was that.

After supper, I asked Dot what Papa meant. I always thought she was “my folks”. She rolled her eyes and ‘splained it to me best she could.

“When we gets on the bus to go downtown tomorrow, your folks will sit up front and my folks will stand in the back.”

Dot was right, cause this morning she sat me right in behind the bus driver. She marched to the back with her head up high, while her body swung from side to side. Soon the bus jerked to a stop. We got off, walked through the crowd and found a spot along the street where we could see. First came the bands, playing music that made my heart feel like homemade peach ice cream. People began to swoon when the glass cased coffin rolled by surrounded by the choir “from Heaven.” Women wearing white Sunday dresses waved long feathers and fanned the swooners.Tears formed in my eyes. They were singing “Amazing Grace,”just like on the radio show. My heart sang too.

When we got home, Dot said she had the vapors and needed to lie down. I went upstairs and sang my sister to sleep with the song I’d learned so well.

Amazing day, Amazing grace. I fell asleep as the words swirled through my mind.
I swanny, I thought I heard Daddy Grace singing in his deep low voice.

*** ***
During the mid 1950's an evangelist called Daddy Grace developed a large following of African Americans in the North Carolina area. He built a church in downtown Charlotte. Some say he was con-artist, others a messenger from God to the poor and minority population. A bigger than life character, he sported fancy clothes, rode in a limo and had five inch fingernails painted red, white and blue. His funeral blocked the streets of Charlotte and was attended by throngs of people.

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This article has been read 1215 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 03/15/07
This feels like Harper Lee, and is just a marvelous piece of writing!
Sharlyn Guthrie03/15/07
Wonderful story and superb writing!
Julie Arduini03/15/07
I can feel the Southern heat because you captured the surroundings and times so well. Excellent dialogue too.
Marilyn Schnepp 03/16/07
I liked this down to earth type story of how "things used to be"...and brought back memories, both good and bad of years gone by. Thanks for the enjoyable trip down Memory Lane...children always see things differently than grown-ups, too bad they have to grow up and learn about the Real World. Great Job!
Catrina Bradley 03/17/07
A wonderful and well written story. I love the dialogue, great job with mammy's and the MC's voices. Some great lines like "made my heart feel like peach ice cream." I really got the feel of the time and place. I loved the footnote, too. I hadn't realized I was reading about a real person. Great writing!!
Joanne Sher 03/17/07
Just wonderful and neat! You have some wonderful, wonderful lines in here. You capture the childlike wonder of your MC (you, right?) - and I have to admit I was surprised by the attitudes of the whites in the 50's. I guess you forget how close we were to that timewise. This was so authentic!
Marilee Alvey03/17/07
This was music to my ears. You've got a winner here! Authentic, all right. Sounds like my daddy's kinfolk. In fact, every summer we'd drive to Louisiana to visit my daddy's relatives....and, every summer, I'd be this little girl, unaware of the difference between colored and white people. You've got the voices and the dialog down pat. Not easy to do, either. Funny. It seemed like this story went on for a long, enjoyable time. I was thinking, "How does this writer say all this in 750 words?" Amazing writing....how sweet the words...that impressed a wretch like me. GREAT JOB!
Pat Guy 03/19/07
Wow! I was mesmerized! I loved it! I was drawn in hook, line and sinker. Wow!
Linda Watson Owen03/19/07
Amen to every wonderful comment above! I sat here and read it aloud in a southern accent and it flowed beatifully, genuinely. The story is marvelous. Great writing, Leigh!
Loren T. Lowery03/20/07
This is a treasure chest holding masterful work. I love the genre, and your writing style and ultimately the story's message. What more can I say, other than don't stop writing, ever.
Betty Castleberry03/21/07
Oh, this was a great read. I love the paragraph where the little girl's father is talking to her at the dinner table.
You've given this piece an authentic voice. Very well done.
Joanney Uthe03/21/07
Well written and a great voice. I loved the innocence of the MC.
Myrna Noyes03/22/07
Fascinating story with just the right historical touch! This was so well-written and a joy to read! :)