Flowers Out of Bone (13)

Flowers Out of Bone

Photo of Ethel Morgan Smith

by Ethel Morgan Smith

Chapter 1

Flowers Out of Bone (13)

            “Just think, I mean, I’m going to Princeton and it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal,” Emma says.

            “It is a big deal. But that’s what the battle for civil rights was all about. Princeton will be harder when you get there. Just remember who you are and that you deserve to be there.”

            “I don’t feel that I don’t deserve to be there,” Emma says.

            “It’ll be different when you get there. Just in case you need to know, your right to be there was long ago earned by the blood of your ancestors. And you must always remember to make life a little bit better for those coming after you.”

            “You mean Black folks?” Emma asks.

“Yes, especially Black women. Just remember where you come from.” I try to sound conversational. “In spite of movies and books, it’s still hard for me to imagine not being able to go to the library, try on clothes in stores, or all of the other denials. How could segregation last so long?” Emma asks.

            “It was just an accepted part of our lives, like diseases and bad weather, just more often.” I wonder if there is a better answer. A light breeze swirls leaves around our feet. “And remember, there is still plenty of segregation in this country.”

            “I know; but I also know my life is so different from yours. Segregation sounds more like human bondage, some story from the Bible,” Emma says.

            “Well, it isn’t some ancient story; it happens right here and all across this country, today.” I stop and stomp the ground. “I wouldn’t mention that Bible part to your Aunt Ruby.”

            “She does get a bit carried away.” We laugh, and fall into a sweet silence. Emma twirls a drooped daisy she picks up on the path.

            “You know, it’s okay to be a little hesitant about coming back here,” Emma says. I stop and put my hands on my hips. “I’m not exactly hesitant.”

            “Okay. Concerned then,” Emma brushes a ladybug from my shoulder. “I didn’t grow up here. And I never knew him. It’s very different for me. How he was killed is awful and painful, but none of it has any real meaning for me. It’s like a bad movie that makes me sad because it hurts you so.”

            “I’m sorry.” I stare at the shiny leaves on the huge magnolia tree above us.

            “Mom, no one holds it against you.”

            “Hold what against me?” I freeze in the middle of my step.

            “That you couldn’t come back before now.”

            “Is that what you talk about when you visit?”

            “You know, it comes up sometimes.”
I had been able to get beyond segregation, but Emmett was too much. Emma’s questions are reasonable. When I used to dream of the future, my heart was always too weighed down with grief and sadness. Would I always carry this heavy burden? It is too heavy for anybody. Emma’s interest left me feeling lonely, but I like the fact that my daughter asks questions, forms opinions, and most important, she’s not afraid. “I’ve tried not to interfere.” My voice shakes.

To be continued

Flowers Out of Bone (8)

Flowers Out of Bone

Photo of Ethel Morgan Smith

by Ethel Morgan Smith

Chapter 1

Flowers Out of Bone (8)

            Soon after Big Mama moved in with us, Beauty mustered up enough courage to kick Mr. Tex out of the house and out of our lives. He was her third husband, my sister’s daddy, and everybody’s disappointment. A tiny man with processed hair and copper-colored skin that shaded more red in the summer; he never had much to say except on the weekends when he had been drinking. After Friday’s payday, we often didn’t see him again until late Sunday night when he’d stumble home without money or food and the bickering would begin. Sometimes Beauty would go to the sawmill on payday to try and catch him before he got away with his paycheck. Finally, she put Mr. Tex’s clothes on our front porch in five brown paper bags from the Winn Dixie. She told Mr. Pig Walker to go by the sawmill to tell Mr. Tex that if he didn’t come and pick up the clothes by Saturday, she was going to give them away.

            When Miss Sweet had called ten years ago with the news of Big Mama’s death, I was packing to travel to Holland to secure a relationship with a flower distributor. I was nervous and so excited. This little flower shop was not just working but had grown into an international business. I owned an international company! Well, almost. My host was to be a Mr. Anton Haas, who had been kind and understanding when I telephoned him to reschedule our appointment. After cancelling my plans to travel to the international flower festival, I drove the rough and rugged roads of rural Alabama with a weighty heart and still in shock with Emma. Only for Big Mama’s funeral was I willing to set foot in Bone again, until Emma asked me to come. I never thought I’d need to come back for anything other than funerals. I never thought of Beauty with regard to funerals, maybe Aunt Honey’s, Miss Sweet’s, or Mrs. Wright’s.

            I continue driving, fussing to myself through the wide-open pastures of rural Alabama. Why did the citizens of this state put up with such bad roads? Potholes are dangerous. Highway 29 had been the only main road for as long as I can remember. Why should the road be any different from the town? Some things don’t change, and those I haven’t missed. I shake my head in disbelief when I hear a sudden rattling noise. Assuming it’s more bad roads, I keep driving, but the noise grows louder and the car jerks. I swerve onto the shoulder of the road and navigate the car to a safe stop.

            “Emma. Emma. Wake up. Something’s wrong with the car.” I wonder how she can sleep through all the noise. Dust and gravel settle.

Flowers Out of Bone is to be continued

Black History Month 2015

An evening with Ethel Morgan Smith

Just a quick reminder that I will be at Hollins on Feb 23rd. Hope you come by if you’re in the area.

Professor Ethel Morgan Smith is on Facebook. She writes on and .

You can contact her here: lucymorgansmith@​

To All Readers, Fans And Subscribers

Ethel Morgan Smith

I found out that there are so many subscribers who get an email each time I write an article on

Thank you so much for your support. It feels good to know a world away someone is reading my work.

I’ve just spent 10 days in Ghana at the Kinko, Village with a group called LEAP for Ghana (literacy empowerment action project).


We ran a day camp for more than 150 small children and raised money for three girls to go to high school. Quite an experience. And going into the slave dungeons was dreadfully hard. I am attaching some pics as well as info about my organization. Please take a look at the wonderful work we’re doing. May you have a good rest of the summer. Classes started here in Morgantown last week. But I’ve had a marvelous summer.

Children of Konko Village Ghana






Professor Ethel Morgan Smith is on Facebook. She writes on and .

You can contact her here: lucymorgansmith@​

The Best 100 African American Poems

The Best 100 African American Poems
The Best 100 African American Poems

This startlingly vibrant collection that spans from historic to modern, from structured to free-form, and reflects the rich roots and visionary future of African American verse. These magnetic poems are an exciting mix of most-loved classics and daring new writing. From Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes to Tupac Shakur, Natasha Trethewey, and many others, the voice of a culture comes through in this collection, one that is as talented, diverse, and varied as its people.

You can read reviews and buy the book here:

Shaping Memories

Reflections of African American Women Writers

Shaping Memories

Shaping Memories offers short essays by notable black women writers on pivotal moments that strongly influenced their careers. With contributions from such figures as novelist Paule Marshall, folklorist Daryl Cumber Dance, poets Mari Evans and Camille Dungy, essayist Ethel Morgan Smith, and scholar Maryemma Graham, the anthology provides a thorough overview of the formal concerns and thematic issues facing contemporary black women writers.

Editor Joanne Veal Gabbin offers an introduction that places these writers in the context of American literature in general and African American literature in particular. Each essay includes a head note summarizing the writer’s career and aesthetic development. In their pieces these women negotiate educational institutions and societal restrictions and find their voices despite racism, sexism, and religious chauvinism. They offer strong testimony to the power of words to heal, transform, and renew.

You can read reviews and buy it here:

Mr. Wrong

Real-Life Stories About the Men We Used to Love

Mr. Wrong

Mr. Wrong is the tug behind your navel, the guy who lights you up like a Roman candle, the danger you can’t resist. And just about every woman, at some point in her life, has encountered one–or many.

Women everywhere will see themselves in these witty, wise, and entertaining personal essays by some of the literary world’s most accomplished and bestselling authors, including Jane Smiley, Audrey Niffennegger, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Ntozake Shange, Roxana Robinson, Marge Piercy, and Ann Hood. Readers will delight in the array of Mr. Wrongs encountered in these pages–from harmless and charming to revolting and offensive–and ultimately relish the notion that even if we succumb to the temptation of an utterly reckless romance, we can emerge with our hearts intact.

You can read reviews or buy it here:

Growing Up Girl

Growing Up Girl: An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces

Growing Up Girl

Growing Up Girl is an eclectic collection of poems, essays, and short stories that document the transition from girl to woman, as told by the girls and women who know the journey best. Whether she’s coming undone or coming out, the writing is authentic and passionate.

Read reviews and buy it here:

From My People

400 Years of African American Folklore: An Anthology

From My People

A magnificent celebration of — and an essential introduction to — African American life and culture. Folklore displays the heart and soul of a people. African American folklore not only hands down traditions and wisdom through the generations but also tells the history of a people banned from writing and reading during slavery. In this anthology, Daryl Cumber Dance collects a wealth of tales that have survived and been adapted over the years, many featuring characters from African culture. She leaves no genre of folklore out, including everything from proverbs and recipes to folk songs and rumor.

You can read reviews and buy it here:

Honey, Hush!

Honey, Hush!

Daryl Cumber Dance has collected the often hard-hitting, sometimes risqué, always dramatic humor that arises from the depth of black women’s souls and the breadth of their lives. The eloquent wit and laughter of African American women are presented here in all their written and spoken manifestations: autobiographies, novels, essays, poems, speeches, comic routines, proverbial sayings, cartoons, mimeographed sheets, and folk tales. The chapters proceed thematically, covering the church, love, civil rights, motherly advice, and much more.

You can read reviews and buy it here:!

Grand Mothers

Grand Mothers
Grand Mothers

Nikki Giovanni created this book by asking her friends–people like Gloria Naylor, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Maxine Hong Kingston–for their stories and recollections of their grandmothers, then asked a group of writers in their nineties for their thoughts. Grand Mothers celebrates those special women in every culture who preserve heritage and prepare the future.


Buy in Germany:

Buy anywhere:

Reading Example

Are you curious? Here is the link to a reading example of Reflections of the Other: Being Black in Germany


Before I arrived in Tübingen I knew what my teaching schedule would be. I had proposed to the Council on International Exchange Commission to research the political momentum of Afro Germans. The only Afro German I met was Tina Bach, a student in one of my classes, who was the only person I saw, who looked anything like me. Berlin or Cologne would have been better venues to work on such a project. I kept good records about my experience, and trusted the writer in me to know that I would have something to write about after my years’ experience.

In the meantime I wanted to write. Writing is different when you’re away, and I couldn’t have been more away. Since Germany was in the middle of Europe, I was free to travel and see the new world I had been awarded. And Tübingen is about 30 minutes from Stuttgart, which is considered a gateway to the world by many Germans.

My host professor had telephoned me early one Friday morning, six months before I was to arrive. It was 8:00 a.m. for me and 2:00 p.m. for him. “Hallo, this is Bernd Engler, the person you’ll be working with in Germany.”

“Oh. Good morning.” Hoping I didn’t sound as sleepy as I was.

“Did I wake you?”

“No. Not at all. You see, I live alone and you’re the first person I’ve spoken to. That’s why I sound sleepy.”

He laughed. At least he had a sense of humor. All I’d been told was that Germans were orderly and arrogant. Although my old boyfriend, Helmut had been orderly, but he wasn’t at home in Germany, instead he had been in the States trying to fit into American culture.

“I am calling to introduce myself and say welcome. I also wanted to see what your needs are with regard to housing.”

“I am looking forward to being there. Thank you.” He didn’t sound German. His accent was only slight, more international. What did Germans sound like? Helmut hadn’t sounded German either, unless we got into a fight.

“After this call, we can then communicate via email.”

“That would be fine.”

“Your needs,” he said.

“I need a bathtub.”

“Anything else?”

“Sure, but that’s a main need.”

“What about a kitchen?”

“I figured there would be a kitchen.”

He laughed again. Did I have a better sense of humor than I thought? I didn’t think asking for a bathtub was such a big deal, at least not laughable.

Book Review: Reflections of the Other…, by Ethel Morgan Smith

Book Review: Reflections of the Other

“In Reflections of the Other: Being Black in Germany, Ethel Morgan Smith shares the phenomenon of her experience as the Other, an African American woman living and teaching in Germany as a Fulbright scholar at Universität Tübingen during the 1997-1998 fellowship year. A journey that begins with Smith’s presumption that, in Germany, she can “experience (her)self without the limitations of race” is marked with signposts where “racism kept finding (her).” Her story is filled with the tensions and thrills of learning to deal with old issues in new ways, and new opportunities with age-old wisdom.” Sharon D. Johnson, PhD

The whole review is here:

Sharon D. Johnson, PhD, is a widely published journalist, screenwriter, and member of the Writers Guild of America, west, Inc. She has lectured nationally on film, television, and African American literature and culture through the lens of depth psychology, particularly Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. She has also appeared on numerous news and information programs on ABC, KCET, KCAL, and NPR, to name a few, discussing diversity issues. Dr. Johnson lives in Los Angeles, California.

Outlook: The House Of Flowers

The following work is ready for publication:

The House of Flowers  (novel) has been a finalist for both the William Faulkner & William Wisdom Creative Writing Contest, and the James Jones Creative Writing Contest. Three chapters from the novel have already been published.

From Whence Cometh My Help: The African American Community at Hollins College


“Ms. Smith uncovers a part of the past long hidden (the story of the African American community that has been part of the College, yet separate from it—since the founding of the College) and shows us how we understand the past is deeply affected by the search itself.“

Determined to give voice to the African American community that served as the silent workforce for Hollins College, Ethel Morgan Smith succeeded in finding individuals to step forward and tell their stories. From Whence Cometh My Help examines the dynamics of an institution built on the foundations of slavery and so steeped in tradition that it managed to perpetuate servitude for generations. Interviewing senior community members, Smith gives recognition to the invisible population that provided and continues to provide the labor support for Hollins College for more than 150 years.

Although African American students have been admitted to the college for roughly thirty years, to date only one person from the Hollins Community has graduated from the college. The book explores the subtle and complex relationship between the affluent white world of Hollins College and the proud African American community that has served it since its inception. Interweaving personal observations, historical documents, and poetry throughout a revealing oral history, Smith shares her fascinating discoveries and challenges in telling a story silenced for so long.

Reflections of the Other: Being Black In Germany


This book is an account of my everyday life as an expatriate in German culture while I interacted with scholars, diplomats, students, friends, and lovers. Although the work reflects my personal experience, it is designed and rooted in my knowledge and experience of African American literature, culture, and history. But the question was what was I, a Black American woman doing in one of the most racist countries in the world? Or I had been told. After all, Germany is not known as a place that has called out to Africans Americans like France (Paris), but I felt seduced by the fact that I could experience myself without the limitations of race-or so I thought. I am not sure that it is possible to not be whom one has always been. By involving the reader in my day-to-day life, this book will draw a personal portrait of a Black American woman in a country that professes not to be racist, even though racism kept finding me. Like all Americans, especially African Americans, we are defined by our history. In Germany I was offered an opportunity to experience racial malaise that was different, but no less insoluble, than racial conflict in my own country. But as a privileged guest I felt protected. Reflections will be of interest to Germans and non-Germans who may be concerned with German culture from a unique perspective. This work serves as a relevant contribution to the efforts of those who seek to promote healing, not in Germany or America, but in the human heart. Reflections of the Other bears witness to my journey from an encounter with neo-Nazi skinheads to a love story in a village of lilacs.