Thursday, July 15, 2010

#32 The Thinker

# 32 The Thinker
Vernon M. Herron

The Thinker Statue by Auguste Rodin

According to the Statue Store, one of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures is The Thinker Statue, a piece originally conceived to be part of another work. The Store continues to project that the Thinker was part of a commission by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to sculpt a monumental door based on The Divine Comedy of Dante. Each of the statues in the piece represented one of the main characters in the epic poem.

Initially named the The Poet, The Thinker status was intended to represent Dante himself at the top of the door reflecting on the scene below. However, we can speculate that Rodin thought of the figure in broader, more universal terms.

The Thinker is depicted as a man in sober meditation battling with a powerful internal struggle. The unique pose with hand to the chin, right elbow to the left knee, and crouching position allows the status to survey the work with a contemplative feel.

Through the years, I have been fascinated and motivated by the statue, The Thinker. Early on, it was a fixture in my study, work office and home. It inspired me to strive to be a thinker, ever mindful that it is said that:

80 % of people don’t think
10 % of people think that they think—while only
10% of people really think.


He who knows not and
knows that he knows not
Is a child—teach him!

He who knows not and
knows not that he knows not
Is a fool, shun him!

He who knows and
knows that he knows
Is a thinker/leader, follow him!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

#31 THE PERIWINKLE (Per-i-wing-kel) PLANT

THE PERIWINKLE (Per-i-wing-kel) PLANT:


My resident lawn is composed of a green grassy plain, a colorful bed of flowers, and a bed of periwinkle plants. The grassy plain reminds me of a community where resident members strive for esthetic beauty; the flower bed suggests life and unity; while the periwinkle plant is associated with my ancestors, enslaved burial grounds and enslaved history.

Listen to the Story:

Its beginning and conclusion

A great thing happened to me on 13 March ’04. I discovered the resting place ( burial ground) of the ancestors of the Herron clan and they were rescued from obliteration. It was an emotional visit yet a pleasant one. I cried out unto them, “I am here!” Here is the abridged story.

During the Fall of 2001, one William M. Bigham of Pfattown, NC wrote me the following:

The article in Sunday’s Charlotte Observer caught my attention since it mentioned both the Steel Creek area and the Herron name. The Herrons of Steel Creek were neighbors of the Bigham families in the time period before the Revolution War…..In the will of James McKnight , probated 1827, there is a reference to the Negro graveyard adjoining the property James McKnight was leaving his son James….I was wondering, if in your research, you had ever run across this reference to this cemetery and might know of its location. With the ever expanding Charlotte airport and the industrial development in the area, I would hope that it is not too late for some group to become interested and try to find this cemetery. It may well have been one of the earliest African American cemeteries in Mecklenburg County.

A short time later, I wrote Mr. Bigham the following:

          Dear Bill:

          Thank you so much for the information you sent….We have
found the burial ground and have concluded that the information
 you sent was divinely conceived and providentially shared.
          Because of you, our ancestors were rescued from obliteration.

          Thank you again.
Two research friends of mine, Ralph Neely and Linda Blackwelder found the site in question during October ’01 but my health problem, (back surgery) delayed my visit to the site until March ’04. I shall always be grateful to Ralph Neely and David Moody who accompanied me to the site. Ralph went ahead of me to beat down the bushes, thorns, and thickets so that I could follow and David followed me to keep me from falling. When we arrived at the burial site, Ralph had tied yellow ribbon to the trees for identification purpose.

In addition to the recorded location description, here I found the nine characteristics of an enslaved burial ground:
1.     The enslaved burial ground was removed from the white burial ground, if the whites the whites were buried on the same plantation. Whites were generally buried in a church burial plot.
2.     The enslaved cemetery was always distant from the plantation house.
3.     The enslaved cemetery was always in a grove of trees in a far-off corner of a plantation.
4.     Graves were fairly shallow.
5.     Troughs were in the ground where the decay of the corpse had allowed the ground to sink.
6.     Graves were usually in rows, not randomly placed. These troughs always will run West to East. The belief was that at the Second Coming, Jesus Christ would come at sunrise, like on Easter morning. Thus, the resurrected one would face the East.
7.     Enslaved cemetery marking included a rock or field stone. Usually rough fieldstones were set at the foot or at the head of the troughs. Some had names and dates scratched on the surface but as of this date, such information would be weathered away.
8.     Usually, there was no fence nor wall around the burial ground which would have defined it as a space.
9.     The burial ground was usually covered with a periwinkle plant.*

*More about the Periwinkle Plant

My research on periwinkle shows that most cemeteries for the enslaved are usually covered with a periwinkle plant for minimum care. It symbolizes everlasting life. It is the common name for about 12 species of evergreen. The common periwinkle has thick, glossy, narrow- based leaves and white or blue-violet five-petaled flowers up to an inch wide       .

The challenge

I brought some of the periwinkle plants from my ancestor’s burial ground and transplanted them in my yard. Now I have a part of them with me. Periwinkle is associated with my history. Know and study the plant and if necessary, come to my yard and see for yourself.


There is a growing interest in enslaved cemeteries or burial grounds, if you please. Enslavement is history. The population of Mecklenburg County was 4,602 by the 1810 census.  Over two thirds, or 3,494 individuals were enslaved at that time.   By 1860, 6,541 enslaved persons were listed, yet we have very little record of where and when they died or were buried.  Their personhood was simply willed to obliteration.

Urban expansion, highway construction, residential development and commercial growth, have revealed unmarked burial grounds with evidence of the enslaved period of our history.  In some cases, blatant desecration of sacred burial grounds illustrates the need to protect these cultural resources and the urgent need for awareness.