In a follow-up to the Dec.1 Post and Courier article on the origins of “haint blue” porch ceilings, readers may want to know that John Bennett (1865-1956) asked the same question in the early 20th century and got the answer.
He recorded it in his voluminous notes on local folklore and culture now at the South Carolina Historical Society.
Bennett, who was from Ohio, married into a local family and was among the first in town to take African American culture seriously, a championship that earned him very few friends in the white community.
He recorded the folktale told to him of how enslaved Africans grew wings to fly back to Africa, which was recently used as the basis of children’s books and music.
He also authored the first serious article on the Gullah dialect, describing it, not as “ bad English” but a language with rules of its own.
He was the mentor of DuBose Heyward, and helped the latter with his novel “Porgy,” and for years was the “godfather” of the public library’s children’s room.
Not until after WWII were his folktales published in “The Doctor to the Dead.”
Decades before, however, he asked some of his African American friends why they had houses with doors and window frames painted bright blue.
Because they knew Bennett would not belittle or make fun of their beliefs, they told him. Blue is seen as the color of water and spirits can’t cross water.
If the local spirit “Plat-Eye” chases you, for instance, run to a creek and cross it and you will be safe.
So the spirits or ghosts, seeing the blue frames, would be tricked by the color, think of it as water and would not enter your house to do evil to you.
Bennett preserved this belief and so
much else of what could have been lost. There is a lot we owe, and can still learn from, him.
Author of biography about John Bennett, “Mr. Skylark: John Bennett and the
Most every Charleston metro area resident suffers from traffic gridlock, which involves time and money lost waiting in traffic, stress and arriving fatigued and/or late.
There are some immediate solutions to reduce gridlock:
• Carpooling: Each of us can download the app Lowcountry Go. Using this app will connect riders going to and from the same area at the same time.
• Flexible scheduling: If just 11 percent of drivers change travel from peak times to non-peak times, there would be little to no traffic gridlock
• Working at home: Verizon closed its call center in North Charleston, and now all of the employees work at home
• Intentional development. New economic development in noncongested areas of metro Charleston such as Russellville, St. George and Ravenel.
I ask that all employers, employees, government leaders, churches and civic organizations work together to reduce traffic gridlock. I appreciate the growth and transportation plan the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments has written. It is the blueprint for Metro Charleston to avoid traffic gridlock.
Let us work together to reduce gridlock now.
CHARLES E. SCHUSTER
Resolve to help
It’s New Year’s resolution time again. Health club memberships increase, second helpings are turned down, budgets tightened, long-forgotten relatives written.
How about a resolution to protect the coast? Legislation is soon to be introduced at the Statehouse. The legislation will, in effect, prohibit oil exploration and production facilities on South Carolina soil. There is broad bipartisan support.
Resolve to contact your state legislators and urge them to support the effort. Also, resolve to contact people you know who live in other parts of the state and urge them to contact their legislators. The marsh, beaches, birds, fish, ocean and more will thank you and wish you a happy New Year!
The Rev. Dr. JIM WATKINS
Chairman, Stop Offshore
Drilling in the Atlantic
Still same decade
To all the talking heads and sportscasters: Please know that 2020 is not the start of a new decade.
It is the end of the old decade.
You start at Year 1 and end after Year 10. You start at Year 11 and end after Year 20, and so on. You do not start on Year 0.
So the next decade begins on Jan. 1, 2021.
MARY K. JACOBS
Chapel Hill Drive