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AI generated picture of President Abraham Lincoln shaking the hand of a little black girl who was just freed to recreate the scene shared by 108 year old Hannah to Pam Goldstein just weeks before her death

Hannah: True story of a newly freed girl meeting President Abraham Lincoln

written and shared with exclusive permission by Pamela J. Goldstein

Editors note: The story below was written in 2012 by author, podcaster, and retired nurse Pamela Goldstein. When she was 19 years old, she worked as a direct caregiver for a 108-year-old woman named Hannah. Hannah had lived through the civil war and was seven years old when emancipation came and she met President Abraham Lincoln. She did not take his encouraging words and directive to be proud and free lightly. I only learned of Pam’s encounter with Hannah today, although I have known Pam for several years. Coincidentally, this month is Black History Month with a focus on Black Health and Wellness and to stop censoring Black History. Not only was Hannah a teacher, she also visited children in the hospital to read to them. For these and other reasons, I felt that is was fitting and NECESSARY to share this on the Elbert Williams Voting Corner site…and as far as I can. I am so excited to say that President Lincoln and I are only FOUR degrees of separation now.
Additionally. The ad creative includes an AI generated image of President Lincoln shaking the hand of a young girl. Unfortunately, there is no actual picture of this encounter. Just oral history that has permeated through her family, then Pam, now me, and now YOU. The image of Pamela Goldstein was taken by Photographer Joe Symchyshyn in 2015.

Hannah was one hundred and eight years old, tiny in stature, frail as a sparrow, and toothless. She was a proud woman and she held her head high with nobility, the likes of which I had never seen, not even in Queen Elizabeth. I met Hannah while she was in hospital for a small stroke-like episode she’d had on an Easter Sunday. 

That was over forty years ago. I remember her as if it were yesterday.

“I was the first one in my family to have an education,” Hannah told me. “I became a teacher. Could never teach in a white school, though. Had to wait until I moved here to Canada.” 

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Born and raised in Georgia I was, during the American Civil War. My ma and pa and me were slaves until that war ended. I was seven years old at the time.”     

“Wow, you lived through that war?” I said while placing a cup of tea in front of her. Hannah loved afternoon tea with Peak Freen cookies, the vanilla ones with strawberry jam centres.

“I surely did, child. None of my brothers survived, but I never knew them well. They had been sold to a farmer down the road when I was still a baby.”                                                                     

I quickly did the arithmetic. “Hannah, if you were seven in that war, you’re a little bit older than one hundred and eight.”

“Oh, hesh up, there. I know that. I’m just refusing to be older, that’s all. I only asked the Lord to let me live until I was one hundred. Why He’s letting me live longer than that I don’t know, but I am sure going to ask Him when I meet Him.”

“Maybe he wanted you to –”

Hannah put up her hand. “No, no, no. I am not going to discuss this any further. I’ve made my peace with Him about it at church. He obviously has plans.”

“Okay then,” I said. “What do you remember about that time in the Civil War?”                         

Hannah shrugged her shoulders. “Nothin’ much other than bein’ hungry.” She smiled. “But I do remember one day in particular. The day I met President Abraham Lincoln.”                    

I plopped down in the chair next to her. “You met Abraham Lincoln? What was he like?”

“Oh, my. Well, he was a very tall man. Thin but broad shoulders. Kinda ugly, actually, and he had bad teeth. But there was somethin’ wonderful about him. He had kind eyes. You could tell from just lookin’ at him that he was a wise man. And he loved telling stories. I heard him tell three of them to his soldiers in the span of twenty minutes.”                                    

She took a sip of tea. “Yes, he surely was a mighty fine man. I didn’t talk to him long, maybe a minute or two. But I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said, ‘Be proud, child. Always be proud of who you are and where your family came from. There’s no shame in having been a slave. But you’re free, now, and it’s your responsibility as a free person to do good in the world and make it better.’ I believed him.”

She looked down at her hands. “I told every one of my students what President Lincoln said that day and I made them all promise to be responsible free people and to do good. And you know what? I believe they all did. Except for that Randy Smith. He was a no-goodnik from the get go, that boy was. He never wanted to be in school, hated it in fact. And he was mean to the other children. And animals. Why I remember one day when the children came running in from recess because he had set fire to a cat. No sir. It didn’t surprise me one bit when he was charged with murder.”

“I’m shocked you remember what Mr. Lincoln said to you, Hannah,” I said while trying not to laugh at her little outburst of annoyance at Randy Smith. “I don’t remember anything anyone said to me when I was that young.”

“But you never met President Lincoln, child. Like I said, there was something about him.” 

She winked. “Besides, I had a permanent mark to remember him by.”

“What?”

She held up her right hand. It was completely white from the skin disease, Vitiligo. “This hand. It’s the one he shook. And right after he shook it, the darn thing turned white as snow. I swear it was a sign from the Lord above to never forget President Lincoln’s words. And with a powerful sign like that I was going to remember those words for the rest of my days.”

Hannah died a few weeks later. She’d had a massive stroke while sleeping – no pain or suffering. I attended her funeral and paid my respects. Hundreds of people were there from all walks of life: lawyers, doctors, policemen – even a clown in a costume covered in bows and obnoxiously large buttons and tulips. 

Her youngest son was seventy-four and gave her eulogy. It seemed that Hannah had really taken those words of Mr. Lincoln’s seriously. She had been a modest woman, known by everyone for her kindness and volunteer work and her notorious sense of humour. And hot cross buns. Her son, however, remembered her pecan pie and her love of a good book. 

For years Hannah had taught reading and writing classes at her church for anyone of any colour who could not read. Those classes had become legend in the community and were well attended. 

Something else Hannah had begun before I was born –weekly visits to pediatric departments of local hospitals where she and her former student, the clown, read to sick children. 

Hannah was also heavily involved with the Civil Rights movement in the Southern States. That came as no surprise to me. Her son remembered his mama going south nearly every school break, where she taught older African-American people how to read and write so they would be able to vote when that day arrived. Her nephew was glad that Hannah had lived long enough to see that day happen.     

I was a student nurse when I took care of Hannah, but I have never forgotten her. I don’t think I ever shall. Though I did not develop Vitiligo, I too have remembered Mr. Lincoln’s words and have passed them on to many people, including my own children.

And every now and then, after all these years, an image sometimes flashes before me -– Hannah and Abraham Lincoln having tea together, sharing Peak Freen cookies, the vanilla ones with strawberry jam centres. They are smiling and sharing stories.

Written by -

Leslie discovered the power of the pen in the third grade after her family moved to a new school district. Writing became a way to sort out her new surroundings and escape to fantasy landscapes. That child, and voice, has matured into a poet, writer, blogger, journalist, online content creator and editor. Leslie is a social entrepreneur with a demonstrated commitment to community. She is an active community member in Washtenaw County (Michigan) with expertise in social media marketing and content management systems, volunteer coordination and writing and 19 years of experience in the areas of online community management, training, leadership development, and social networking. She is interested in facilitating connection with both community residents and businesses. Through this work, the economy of the community is improved and the organizations are financially successful. Her main mode of advocacy and online community, however, is through writing.

4 Comments

  • Zaria joi scott

    hello I suggest you to put ''Leave a Reply up for a section

  • Zaria joi scott

    hello thiss is my moms page

  • Zaria joi scott

    mommy please let me see all the comments have a good meeting love you mwa

  • Zaria joi scott

    mommy please let me see all the comments have a good meeting love you mwa bye mommy i am going to get back to work

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