The two places, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Greenwood, South Carolina, are connected on the map by long red lines that run parallel to the Appalachian Trail. From 1917-1923 large numbers of black people came up the line by train, in an event called the Great Migration. Among them--having sojourned awhile in Greenville, South Carolina--was my paternal grandfather, whose son was to marry my mother. I am but one of the thousands of black people of Southern background who grew up in Northern cities and thus became part of the modern Black community. While the trains from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia ran to Philadelphia, New Brunswick, Trenton, Newark, and New York, other trains from Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana were running to Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago...
My sweet and loving grandmother from South Carolina used to sing softly, “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, when I lay my burden down,” as she ironed the clothes she took in to keep the family going. And one night, so hot that that the sweat dripped over my eight-year-old-body so that I couldn’t tell the difference between it and the crawling of the bedbugs, a man named Roger sat with eight others on the corner across from my uncle’s home. Roger’s voice began to rise up in a song from a church in the Southland. The voice quavered, steadied, moved on up to glory, then broke just on time for the others to join in as they each were moved. For an hour they sang, for an hour I listened. Something was carrying me back to a place I had never known. And I knew someday I would find the place that could create such powerful and beautiful music, and person like Roger. The next morning, they took him away to the penitentiary for killing one of his singing companions of the night before. With a razor. Over dice.
So what I have done in this book is to take two places and many people, both quick and dead, and show how they are related to each other. I’ve tried to make some sense of the forces that formed me and most other Black Americans. I decided to focus on Philadelphia and South Carolina. But first I had to find out what I was looking for, and where to look. So I began a journey of exploration into the past. Temporarily abandoning my customary role--for I am a college professor--I began to search the memories and ways of people in both locations. Later there would be time for books...”
--One More Day’s Journey