Blood on Green Grass: Sweet Home Alabama

Green grass grows in Alabama like seaweed grows

in the waters that line the Southern shores. It 

covers the cool ground like a baby's

blanket covers tiny feet.


For miles, as far as the eye can see, the lush, warm

colors invite visitors to sit or lie atop the

comforting natural softness. It provides pillows for 

tired heads and beds for weary bodies seeking Southern comfort.


Unless, of course, there is blood on it.


I think I was born somewhere near the green grass.

My tiny hands must have pulled at its tender tops

while my small body enjoyed the coolness of the

dew that welcomed Southern mornings like fireflies welcomed Southern evenings.


I did not know there might be blood on it.


I took tiny measured steps in my great grandmother's yard

in front of the large wooden house that had stood

years of small and large people building lives around tough

times and insecure dark nights. The green grass was always there.


No one ever told me there was blood on it.


Long days at home waiting for parents and grandparents

to return from polling booths and church meetings turned

into long days in segregated schools, segregated doctor offices 

and watching out for country police who didn't have moral values but had guns.


No one told me the cops helped put the blood on the grass.


News programs turned into nightmares, Sunday Schools

turned into burial grounds, sitting under rubble where little

books about Jesus, God, and Judas burned like kindling but still left us believing

we would all reach the promised land.


No one said we would be crossing the bloody green grass to get there.


Elementary school turned into middle school which turned

into high school where they bused my sister from one 

campus to the other, passing our green grass to spend a

few hours walking across their perfectly manicured grass.


She knew about bloody green grass.


Childhood turned into adulthood and there

it was in every neighborhood I moved, the smell of

bloody green grass. John Fitzgerald dead, Martin Luther dead, Viola

dead, three students dead in Mississippi and don't forget Malcolm.


I now knew about the bloody green grass.


Green grass still grows in my Southern town although

history has been rewritten to show daisies growing

so thick that no one sees the blood, no one seems

to remember the smell.


I do.


Green grass will never look terribly good to me.




(In memory of Perry Small, my maternal great-grandfather, whose blood is on the green grass.)


Evelynn Ellis, D. Ed. is Vice President for Institutional Diversity at Dartmouth College.

Hanover, New Hampshire

July 23, 2014