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An African American woman moved home to take care of her dying mother giving up the opportunity to experience a world beyond segregation. Zoraida Hughes Williams finds that some things have changed about her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas while some have stayed the same, like Hell’s Half Acre, an area where saloons, prostitution and gambling runs wild. Like most of the residents, she wants to keep her head down and stay away from trouble, but it comes in the unlikely form of an Anglo Baptist preacher. He messes up everything and almost gets them killed.
But Zo’s time back East had given her a greater sense of who she was as a colored person. But Hattie needed to have words with her daughter today.
“Is your sister back?”
Hardy stopped and looked at her mother. Hardy was next to the oldest child for her mother. She was her father’s oldest. Unlike Zo, her skin was a rich creamy brown and her eyes matched. At 26 years old, she was the wife of a husband, John Oliver, who worked at the meat packing plant, mother of two and part time cook for a white Baptist minister. Her days and nights were full, but she also looked after her very sick mother. It was not as difficult since her oldest sister came back home. She only looked in on her mother while Zo went to town. She cooked too, because she didn’t think Zo knew how to.
“Mama, you asked me that ten minutes ago. She is not back yet. You know she has to go get the papers and sashay all over town. She need to get a job with her uppity self. She think she too good to clean and cook. What else can a woman do?”
“She got some education, Hardy. She can teach or nurse. She gonna do better than me.”
Hardy came back in the room.
“Ain’t nobody gonna do better than you, mama. You raised us, sent us to school…”
“I’m not talking about that. I mean she got some real book learning.”
“She smart, but you know that Rev Norris, is really smart too. He helped start a bible college right here in Fort Worth.”
“If I am asleep, you tell Zo to wake me up.”
Hardy knew that tone. She knew someone was going to get a whipping, even if it was just with words.