Book of the Month

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.

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“Zoraida Williams, if you aren’t the talk of the town.”

“I beg your pardon,” Zo said looking into the eyes of a beautiful mulatto woman who blocked her way down the street.

“My name is Agness Templeton and I am the proprietor of The Falls.”

Zo was a little taken back.

“Good afternoon,” Zo said then waited for the woman to tell her what she wanted.

“Why don’t we step across the street and have a private chat?”

“No, we can talk right here.”

A little frustrated, Agness sighed.

“Miss Zo, ladies who are as attractive as us have an opportunity that will give you more money than you know what to do with.”

“Are you about to ask me to be a whore? Cause if you are about to ask me to be a whore, you need to keep walking.”

Agness chuckled.

“We all make out living on our back, whether we married or not. You may as well get paid for it. And I mean good pay. At the Falls, we deal with only the finest gentlemen who pay us very well.”

The clothes Zo wore fooled this woman. She believed the persona that Zo intended.  What Agness did not see was the child who learned the workings of prostitution by watching her father exploit women.  Zo knew that the college education she received was paid for by prostitution.

“Do you not know who my daddy was?” Zo asked and waited for the woman to answer.

Agness saw something in Zo’s face that scared her.

“You destroy our gender when you allow someone to own and pay for you in such a manner.  You mock God’s word openly with others by working for a place called the Fall, when the really sad thing is that one day someone younger and prettier will replace you.  But as you fall, God will pick you back up.”

“You think you know everything, young woman…”

“Miss Templeton, my daddy made his living off of the backs of other women and was cut down like a dog in the street,” said Zo who paused a moment and looked both ways. “There’s a reason they called him Dirty, and you don’t have any of that. You be careful.”

Zo walked on shaking her head.

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