I didn’t really celebrate my birthday this year because I had the flu. But at least I knew I had a birthday. My parents told me some of the details of the day I was born. My mom went into labor six weeks early and they wouldn’t let her in the hospital because my dad hadn’t finished paying the bill. He had to borrow money from a friend before the hospital admitted my mom. (How times have changed!)
What if you didn’t know the day you were born? How would that affect your self-worth? Imagine never having a birthday cake and never blowing out candles. What if you never even had a candle to light? Would you feel like there was no light in your life, and you didn’t deserve any?
If you read my blog about former slave, Jacob Stroyer, you know his exact birthdate was unknown. The records only tell us he was born in either 1846 or 1849. Most slaves never knew the day they were born. They often had to guess at the year of their birth.
Knowing one’s birthday gives a sense of destiny. I was born on an exact day and on that day God began His exact purpose for my life on earth. Slaves’ births were not important enough to be recorded.
If no thought is given to someones’s birth, how can they believe their life has meaning? Without a reference point of one’s beginning, it is difficult to believe one has purpose.
The slavery culture demanded that slaves be treated as property, and to this end, slaves needed to believe they were property. Having no birth record and no true knowledge of one’s age helped establish this mindset of being a non-person. However, no matter how hard slave owners tried to instill this lack of worth, it did not succeed in those who tried to escape. When slaves found support from free men and women, black and white, who saw the injustice of slavery, it gave them hope. Many of these people worked on the Underground Railroad, which became a vehicle for slaves to reach their destiny. Runaways could see that freedom and a life of purpose was within their reach.
My novel for kids about twelve-year-old Moses who escapes on the Underground Railroad, Dark Enough to See the Stars, chronicles his adventures to freedom. He didn’t know his age, but he dreamed of a life of destiny and purpose and reached for it.