Every day I hear about new books. I could write this column seven days a week, 365 days a year and I couldn’t cover them all. The book I’m reviewing today merits more notice.
Longtime Dayton resident Glenn W. Jackson asked me to read his memoir. He is a black man, and when he was 92 he decided to write down his life story. His reflections were published as “A Sharecropper’s Son Turns His Dreams Into Reality: A Story of Faith and Strength.”
Glenn was the seventh child of George and Minnie Jackson. When he was born they were living near Washington Courthouse. They were sharecroppers. The family moved around a lot. They occupied whatever lodgings were available for them on the various Ohio farms where they labored.
The author takes his readers back almost a century to simpler, harder times. When Jackson was a small boy they didn’t have many of the modern conveniences that we probably take for granted; telephones, refrigerators, electric lights, bathtubs and toilets, automobiles, were luxuries that the family did mostly without.
They used horses for plowing, and Jackson was expected to help out with that. Jackson recalls “I had one particular horse, Coley. How could I even forget such a difficult animal and why my father gave Coley to me to work I never understood. My guess is that he did not care to work with this horse. Only a few times would my dad or older brother say, ‘Be careful this horse will kick and bite.’ I believed Coley came from “hell” to make my life miserable.”
Jackson figured out a way to work with Coley and in so doing showed some early signs of his character, ingenuity and will power. The author does have some fond memories of his youth; helping his mother in the garden, his mother’s cooking, and “one Easter Sunday the greatest thing happened to me when I accepted membership in the church.”
But mostly he was unhappy and determined to escape from his life as a sharecropper. He attended various one-room country schools. He remembers the schoolchildren sang. “I loved songs such as ‘row, row your boat’ but hated songs that were taken from the slaves. ‘Old Black Joe’ gave me an uncomfortable feeling.”
Jackson was in high school when the Great Depression hit. He quit school to help his dad on the farm. Eventually the family lost everything and Jackson’s relationship with his father ruptured, too. Jackson hit the road and ended up in Columbus, where he found employment working in the homes of some affluent white families. But he had dreams of a better life.
He resumed his education, graduated from Ohio State University, then had a successful career as a metallurgist with the Duriron Company in Dayton. Jackson’s determination and enduring faith in God have sustained him.
If you can’t find this book in your local bookstore, you can obtain a copy online through Amazon.com.
THIS WEEK’S BOOK
“A Sharecropper’s Son Turns His Dreams Into Reality: A Story of Faith and Strength” by Glenn W. Jackson (Glenn W. Jackson, 142 pages, $15)