Convinced

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:38-39

Sold for a Bag of Flour

13 Comments


co-authored by Joyce and Josetta Moore (my mom and sister)

In July of 1991, an elderly white couple drove their pickup truck into my grandparent’s driveway. The old woman sat in the driver’s seat, trying to console her distraught husband. As my grandmother pushed her walker toward the vehicle, the old man, through uncontrollable tears, cried, “My brother’s dead! My brother’s dead.” Grandma, in need of comfort herself, rubbed Mr. Younce on the hand, consoling him in his grief.

My grandmother’s name was Inez. The man who was dead was her husband, Charles “Bryant” Woodley. Mr. Younce had just heard that my grandpa was dead. When Mr. Younce said “brother,” it wasn’t church lingo or street talk. He really meant brother, someone who had grown up with him in his family.

Their story began in 1916, when my great-grandfather, Job, made a decision for his family that would change my grandfather’s life forever. My grandfather, Bryant, was the middle child in a family of 8, and times were hard, real hard. Difficulties mounted so that Job could no longer provide for his household.

He knew of the Younce family who owned a sawmill in their area of Macon, GA. Job went there with two of his younger sons and offered to give the boys over to the Younces as workers in exchange for food. Mr. Younce agreed to take eight year old Bryant, and gave Job a bag of flour to seal the exchange.

Bryant was raised with the Younce children, but never had any formal education. He spent his life doing household chores and working in the Younce family lumber yard. The Younces traveled over a period of years from Georgia, to Florida, to Virginia, young Bryant in tow. Upon leaving Virginia, they decided to move to North Carolina, this time bringing with them a truckload of 12 African American men. These men worked for the Younce family for many years in the lumber yards of eastern North Carolina, many of them becoming lifelong friends. Charlie Bryant worked with the family for over 73 years.

As a young child, I never knew the Younces very well, but I do remember visiting Granddaddy at the lumber yard on many occasions, stacking wood to earn money for candy and ice cream. Two of the Younce sons, James and Earl (and his wife Daisy), were like brothers to Granddaddy.

Over the years, as I’ve tried to process the relationship my grandfather had with the Younces, many conflicting thoughts and emotions came to mind. How difficult must it have been for Great-grandpa Job to let go of his young son? Was this some sort of post-reconstruction slave trade, Granddaddy being sold for a bag of flour? How many of the other children were “sold off” for a bag of flour or a side of beef or less? As his life unfolded in the midst of the Jim Crow South, how were the Younces publicly portraying their relationship to Granddaddy—as guardians or employers?

I don’t have any of the answers, but I am grateful that the Younces cared for Granddaddy and made him part of their family.

The tears that Earl Younce cried when Granddaddy died, the ways in which they cared for Grandma afterwards, all attest to a love that can’t be fully explained or understood with merely family history. That bag of flour bought for them a bond truly built on blood, sweat and tears, and love that crossed boundaries.

Note: Thanks to Noel Piper for allowing me to participate in her Black History Month guest post!

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Author: Kristie

I am a North Carolina native (eastern NC barbecue is where it's at!) and graduate of NC State University (Go Wolfpack!) with a degree in history. I am a wife, mother, and homemaker who loves cooking, hospitality, reading, and long walks with my hubby. We lived in the beautiful Cayman Islands for 8 years but now we're settled in Washington, DC and loving it!

13 thoughts on “Sold for a Bag of Flour

  1. Great post Kristie we all know there is a lot more to research.

  2. Pingback: Black History Month: Sold for a sack of flour « Noel Piper

  3. I’m so thankful for your story. it’s like living history. Thanks for your words. What a wonderful way to honor your family.

  4. KRISTE I REMEMBER A LOT OF DAY I STACKED , CHOP AND CUT WOOD FOR DADDY . GREAT STORY AND I HOPE ALOT OF PEOPLE AND FRIENDS UNDERSTAND THE VALVE OF LOVE , FAMILY AND FLOUR

  5. Christie,
    This is truly a moving story. For I know how deep down stories can draw out the inner-kidney feelings. Just yesterday as I was traveling as a passenger in my son’s car I pulled from the pocket of his back seat “The History of the Lester Family”, a moving yet true story. Please allow me to publish this article in our family paper.
    Thanks again.
    Shirley

  6. “…love that crossed boundaries.” I love that last paragraph.
    Thank you for sharing Kristie…great post!

  7. I would like to thank my family for sharing this with me and everyone. This story just brought tears to my eyes happy tears. I did not get to share life with my grandparents as everyone did but the times I did I enjoyed every moment. Those times were so important and special to and they will remain in my heart forever.I love you all for sharing this story. REST IN PEACE DAD, GRANDMA AND GRANDPA

  8. Its is truly an honor to learn about my Great grandfather and learn more about my family background. Rest in peace Grandpa Charles

  9. I ‘m so grateful you took this time to teach me something about my grandfather which i’m so Bless to carry the same name. I just hope to carry this name Charles B. Woodley with pride. Right now in our family i’m the only Charles B. Woodley

  10. Kristie,
    Thanks for sharing this part of your history. It’s a great window into what some people have experienced. As a life-long learner, I’m grateful for better understanding into African American history. I met you briefly at the DG Conference last fall. I’m currently a missionary in Kenya (have met your husband a few times at Bethlehem events) but I currently live with an African American here in Kenya. Honestly, I almost never feel out of place here among Kenyans. But if you put me in a room full of African Americans I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. Yet, I am so grateful for a more shared cultural background of my housemate, than the previous Kenyan I shared with. I’m on a constant learning curve. Thanks again. (Sorry for the ramble.) Blessings on you and your family’s ministry there in Grand Caymon.

  11. Kristie
    Well written! Thank You for sharing this blog. Our family is so full of love. And I thank all that came before us for building this loving bond we all have for each other. Even though it may look a little strange sometimes:)
    It is in part because of this beginning your sharing that has set us all on our life journeys. Miss You Granddaddy and Mr. Younce.
    I think Ill go visit Ms. Daisy when I go to NC.

  12. Yeah Kristie I remember growing up in the house with dad and as you know it went we had to stack up the piles of wood in the yard. When dad had the saw in the yard we use to have to go and help him. I would pass him the boards and he would cut them up and not only that he would take the boards that he cut down and made picnic tables and sold them. If he did not sell them you know like I know he would barter and trade off for peas or beans or seeds. Granddaddy was a truly amazing man not to have an education. He could figure out and count better that all of us who went to school. Dad taught me things growing up I did not even know I would need or use in my life. He was a truly amazing man.

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