Edward P Jones Quotes

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We are all worthy of one another.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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The hitter can never be the judge. Only the receiver of the blow can tell you how hard it was, whether it would kill a man or make a baby just yawn.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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A woman, no matter the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man . . . stops learning at fourteen or so.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Calvin had long been uneasy in his own person and so lived to put everyone else at ease.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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You too heavy a man for me to carry...I done carried heavy men and I know how they can break your back. I ain’t got but this one back and I don’t want it broke again...
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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A man does not learn very well, Mr. Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr. Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Whenever people in that part of the world asked Patterson about the wonders of America, the possibilities and the hope of America, Patterson would say that it was a good and fine place but all the Americans were running it into the ground and that it would be a far better place if it had no Americans.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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(Her husband's departure ...) had picked Mildred up by the hair and dropped her down at the doorstep of insanity. From "Butterfly on F street
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Edward P. Jones
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God is in his heaven and he don't care most of the time. The trick of life is to know when God does care and do all you need to do behind his back.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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[He] went on to tell her that certain work songs made the work a little easier, but that there were others, depending upon the time of day, that dragged a body down, so 'you just gotta be careful with your songs and your hummin' and whatnot.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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The wonderful thing about writers like [James] Baldwin is the way we read them and come across passages that are so arresting we become breathless and have to raise our eyes from the page to keep from being spirited away.
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Edward P. Jones (Notes of a Native Son)
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He knew he was going to die but he thought this little thing might provide him with a nothing stool way off in the corner of heaven reserved for fools, people too stupid to come out of the rain. People got to that corner by heaven's back door.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Priscilla watched her husband as he slowly drifted into sleep, and once he was asleep, she took hold of his hand and put it to her face and smelled all of the outside world that he had brought in with him and then she tried to find sleep herself.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Augustus wasn’t driving the wagon very fast because he had his family together again and all time was now spread out before him over the valley and the mountains forever and ever.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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But where, in all she taught her son, was it about thou shall own no one, havin been owned once your own self. Don’t go back to Egypt after God done took you outa there.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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A few women had cried, remembering the way Henry smiled or how he would join them in singing or thinking that the death ofanyone, good or bad, master or not, cut down one more tree in the life forest that shielded them from their own death; but most said or did nothing.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Most crimes and misdemeanors by slaves were dealt with by their masters; they could even hang a slave if he killed another slave, but that would have been like throwing money down a well after the slave had already thrown the first load of money down, as William Robbins once told Skiffington.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Best hurry, he thought. Best get outa this weather. He wanted to die but he really didn't want to catch a cold to do it.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Without all that young stuff, Stamford, you will die a slave. And it will not be a pretty die.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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People, I have learned, have a way of taking root in one's still-developing mind without our knowing it, especially people, like [James] Baldwin, who live in the world of words.
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Edward P. Jones (Notes of a Native Son)
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Render your body to them" his father had taught, "but know your soul belongs to God.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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We leave, we run away and don't realize how much we'll need to go back home one day. The South is like that. It's the worst mama in the world and it's the best mama in the world.
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Edward P. Jones (All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories)
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His droning on and on was a bit soothing, far more than Calvin’s hand on her arm or the children’s smiling up at her. His talking told her in some odd way that one day the pain would at least be cut in half.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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When Augustus Townsend died in Georgia near the Florida line, he rose up above the barn where he had died, up above the trees and the crumbling smokehouse and the little family house nearby, and he walked away quick-like, toward Virginia. He discovered that when people were above it all they walked faster, as much as a hundred times faster than when they were confined to the earth. And so he reached Virginia in little or no time. He came to the house he had built for his family, for Mildred his wife and Henry his son, and he opened and went through the door. He thought she might be at the kitchen table, unable to sleep and drinking something to ease her mind. But he did not find his wife there. Augustus went upstairs and found Mildred sleeping in their bed. He looked at her for a long time, certainly as long as it would have taken him, walking up above it all, to walk to Canada and beyond. Then he went to the bed, leaned over and kissed her left breast. The kiss went through the breast, through skin and bone, and came to the cage that protected the heart. Now the kiss, like so many kisses, had all manner ofkeys, but it, like so many kisses, was forgetful, and it could not find the right key to the cage. So in the end, frustrated, desperate, the kiss squeezed through the bars and kissed Mildred’s heart. She woke immediately and she knew her husband was gone forever. All breath went and she was seized with such a pain that she had to come to her feet. But the room and the house were not big enough to contain her pain and she stumbled out ofthe room, out and down the stairs, out through the door that Augustus, as usual, had left open. The dog watched her from the hearth. Only in the yard could she begin to breathe again. And breath brought tears. She fell to her knees, out in the open yard, in her nightclothes, something Augustus would not have approved of. Augustus died on Wednesday.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Moses had thought that it was already a strange world that made him a slave to a white man, but God had indeed set it twirling and twisting every which way when he put black people to owning their own kind. Was God even up there attending to business anymore?
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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His oldest child from his second marriage, Matthew, stayed up all the night before he was buried, putting his father’s history on a wooden tombstone. He began with his father’s name on the first line, and on the next, he put the years ofhis father’s coming and going. Then all the things he knew his father had been. Husband. Father. Farmer. Grandfather. Patroller. Tobacco Man. Tree Maker. The letters ofthe words got smaller and smaller as the boy, not quite twelve, neared the bottom ofthe wood because he had never made a headstone for anyone before so he had not compensated for all that he would have to put on it. The boy filled up the whole piece ofwood and at the end of the last line he put a period. His father’s grave would remain, but the wooden marker would not last out the year. The boy knew better than to put a period at the end ofsuch a sentence. Something that was not even a true and proper sentence, with subject aplenty, but no verb to pull it all together. A sentence, Matthew’s teacher back in Virginia had tried to drum into his thick Kinsey head, could live without a subject, but it could not live without a verb.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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It mattered not how long he had wandered in the wilderness, how long they had kept him in chains, how long he had helped them and kept himself in his own chains; none of that mattered now. He patted the baby’s back, turned around and went back to the Richmond Home for Colored Orphans. No, it did not matter. It mattered only that those kind of chains were gone and that he had crawled out into the clearing and was able to stand up on his hind legs and look around and appreciate the difference between then and now, even on the awful Richmond days when the now came dressed as the then.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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But he was a free and clear man, and the law said so. Augustus never hurt me, never said bad to me. What Harvey done was wrong. But tellin you don’t put me on the nigger side. I’m still on the white man side, John. I’m still standin with the white. God help me if you believe somethin else about me.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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She went through her memory for the time, for the day, she and and her husband told him all about what he should and should not do. No goin out into them woods without Papa or me knowin about it. No steppin foot out this house without them free papers, not even to go to the well or the privy. Say your prayers every night...Pick the blueberries close to the ground, son. Them the sweetest, I find. If a white man say the trees can talk, can dance, you just say yes right along, that you done seen em do it plenty of times. Don't look them people in the eye. You see a white woman riding toward you, get way off the road and go stand behind a tree. The uglier the white woman, the farther you go and the broader the tree. But where, in all she taught her son, was it about thou shall own no one, havin been owned once your own self. Don't go back to Egypt after God done took you outa there.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Henry had been a good master, his widow decided, as good as they come. Yes, he sometimes had to ration the food he gave them. But that was not his faultβ€”had God sent down more food, Henry would certainly have given it to them. Henry was only the middleman in that particular transaction. Yes, he had to have some slaves beaten, but those were the ones who would not do what was right and proper. Spare the rod . . . , the Bible warned. Her husband had done the best he could, and on Judgment Day his slaves would stand before God and testify to that fact.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Henry,” Robbins said, looking not at him but out to the other side ofthe road, β€œthe law will protect you as a master to your slave, and it will not flinch when it protects you. That protection lasts from here”—and he pointed to an imaginary place in the roadβ€”β€œall the way to the death ofthat property”—and he pointed to a place a few feet from the first place. β€œBut the law expects you to know what is master and what is slave. And it does not matter ifyou are not much more darker than your slave. The law is blind to that. You are the master and that is all the law wants to know. The law will come to you and stand behind you. But ifyou roll around and be a playmate to your property, and your property turns round and bites you, the law will come to you still, but it will not come with the full heart and all the deliberate speed that you will need. You will have failed in your part ofthe bargain. You will have pointed to the line that separates you from your property and told your property that the line does not matter.
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Edward P. Jones
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Mary O'Donnell had been nursing that baby, and the day after Agnes was committed to the sea, her milk stopped flowing. She thought it only a natural result of grieving for Agnes. She would go on to have three more children with her second husband, the seller of Augustus Townsend's walking sticks, but with each child the milk did not return. "Where is my milk?" Mary asked God with each of the three children. "Where is my milk?" God did not give her an answer and he gave her not one drop of milk. With the second and third children, she asked Mary the mother of Jesus to intercede with God on her behalf. "Didn't he give you milk for your child?" she asked Mary. "Wasn't there milk aplenty for Jesus?
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Celeste was practically talking to herself now because Stamford and the baby were in a world of their own. The baby's hands had reached the man's face and he was tapping every feature of it, doing everything that was necessary for the man to say the words the baby had come to expect in their brief history together. Stamford's mouth opened more and more. 'You here early this mornin,' Stamford Crow Blueberry would say to Ellwood Freemen that day some twenty years later in Richmond. Ellwood would be walking up the street with the reins of his horse in his hand, and Stamford would be walking with a baby resting on his shoulder, the newest member of the Richmond Home for Colored Orphans. Mother and father killed in a fire. Walking and singing to the baby in the morning seemed to calm the infant for the rest of the day. Ellwood Freemen would say, 'I have come to fulfill my duty, just as I promised, Mr. Blueberry. Is that to be one of my pupils?' Stamford would shake his hand, nodding. Ellwood said, 'You look as if you didn't believe I would keep my word.' 'Oh,' Stamford said, 'I whatn't worried. I know where your mama and papa live. I know where I could find them to tell em that their boy didn't keep his word.' Ellwood told him he had to tend to some business elsewhere in Richmond and would return shortly to settle in at the home for orphans. He got on his horse and rode slowly out to the main street, the street that would be named for Stamford Blueberry and his wife Delphie. Blueberry, with the new orphan on his shoulder, followed. He watched Ellwood take his time going off and Stamford that day would realize for the first time just how far they had come. He would have cried as he had that day after the ground opened up and took the dead crows, but he had in his arms a baby new to being an orphan. Stamford, it don't matter now, he told himself, watching Ellwood and the horse saunter away. It don't matter now. The day and the sun all about him told that was true. It mattered not how long he had wandered in the wilderness, how long they had kept him in chains, how long he had helped them and kept himself in his own chains; none of that mattered now. He patted the baby's back, turned around and went back to the Richmond Home for Colored Orphans. No, it did not matter. It mattered only that those kind of chains were gone and that he had crawled out into the clearing and was able to stand up on his hind legs and look around and appreciate the differences between then and now, even on the awful Richmond days when the now came dressed as the then. Behind him, as he walked back, was the very corner where more than a hundred years later they would put that first street sign - Stamford and Delphie Crow Blueberry Street.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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But the law expects you to know what is master and what is slave . . . if you roll around and be a playmate to your property, and your property turns around and bites you, the law will come to you still, but it will not come with the full heart and all the deliberate speed you will need. You will have failed in your part of the bargain. You will have pointed to the line that separates you from your property and told your property that the line does not matter
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The Known World
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But the law expects you to know what is master and what is slave . . . if you roll around and be a playmate to your property, and your property turns around and bites you, the law will come to you still, but it will not come with the full heart and all the deliberate speed you will need. You will have failed in your part of the bargain. You will have pointed to the line that separates you from your property and told your property that the line does not matter
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Edward P. Jones
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So at trial, with the weight of all the harm done to him and because he had hidden for months in one shit hole after another, he was not always himself and thought many times that he was actually there for killing Golden Boy, the first dead man. He was not insane, but he was three doors from it, which was how an old girlfriend, Yvonne Miller, would now and again playfully refer to his behavior.
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Edward P. Jones
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In 1855 in Manchester County, Virginia, there were thirty-four free black families, with a mother and father and one child or more, and eight of those free families owned slaves, and all eight knew each other’s business.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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The hitter can never be the judge. Only the receiver of the blow can tell you how hard it was, whether it would kill a man or make a baby just yawn.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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In the spring of 1844, a good many white people in Manchester County remained uneasy about news from other places about slave β€œrestlessness” that had gone on a few years before. In the North, people called it slave uprisings, but in much of Virginia the word uprisings had an abolitionist undertone and was felt to be too strong for what many slaveowners preferred to characterize as β€œa family squabble,” instigated by unknowns not part of the family.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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But my mother wanted her children to be educated by nuns and priests all dressed in black, the way it had been done down through the generations with her people. Taught by people who had a firm grasp of how big and awful the world could be.
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Edward P. Jones (All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories)
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What we need is a new God. Somebody who knows what the fuck he's doing.
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Edward P. Jones (All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories)
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As for the absence of recovery, as for death, there are machines that are not meant for the road.
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Edward P. Jones (All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories)
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They treat colored people like kings and queens in Washington, cause thas where the president lives. Would they treat colored people anything but good in a city where the president hangs his hat and pets his dog and snores besides Mrs. President every night? Now would they?
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Edward P. Jones (All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories)
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Calvin had said, his hands hard at his sides.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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A woman born to teaching wakes in the morning desperate to be near her pupils. I was that way. I am that way. I have told my own children and my husband to put on my grave marker 'Mother' and 'Teacher.' That before all else, even my own name. And if the chiseler has room, to have him put 'Wife.' 'Wife' below my name. 'Dutiful Wife,' if he can manage it.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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I have been given credit when I should not have. And there have been times when I was denied the credit due me. But that is the fate of many a teacher, the good and the bad.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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The kiss went through the breast, through skin and bone, and came to the cage that protected the heart. Now the kiss, like so many kisses, had all manner of keys, but it, like so many kisses, was forgetful, and it could not find the right key to the cage. So in the end, frustrated, desperate, the kiss squeezed through the bars and kissed Mildred's heart. She woke immediately and she knew her husband was gone forever. All breath went and she was seized with such a pain that she had to come to her feet.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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I wanted to tell you somethin, and I have been workin my mind so the words will tumble out in a straight line. You know how that can be, John." "I do, Barnum. Just set them words one by one and they'll do fine and we'll get where we got to go.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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It ain't right," Celeste said. "It just ain't right to go and do what they bought you for. Why make it easy?
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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I told you to stop, dammit! Nigger, all I wanted was for you to stop." Augustus heard him and he wanted to say that that was the biggest lie he had ever heard in his life, but he was dying and words were precious.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Celeste had no love for Henry either, but death had taken all his power and now she could afford a little bit of charity.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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I raised my hand to it, not to touch but to try to feel more of what was emanating.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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The glee spread throughout the baby's body. He began clapping his hands, not as any sort of applause but because there was so much happiness in his body that this was the only way he could release some of it.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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It mattered only that those kind of chains were gone and that he had crawled out into the clearing and was able to stand up on his hind legs and look around and appreciate the difference between then and now, even on the awful Richmond days when the now came dressed as the then.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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She called him "William" for the first time when the child was a week old and he did not correct her, came to enjoy the way his name flowed out of her mouth and seemed to swirl about in the air like some meaningless song before his brain registered and told him that was his name.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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A man does not learn very well, Mr. Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter the age, is always learning, always becoming.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Robbins, with Dora and Louis on either side, did not speak. A storm came into his head and he missed a good part of the service.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Ralph's people in Washington were not as bad as he had always thought. The drunkard had found God a week after a Fourth of July and had said good-bye to the bottle for good. Washington was good to the old man's bones.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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He stood there for a very long time, and the longer he stood, the more he sank. All the heart he had for living in the world began to leave him. He could feel the life running down his chest, his arms and legs, doing something for the ground that it had never been able to do for him.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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Henry's funeral lasted a little more than an hour. All the slaves he owned surrounded his family and friends and the hole where they put him. Because Valtims Moffett was late, they started without him. Not knowing when Moffett would arrive, Caldonia decided that there, at the end, God would not hold it against Henry Townsend for not having a proper conductor on his last train.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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It wasn't bad but he could never make a life of eating the thingsβ€”God had given him a head full of good teeth, but not a one of them was sweet.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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It was twilight and the stars were quite evident in the sky. The moon, still low, was behind Skiffington and only Barnum could see it.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
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The free men in Manchester knew the tenuousness of their lives and always endeavored to be upstanding; they knew they were slaves with just another title.
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Edward P. Jones (The Known World)