• Nina Kennedy

"Practicing for Love" Versus Mary Trump, John Bolton, Michael Cohen, et al


I couldn't care less about Donald Trump, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, John Bolton, et al. Trump's niece, Mary, writes a book on her uncle, and hundreds of thousands of books are ordered before its release. John Bolton has a best-seller out, and he chose to make money instead of testifying before Congress. Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen wants to write a book, but Trump sent him back to prison for refusing to sign a statement saying that he would not write a book. Convicted felon Roger Stone is talking about writing a book, and is free to do so since Trump commuted his sentence.

All of it is disgusting to me. Trump has murdered well over a hundred thousand Americans via his incompetence, denial, and self-absorption. Yet nothing seems to happen to the bad guys. Meanwhile, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, et al are still dead - killed by police for being black.

In my book (Practicing for Love: A Memoir), which has not sold hundreds of thousands of copies, I wrote about pianist and matriarch for the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ella Sheppard. Though she was not an ancestor, she was a role-model and inspiration for my mother and grandmother. Ella Sheppard was born on Andrew Jackson's plantation the Hermitage, just outside of Nashville. Her father, Simon, was descended from Jackson's brother, so he did enjoy certain privileges on the plantation, such as being able to rent himself out to other plantations for pay. When Simon wanted to purchase his own freedom from his master, along with the freedom for his family, his master allowed him to pay for himself. But he would not allow him to purchase his wife and daughter. When Simon's wife, Sarah, got wind of this, she was ready to kill her daughter and herself. She took her daughter down to the river fully intending to die, when an old slave woman appeared. "Don't do it, Honey," the old woman said to Sarah. "The Lord has need of this child. Don't you see God's chariot swingin' low from Heaven? This child will stand before kings and queens..."

The Fisk Jubilee Singers performing for Queen Victoria

Ella Sheppard eventually did stand before kings and queens as a soprano in the Fisk Jubilee Singers. She is also credited with penning the arrangement of the spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that was quoted in Antonín Dvořák's Symphony from the New World.

Back on the plantation, it was rumored that the white slave mistress was the one who refused to sell Sarah. "She is mine, and she will die mine," the mistress was quoted as saying. When she learned of Sarah's near murder-suicide, she relented and allowed Simon to purchase his own daughter for $350. Simon and young Ella left the plantation, eventually moving to Ohio. Sarah was eventually sold to a plantation in Mississippi.

These are the stories that white Americans should want to read. But they are obsessed with their criminal white male politicians, confederate generals, etc. Donald Trump is of the same ilk. They would much rather read about how these men got away with their crimes than read about the people who were the direct victims of their crimes.

Ella Sheppard's story does have a "happy" ending. After traveling with the Fisk Jubilee Singers and teaching as a faculty member at Fisk, Ella Sheppard was able to purchase her own home in Nashville which she shared with her husband and two sons. She was eventually able to track down her elderly mother in Mississippi, and brought her back to Nashville to spend her final years in her home.

Meanwhile, Practicing for Love is available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and countless international websites. If you would like to have an autographed copy, order from our website at infemnity.com/shop.

Ella Sheppard with her husband, sons, and mother Sarah