Washington’s Birthday, 1956

Washington’s Birthday, 1956

When I was in first grade,
I told Eric, who was black,
that in his costume and white wig,
which he wore as the star in the school play,
he looked just like George Washington
except for his skin color.

He laughed, embarrassed.
I was scolded.
I apologized.
I hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings.
Didn’t Washington always tell the truth?

I didn’t know he’d owned slaves.
I didn’t know about centuries
of lynchings on cherry trees.


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