In the September 19, 2011 New Yorker, Michael Schulman writes about the playwright, Katori Hall, whose new two-character play, “The Mountaintop,” dramatizes the last night of Martin Luther King’s life.
Hall comes from Memphis, where King died. Schulman traveled with her to Memphis and met her family. In writing about them, he says:
Hall has traced her ancestry to Matilda Jernigan, a slave born in South Carolina in 1845. [Hall’s mother] Carrie Mae’s mother, now eighty-four…grew up near Shreveport, Louisiana, and was a sharecropper on a cotton plantation in Texas. She and her siblings inherited about a thousand acres of land there, but, when oil surveyors arrived, the family, lacking good legal representation, sold off its mineral rights. She still receives checks for amounts less than a dollar, which she is too proud, or angry, to cash.
“Lacking good legal representation.” A phrase that drives me nuts. Have things gotten better? Don’t know but doubt it.