NBC's Bob Dotson talks about a friendship that began 150 years ago when a slave was bought at an auction, and a white family and a black family became connected. The two families have lived and worked together ever since in a constantly evolving relationship.
A Story of Slavery and Friendship
JANE PAULEY, anchor:
Bob Dotson in his pursuit of the American dream has found an old slave plantation in Florida where a dream was born that stills bears fruit.
BOB DOTSON reporting:
This is Ethan Allen Sapp. This is Willie May Lightburn. A hundred and fifty years ago, his granddaddy bought her grandfather at an auction. It was the start of a friendship. For nearly a century, Willie May and Ethan Allen’s folks bent over side by side in the fields, and when slavery ended, they tried something the neighbors in New River never quite understood. They tried to live as equals. The women helped each other give birth, the children shared their games, the men buried one another in the old cemetery behind the farmhouse.
ETHAN ALLEN SAPP: I think they did love each other, or they wouldn’t respected each other or cared for each other or tried to help each other as they did.
WILLIE MAY LIGHTBURN: We eat together, we play together. Didn’t cut no ice about the color.
BOB DOTSON: Willie May and Ethan Allen are the last who can tell the story. They live alone now, he in his father’s old house that has been locked and dried by the sun, she in a busy neighborhood a lifetime away. Long after the two families had left the plantation, they kept in touch with births and deaths and holiday visits. Willie May is ailing now, Ethan Allen has had a stroke. He still comes 300 miles to see her.
ETHAN ALLEN SAPP: Who is this lady sitting in here? Anybody know her?
WILLIE MAY LIGHTBURN: No, I don’t know her, do you know her?
ETHAN ALLEN SAPP: I don’t believe I do.
BOB DOTSON: Some friendships cannot be measured. They are the sum of a lifetime of kindness. For Today, Bob Dotson, NBC News, New River, Florida.