Invisible History: Growing Up Colored in Cape Charles Virginia, A Memoir by Tom Godwin as Told To Metty Vargas Pellicer
About the Book:
The book is a memoir about growing up Black in Cape Charles, Virginia on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It details the origin of the town as a railroad terminus and connecting to ferry barges across the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, through its golden age in the Jim Crow South and its decline with the ascendancy of automobiles and the building of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, its rise again as a tourist destination in the past decade and how the fortunes of the town is chronicled, without acknowledgment of the role of the Black community, which was a robust and thriving parallel community, that evolved in response to the segregation of the Jim Crow South. Now the town is rising again as a tourist destination and replacing the black section with white weekend second home owners. The Black presence has considerably diminished. Without a recording of its history its entire memory will be gone, as if it never was there at all. The memoir details the life of one Black man, who is the grandson of a slave but became the first elected Black member of the Town Council and the first Black member elected to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors. It addresses Black and White relations and the experience of being Black and how one navigates the JIm Crow racist era. By reading this account of a Black man’s life, one may develop a better understanding, of why we are experiencing still racial injustice and inequality, after legal barriers had been abolished by the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Its target audience would be all who are interested, both Blacks and Whites, in learning how they still carry the legacy of slavery in their hearts and how it informs their behavior at present and how by acknowledging their racist beliefs, they can choose to correct it with actions, that help realize the dream of true equality of the races and fulfill the lofty promise of the Revolution, in its declaration of the self-evident truth, that all men are created equal, with unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Writing with sensitivity to her subject’s experiences, the author translated one man’s memories into an engaging account of how he navigated growing up Black in the Eastern Shore’s Jim Crow world. She also details the exciting birth of the city that the railroad built and the robust and lively Black community that developed parallel to the White community which is not given any attention in any account of the city’s history. She gave voice to her subject’s lament that unless someone writes about the life of Blacks in this city, his people will continue to be counted as ⅗ of a person, not a full human being, best ignored and forgotten. It addresses Black and White relations and how one becomes Black. Her account of his family and his abounding faith Is particularly moving and could help us understand why we are still experiencing racial injustice and inequality after legal barriers had been abolished by the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
A personal recollection of one’s experience growing up Black in Cape Charles, Virginia that is surprising in its details of family and community life and how robust and full was the parallel universe that evolved in response to the segregation of the Jim Crow era. This one man’s account hopefully will contribute to the understanding of what racism is about and move the races towards equality and social justice.
About the Author
Metty Vargas Pellicer aka Fiameta Vargas, Fiameta Pellicer is a grandmother and Psychiatrist who moved to Cape Charles after her retirement from medical practice in Atlanta Georgia. She met Tom by chance in a fundraising event where he was one of the story tellers recalling what it was like in Cape Charles back in the day. He spoke about wanting to write about his experiences before his memory fades, but he didn’t know how. This gave the author an aha moment: to offer to write his memoir, and an exciting journey of discovery and collaboration began for both. The author has two books published, a memoir of her travels, Hello, From Somewhere: Stories of the Roads I Traveled and From Miman, With Love: A Grandmother’s Memoir. She was working on a novel, a historical fiction set in nineteenth century Philippines, Imperfect Pearl, which she did not hesitate to set aside, for the opportunity to shed some light into the hidden history of this fascinating region, the Eastern Shore.