One City, One Story 2015 “Tell Your Story” Contest

Category:  Grade 6-8

2nd place

Jaol Esgo

by Uriah Foster, Grade 7


Jaol Esgo

In the beautiful land of Ghana in the 1840’s, there once lived a man by the name of Jaol Esgo.  He was a captain in the Ooda Clan army; he was very successful in his wars.  Then one day, the slave traders attacked his village, catching them off guard.  One warm night, crickets screeching, everything seemed perfect…until….Charge!!! A war cray, they descended into the camp, burning everything and taking everything, including the people of the clan.  After that, the night was filled with tears and screams and flames of fire.

The Boat

Jaol awoke to find his people in chains, sitting on wet and soggy floors.  The smell of death surrounded them.  His thoughts were interrupted by footsteps – clunk, clunk, and clunk!

“Hello Negros, I’m your new captain and my name is Jet.”

“Where are you taking my people?” Jaol exclaimed.

“That’s none of your business fool! You’re my property now,” Captain Jet responded. “We have a long way to go still, so get comfortable if you can,” he sneered.

Two months later, they hit land.  Jaol was relieved, excited to see land, but didn’t want to know his fate. He had heard about Africans being stolen away on ships, to be brought to a faraway land to work as slaves.

The Trading Block

“Good Morning Negros!  Everyone get up and get into one line. Make it quick,” he continued, “I ain’t got all day.” The sun shone brightly as Jaol and his people walked out of the boat onto a wooden stage where he witnessed his people getting sold like animals.  “Next!” said the auctioneer.  That was the first time this great warrior had ever felt this mount of fear and humiliation.  As Jaol seemed to go into a daze of deep thought, the word “Sold!” echoed throughout the crowd.  With that, he was escorted off the stage and into the hands of his new owner.

Master Johnson

He rode in chains to his new life.  The cart stopped and Jaol opened his eyes to find a plump white man with short blonde hair and blue eyes. “John,” he said with a long pause in between, “what did you get me? Is that another slave?”

“Yes, but he’s strong and hardworking, and I think he’ll fit right in with the others.”

“All right, then just take him to the shed and get him cleaned up and fed.”

“Yes, sir.”

So John pulled Jaol along on foot as he rode high on his horse to the shed.

New Folks

Jaol arrived at his new home.  Waiting for him were four other slaves: two men and two women. Their names were Mary, Sarah, John and James.  Mary was short in stature with green eyes and light brown skin. Sarah was just the opposite, tall and lean with brown eyes and smooth dark brown skin. Her hair was long and silky black neatly placed in two braids. John was average height with huge muscles in his arms and shoulders. He seemed like a quiet man, didn’t say much and barely looked up. The last member of the group, James, was also medium tall with green eyes and caramel-colored skin.

The days went by, but Jaol was having a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings. He was constantly being beaten because he wasn’t working fast enough or hard enough. He was caught several times a day dreaming out in the fields. He longed for his beautiful home in Ghana, but he knew he would never see the place he called home again. During most days, he and James worked together. They had gotten to know each other and would encourage and comfort one another on days when things were really bad. One day, James shared the news he had heard about an ex-slave who helped other slaves’ escape to the north.  He said her name was Harriet Tubman.  The route she used was called the Underground Railroad. Jaol was intrigued and questioned James more about this information.

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Jaol whispered.

“Yes, you heard me right.”

“I’m in!” Jaol agreed.

The River

James and Jaol were right at the water’s edge when they heard angry voice shout out, “Where Ya’ll Negros think youz going?!”

“C’mon James let’s hurry.” As they race across the Ohio River, shots rang out, Bang, Bang! “We’re under fire!” James yelled.  “We’ve got just about another meter left to go. We can make it!” Breathing heavily, the two men realized they were standing on free soil. The two men embraced and decided they should probably split up and go their separate ways.

A New Life

Jaol settled in Michigan in a small town called Detroit. There he met his wife, Jaque and they have four children together.  The second, of their four children is my great-great grandmother, Geraldine. The following generations of the Johnson family went on to work hard, build new lives, and fight in seven wars in order to protect the freedom of a nation who brought them here denying theirs.



View a list of the all the winners: