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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Monday, October 30, 2006

Historic Mitchell House; African-American History and more

The van Horn-Mitchell stands still today in Deanwood, Maryland, silent sentinel to proud Prince George’s. If ever there was a structure in Prince George’s County which deserved preservation for the history that passed through its doors, this house is it. Not only is it representative of a slave plantation house, but it was the home to a state delegate, speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, state senator and United States congressman, Archibold van Horn. And, then ,after a stay in James Fowler’s family, which perhaps was engaged in helping African-Americans escape from slavery as part of the underground railroad, it was bought by Benjamin and Clara Mitchell in the summer of 1940.

We save houses for their architectural interest or unique design features. We save buildings to show styles of times gone past, and we preserve sites in which important people and events took place. It is easy, it seems, to save a large grand structure of wealth from times past, but harder, by far, to realize that the homes of ordinary people, who achieved far from ordinary things, are just as important.

After a fire the day before Thanksgiving in 1991, enough of Prince George’s County’s community, led by a lawyer named Wayne Curry, sprang into action to save and rebuilt the structure. Now, it is time to come once more to support and preserve the house in a manner which it deserves. A house, in which Portia Washington Pittman, Malcolm X, Mohammed Ali, Anwar Sadat and Elijah Mohammed visited, conversed and held forth on matters of importance to the African American community and to the people of the Untied States at large, is a major contributing resource to the preservation of history in this county and in this country.

The Mitchells loved to speak about the community and the house, even the unexplained tunnel in the basement. Today the house is for sale, and the proud history is hidden, perhaps as an embarrassment, more likely, because someone feels it would lower the value at sale. Instead of touting history, history is obscured and lightly glossed over. This county, this community must stand up and preserve what is left of the structure before more uninformed alterations take place. Prince George’s County has much work to do in order to preserve the fast disappearing African American history of the county and the Mitchell House is a symbol which must not be lost.

Besides saving the structure from further abuse, oral histories need to be secured, perhaps an archeological study undertaken, and, at the very least, a history of the people and their times in and near this house needs to be written.

There is much to do, and little time;
history slips away at night, and is lost in the mists of memory.

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