About my book


I am writing “Leaving Aberdeen,” because of my experiences in Aberdeen, Mississippi as a young girl with a rich cultural upbring.  After moving from the rural Mississippi where my family was sharecropping in 1950, my dad bought a new white house on Matubba Street in Aberdeen. I lived with my mom, dad, my brother, and my sister. I went to Pilgrim Rest church every Sunday and I sat down to Sunday dinner with sweet tea. My mom always cooked the best sweet potato pie.  Daddy worked at city hall, and he read his Bible every day after work. Mom was a maid and taught me how to dress up on Sunday for church with matching dresses and shoes and how to talk to people. I did my chores of feeding the chickens and digging holes in my mom’s flowers garden.  My companion, a German Shepard, Spooky who likes to run after balls in the backyard and eat dog bones. I spent hours watching the sunset in the evening at my home with Spooky beside me. Other times, I sat on the front porch with my mom and my sister.    I went to Vine Street Elementary school, and I was a shy child up until I attended Shivers High school. I was an average student in English class. I remember writing my essay about my mother, and my teacher handed it back to me with red check marks. She shook her head and responded, “Estell, keep practicing.”   Even though, I was happy in Aberdeen, I realized that the color of my skin mattered.  It was a racial divide and I lived in a segregated neighborhood.  When I went to town, there were signs, ‘Colored Only.’  My mom never told me that my dark skin elicited hate from the white people. When I went to the doctor or the grocery store, I had to stand in the back of line and go through the side door because of the strict rules of segregation. I remember my mom speaking up at the doctor office angrily because the nurse did not physically examine me or touch my skin. I ran out of the office with my mom.  I was worried that the police would drag her off to jail.

At fourteen years old, I vowed to leave Aberdeen.  After high school, I attended Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) for a year.  I boarded the trailways bus for New York City with 98 dollars and a box of chicken wrapped in foil. I visited my cousin, Elizabeth from Aberdeen. I stepped off the bus on 42nd street, I couldn’t stop looking up at the skyscraper, troves of yellow cabs, and herds of people walking the street. It was like I arrived in a different universe.  I got on the subway with metal seats, and I asked my cousin if I needed to sit in a special section. She said, “no girl, you are free!” We both giggled. I went to Brooklyn with my cousin, and I met Joseph, a handsome soldier at the apartment. When he opened his mouth, I knew that I was going to like this guy. He talked about the Harlem Renaissance, and I was impressed with his knowledge.  Just 6 months later, we married in Harlem, New York, and he was sent to Vietnam.  During this time, I began speaking up and voicing my opinion. I worked in a professional office in Manhattan, and I modeled. When my husband returned from Vietnam, I accepted my place beside him and supported his membership in the Black Panther Party.   We had two daughters in New York and another daughter in Atlanta. Joseph became my partner. Through it all, my love for my parents and family were a beacon of hope.

I was influenced by writing this book “Leaving Aberdeen” because my parents, my husband,  my brothers, and  are gone, and I wanted to leave a legacy for my family and young people to know about these heroes in my life.

When my sister died in 2015, It woke me up. She was the last of my family members.  I was so lonely without them. I decided that I needed to keep their memories alive.  In addition, I want young people to know my story from Aberdeen and my husband’s fight against injustice in the Black panther Party in 1968.  With my story, I hope to the change the narrative on race and to inspire other stories about the Black experience.

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