By Marcella S. Meeks
In the early 1800’s, there lived a girl named Clementine Hunter. She lived with her family at the Melrose plantation located near Natchitoches, Louisiana.
A plantation is a large farm where crops are grown, like cotton, corn or other vegetables. Clementine spent her entire life living and working on a plantation.
She was very poor as a young girl. She didn’t attend school in her younger days often, and she never learned to read or write. Clementine lived a hard and harsh life.
When Clementine grew up, she married, and had five children. She picked cotton, and had to take her children to the fields everyday. Picking cotton was no easy job, but she enjoyed it.
Clementine was promoted from the fields to the house. She became the gardener and took care of the laundry. She made clothes for the plantation owner’s children and their dolls. Designing clothes was another of Clementine’s many talents. She loved to make quilts in beautiful rich colors.
Over the years, Melrose Plantation where Clementine lived became a haven for many artists and writers. They came from all over to paint or write in the peaceful atmosphere at Melrose.
Clementine couldn’t afford crayons, markers or paints. She would receive small amounts of paint from artists who came to Melrose. Sometimes, she’d find paint left over after they’d leave.
She couldn’t afford a canvas or expensive paper to use for her drawings so she would use things like bottles, pieces of cardboard or brown paper bags to paint pictures on. She painted things about her life on the plantation, about things she did, what she saw, and what others about her were doing. Without using words, she used her paintings to tell the story of her life and work on the plantation. These paintings, though they were simple, became the storybook of her life.
She became the first African American woman to exhibit in the New Orleans Museum of Art and Louisiana’s Most Famous Folk Artist.
After all Clementine’s hard work, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by Northwestern State University of Natchitoches. Her name is preserved in the famous walk of stars in the city of Natchitoches.
Marcella has been writing since 1988. Her work has appeared in Authorship, National Writers Association, Primary Treasure, The Guide Magazine and Our Little Friend, Smarty Pants for Kids, Funds for Writers, First Writer Newsletter and Adelaide Literary Magazine, to name a few. She taught Sunday School for over twenty years for children ages 7-9 year olds.