Jester Hairston’s recent death and accompanying article triggered a personal and vivid incident in my memory that occurred some 40 years ago. In late 1959, as a 7th grader, I was assigned the topic of “slavery” for a history project. I had recently heard Mr. Hairston give a workshop on the subject here in Los Angeles, so I wrote to him for added information. At the time, he was in Texas filming “The Alamo.” I was thrilled to receive a two-page, single-spaced, typewritten letter by Mr. Hairston thanking me for my interest and chronicling, in detail, the daily life of a typical black slave. It was absolutely fascinating and valuable information. Incredibly, in the rush to finish my project, I lost the precious letter. I cringe even now at the audacity I had to write a second letter to Mr. Hairston, first apologizing and then requesting the same information all over again. Unbelievably, a second letter arrived from Mr. Hairston, diverse and even longer than the first (I know this because I eventually fund the original letter,) To this day, the humility and kindness that this remarkably and gracious man offered a young 13-year-old school girl touches my heart and brings me to tears. I deeply treasure both letters.
We need to share his message and save those songs.