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Marguerite was three and her brother, Bailey, four when they arrived in Stamps, Arkansas. They were to live with their grandmother, Momma Henderson, because their parents in California were divorcing. Momma owned a general store in the heart of the black area and sold lunches to workers all over town. During cotton season, the pickers left their lunch sacks at the store to be filled. Marguerite saw how the grueling, low-paid drudgery wore them down. Years later she would lash out against the stereotype of happy cotton pickers singing in the fields.
Momma’s son, Uncle Willie, made sure the children learned their lessons. Uncle Willie was dropped by a baby-sitter as an infant. This accident left his body twisted and one hand deformed. People tried not to look at him. He wore starched shirts and shined shoes. He tried to stand proud, but was the local scapegoat and butt of jokes. In a world where a strong black man could barely get by, Uncle Willie was resented because his family owned a store filled with shelves of food and other goods. One afternoon, he broke down when strangers asked to take his photo. Marguerite felt his pain at being stereotyped as a cripple.
Though she read and enjoyed the works of many classical white and black writers, Marguerite fell in love with Shakespeare because the first line in Sonnet 29, “When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes. (Ch2, EPUB)”, expressed exactly how she felt, and how she knew Uncle Willie felt.