Set on the bloody side of the Ohio River, life at Sweet Home mocks the "Old Kentucky Home" of
Stephen Foster's saccharine, sentimental set pieces. For Mr. Garner's male slaves, life is bondage,
longing, and potential death if they step outside the prescribed norms of behavior. Baby Suggs and
Sethe, separated by color, class, and privilege from Mrs. Garner, know the eternal ache of seeing
their loved ones "run off . . . hanged . . . rented out, loaned out, bought up, brought back, stored up,
mortgaged, won, stolen or seized." For Sethe, blessed with six years of marriage to a loving man,
the only tempering mechanism for daily drudgery lies in sprigs of myrtle, salsify, and mint that
sweeten the bitterness of servitude. But for Baby Suggs, too lost in a milieu of passing mates and
disappearing family, reality is a slave's truth: ". . . nobody stopped playing checkers just because the
pieces included her children."
For Cincinnati blacks, slavery's legacy lies beyond the whip, far from the auction block, a generation
away from dogs, slave catchers, patrollers, rapists, child-sellers, iron bits, and pronged necklaces.