Author remembers her roots
by Larry S. Chowning
Joan E. Gosier is author of Cotton Pickin’ Paycheck, a journal of her life that she self-published in 2009 and has been updating ever since.
Gosier’s father, John Robert Johnson, was a native of Middlesex born in 1909. His ancestors were slaves of the Jones family that owned Hewick Plantation near Urbanna. The land Gosier owns today in the Remlik area was part of the Hewick estate.
Gosier’s book describes the hard road many blacks experienced in Middlesex County and throughout the South after slavery.
Her grandfather, Grant Johnson, was born near Urbanna in 1883 and worked the water. Gosier’s ancestors were mostly hard-working oystermen during a time when the river provided an opportunity for former slaves to earn money—enough to buy property.
Throughout most of the South, former slaves either left their master’s land in hopes of a better life in the North or worked their former master’s land as sharecroppers. However, there was little sharecropping in Middlesex County.
Gosier’s ancestors parlayed their earnings from oystering into buying some of Jones’ land. Today, Gosier lives with her family on some of that land bought with oyster money.
Her journal is not just about her family’s past but it is about her thoughts, feelings, experiences and philosophy as a black woman who grew up in Middlesex, left, and moved back.
“As I reflect upon the glimpses of the trials that my great-grandparents endured, I feel that in 2009 we are becoming as weak as our weakest link,” she wrote. “Have U ever noticed that the caboose has NEVER moved a train out of a station? It takes a powerful engine to move the caboose. When we know better we can do better. For the first time in this country, we have an opportunity to DO more than we have ever been able to do legally, technologically, socially, economically or politically and we refuse to embrace our resources and just do it.”
Gosier’s 400-page book gives some major insight into the thinking of a young, black woman as she longs to understand her past and looks into her own future and the future of her children. She regrets past generations of blacks in Middlesex not having the same opportunities as she and her children. She laments that many blacks today do not appreciate the opportunities that are now available.
She uses experiences from her own life and her own personal successes and failures to enlighten readers and encourage them to take the right path. Throughout the text, she speaks of religious conviction as being a primary source leading to success.
Her high school years in Baltimore and her college days at Hampton University provide insight into her own social struggles when growing up.
The title of her book is a spin-off on her first paycheck that she earned in a crab-picking house in Urbanna. It was for $11 and she decided after a couple of days not to go back to the picking house.
She uses her experience at the crab house and crabs in a cooking pot as a personification of her own life experiences. “My mother used to say to me, ‘See, if you live your life right and don’t go chasing false bait… you will never let yourself get thrown in that pot to begin with.’ ”
Joan Gosier lives with her family in Urbanna and operates several websites to promote family culture and education. She is also a substitute teacher in the Middlesex County School System and does after-school tutoring at Grafton Baptist Church.
Cotton Pickin’ Paycheck recently received a five-star review on Amazon.com and can be purchased online.
Gosier will be one of the local authors featured at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Middlesex County Public Library from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 5. She will answer questions and sign copies of her book.