The Wicker Diaries
From three generations of diary entries, follow the drama and intrigue in the lives of two families as they look to the future in a sometimes unfair America.
The Coffey family begins with black Civil War soldier Tanin Coffey, and his son, Tanin Jr., who struggled to survive as they came to grips with a postwar South, the failures of reconstruction, and the Great Depression.
The story continues with Darius Coffey, a World War II veteran, who moved to Florida to work for a group smuggling drugs from Latin America to the United States. His wife, Leona Mihan Coffey, reveals her family’s lies and secrets.
Daryl Christopher was raised by his Cuban mother and served in the Vietnam War before returning to Miami. After he becomes involved in organized crime, he meets Darius and Leona’s daughter Valarie and both of their lives are forever changed, as the next generation finds a place in the world, while making sense of their family’s tangled web.
Watch the video introduction for The Wicker Diary by Wil Harris, go here.
Excerpt: The Wicker Diary by Wil Harris
Hand of the Lord
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you. -Zechariah 3:1-2
Darius D. Coffey: Part I
My name is Darius D. Coffey, and I was born in the heart of the segregated south on September 12, 1923, in Opelika, Alabama. I entered this world disposed to debt bondage, where acquired liability passed from one generation to the next. My story begins with my granddaddy Tanin Coffey Sr. He signed his name with an X on the contract for a piece of land that he would never own but would finally, one day, rest his body in.
My father always spoke of my granddaddy and the wisdom his life left behind. He was a slave who fled the Alabama cotton fields in 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation left the South in an uproar.
There is no record of his birth, but it is believed he was between fifteen to seventeen years of age when he escaped slavery. He made his way to Ohio by underground trails and safe houses, dodging slave trackers, and Confederate soldiers along the way. After shuffling through northeast Ohio for a few months, he found himself in West Virginia, where he got by on Christian charity and the efforts of a local abolitionist movement.
He slept in a bed for the first time in West Virginia. Before that it had been dirt floors and hay. He never knew his mother and father or any other family. He grew up among other slaves, who all spoke with different dialects from their region of the African continent and who all suffered the lash and worked at the pleasure of their owner. Granddaddy often thought about Boss Tom, who, as the overseer of the plantation in Alabama, was a brutal white man. Described as tall and burley, he had no troubles hanging any slave-man, woman, or child.
As rumor of the Emancipation Proclamation spread, revolt was at hand. More than 130 slaves rose up, including my grandfather, and killed the master and his family. My grandfather would tell the story of the main house going up in flames while white bodies hung burning in the apple orchard by the dozens. It was Boss Tom’s death that brought the most pleasure. He was alive when they castrated him with broken glass. Someone cut out his tongue and shoved his gentiles down his throat with a stick. He was finally hung from a banister of the main house before it was set on fire.
By this time the North was losing the war, and there was talk that President Lincoln would be raising a black regiment. When my granddaddy heard this, it was all he could think of. He reckoned if he and other black men fought bravely to end the war and bring the country back together, they could have a new and equal start in America. It was as though the ancestors were calling to him from the other side of the sun. Though he could not visualize it, he knew that it was there. Freedom. He had no one who had gone before him to prepare the way so his path was a mystery.
In 1864 he joined the all-black Twenty-Seventh US Infantry. My father would speak proudly of the time granddaddy heard Frederick Douglass speak at an army assembly: “Your granddaddy told me that when Frederick Douglass walked into the hall, there was a hush throughout. With his fiery-white hair and beard, he looked like a king. He told those in attendance that now was their time, and the future of all Negros rested on their shoulders. And those words had an effect on your granddaddy and he never forgot it.”
My granddaddy’s initial experience with army life was that of manual labor. In four months he went from cooking to digging graves for slain white soldiers. The carnage and blood he witnessed heightened his eagerness for glory and honor. There was a fear growing among the black soldiers that the North may lose the war before their opportunity to prove themselves would come. There was skepticism among some Northern white soldiers on how their black counterparts would fair in battle. Many said they didn’t have the discipline to stand and fight in an organized way or the sense to take and follow orders. Everyone got their answer in Virginia in 1864. My grandfather’s first skirmish was fought on a hillside.
A fresh snow had fallen the night before, which made it difficult for him to get his footing while shelling from the Confederate guns tore through the tall trees ahead as they advanced. Men were being shot down all around him as he marched forward. A Confederate bullet passed through his shirt, nicking his left side. He went down to one knee as the burning sensation took over. They were ordered to load weapons. He had done the drill hundreds of times but never to the thud of bullets hitting flesh. He tore open the powder and poured it down the rifle shaft. After dropping a single ball, he quickly packed it. “Fire,” the officers ordered, and he did. Read the rest of this entry »