Check out this article in the NYTimes blog “Opinionator” Jan 22 and Tess Taylor’s new book. It’s totally relevant to us!
I was 12, My sister Jeri was eight. We were harmonizing in our beds as we often did. Jeri could sing any voice. I always sang the tune. Our father and two men were in the doorway smiling. They listened, then complimented us. This was not the first time I had seen Dr. JR an Dr. CH Young. They were “our white cousins,” as we’d been told all our lives. They were visiting our father our living room when they heard us, as they did once in a while.
I remember the first time I saw one of them, Dr. JR. I think, one was balding, one was not. I forget which was which.
A couple of years earlier we sat with Mother in the Community Center. People began to fill the room and whispering and gesturing all around us. Our father and a man with an almost identical smile sat on the stage. Some, Dad introduced the man beside him. The other man began to talk. “Yes, Dr. WH and I see you looking at us. We do look alike. We are related down the line,” he smiled and said. The white doctor and my light tan complexioned Negro father could only be viewed as “family” by all were not blind. Over the years I, and all members of our colored family learned the history of a common ancestor, Francis Young, who came from Northern Ireland around the time of the Revolutionary War and of his descendant who fathered a child by an enslaved woman, Sarah. This was Dad’s father, Calvin Monroe Young. Grandfather grew up with his white cousin, Henry with whom he remained lifelong friends. Their children, then my generation maintained a cordial relationship. My generational cohort, another Dr.JR/”Jim”. and I had our last conversation when he had his daughter call me a few weeks before he died. “Dr, Jim’s” wife, Betty, and I would like for our children to continue the relationship, but they are not interested. I introduced my son and granddaughter to Jim and Betty. Betty and I visited and shared grandkids’ photos two years ago. There were many kindnesses over more than 100 years. One cousin, Lois, wrote a family history. While she did not acknowledge the connection in the book, she wrote a “link, told me the story and gave me a copy of the book. We were friends.
Thank you for sharing your story with the BitterSweet family. I hope the younger generations will eventually see the value of staying in touch. I, too, have this situation. I may be the last generation to stay in touch.
Informative…thanks for sharing your story. I look forward to parts 2 & 3 !
Thank you. I have written parts of my story in two novels, articles and oral presentations. I am old, tired and ill and do not know what more will come. I have signed contracts on a third historical novel, tying more “ends” together. Because my vision and writing are not “in” the work is hidden. I may not last until the final two. See http://gyfortune.com (Google) Not sure I can depend on my son to finish after I am gone. I have scant confidence in my new contract. They seem to have forgotten. Sorry I signed.
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