black mother, white children

I accidentally happened upon a fascinating thread discussing the photograph below.  It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in this sort of thing.  Apparently, Mary categorized herself as “white” on the 1880 Census.  I wonder how that was possible.  Whatever the case, the point that there are approximately 3000 descendants of this family who, I have little doubt, consider themselves to be exclusively white brings me back to the novel idea that we are all mixed, we are simply American, and the veil of otherness is a detrimental illusion from which we desperately need to wake up. K?

James William Evans (1814-1883), his wife Mary Eliza Hoggard, and their children William, John and Mary Evans. Mary Eliza Hoggard was a descendant of the free African American Cobb and Bazemore families of  Bertie County, North Carolina. James William Evans was from Dorchester County, Maryland.

JAMES W. EVANS,

Mr. Evans married Mary Eliza Hoggard, of North Carolina, February 8, 1844. They have three children: Mary Frances, (who married Mr. Frank Collins, a son of J. W. Collins, Register of Clay County, Missouri, and they live with Mr. Evans on the farm);  John Henry, (was married August n, 1877, at Hainesville);  and William James, (who was born August 29, 1848, and married Caroline Gow, a daughter of Arthur Gow, of Clay County, in November, 1875).

We learn… that the North Carolina counties involved are Clinton County and Clay Counties Missouri. The children grew-up, married and lived in these two counties. The daughter married a Collins.

Apparently, James Evans brought (not bought!) Mary Hoggard from North Carolina and married her in Missouri where they raised their family. This makes sense, since this part of Missouri would have been “Free.”

This indicates to me that whites named Evans and Collins living in these two counties today, have a good chance of being a descendant of the black woman in the photo.

This photo speaks volumes of the kind of dilemma a black mother married to a white man found herself in during the 19th century.  This couple were married in Clinton County, Missouri, went by the surname Evans, and would have approximately 3000 descendants today.

  • The children are mulatto but 100% passable. The time, right around the Civil War. The choice the children had was really no choice. Quite simply, either they turned their backs on the mother and leave the state or be classified as Negro and endure Jim Crow for the rest of the lives.

    The mother is clearly not thrilled with the photograph. I think she was forced to sit for it by her husband. She appears to be thinking it’s not a very good idea, that the photo could prove an embarrassment  to her children. Indeed, it could prove an embarrassment to all her descendants 200 years into the future.

    I think this is what she was thinking.

    Let’s say the tall young man in the rear passed for white, married a white woman and had a family. This photo would not be considered a precious family heirloom but instead an indictment of Negro heritage.

    Does this explains why the mother is not smiling…?

  • The husband was born in 1818. The photo — judging by the clothing — was taken a few years before the Civil War. Location Virginia, a slave state. Things were starting to heat up. All around them slave owners were getting pissed a the North, Lincoln, and most especially those sympathetic to Negroes. You think interracial dating is tough today, imagine how hard it was then.

    All kinds of scary things were going on in the Slave states. People were stock-piling weapons. People were talking about succession. The young man standing was  about military age. Free blacks were being snatched-up and sold back into slavery. If the woman had local relatives she had surely cut herself off from them. No way should could afford to have her kin be part of her new family.

    At school the children were probably catching hell because of their black mother. If the mother wasn’t on the verge of a nervous breakdown she would be around the time her eldest started talking about joining a local regiment to fight the yankees and preserve slavery.

    Her husband’s family surely would have disowned him by then and no white family would have anything to do with them. Of course if they lived on a farm their contact would be minimal, but if they lived on a farm they had slaves and that must  have made her a mess too.

    But the main thing is sitting for the portrait must have seemed insane to her. Her kids look white. Each one could easily pass. Why do something that would doom them forever to second-class citizenship? She had to be thinking that. The sit had to be the last thing she wanted for her children — proof they were black.

    Had the kids looked like mulattoes, it would have been a different story. But these kids look completely white. They could pass with no problem at all — so why do something that could get them lynched?

    And that photo would do that had her eldest married a local white girl.

    That’s my theory why the mother doesn’t look happy.

  • So, Mary Hoggard Evans (the black woman in the photo) has three children who pass for white. They each get married around 1875.

    That’s six generations. Let’s figure each of her descendants in each of these generations had three children who went on to have three children up until today.

    1875 3 times 3 = 9

    1900 3 times 9 = 36

    1925                   108

    1950                   324

    1975                   974

    2000                   2916

    That’s almost 3000 “whites” descended from black Mary Hoggard.

    See how nonsensical this white-black thing is?

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32 thoughts on “black mother, white children

  1. Just my thought here, but you may be reading more into Mary’s expression than was there at the time. I have many family photos dating from that time, and everyone had either a scowl or no expression at all because the film exposure required the sitters to remain motionless for a longer period than modern photos. Also, it looks to me that her husband has his arm protectively behind her back and is sitting quite close to her and on the same level. Often, the men would be sitting and the women would be subserviently standing behind them. It seems to me he is proud of his family, or else why would he want a photo of them?

    As for the census, it’s my understanding that many census takers made the determination themselves as to what race the person was. Whatever the census taker put down, that’s how the person would be recorded.

    Have you read “Having Our Say” by the Delany sisters? They had a white grandfather and a mulatto grandmother and give some excellent insights into those relationships and others dating from the same time period as this photo. Another interesting book, this one about Reconstruction, is “Forever Free.”

    Fascinating photo and definitely food for thought!

  2. Concerning the census. In the 1906 census my great great grandfather and his family were listed as Mulatto. Yet, in a few year after he passed away his wife and her children were listed as black. That US census back then could be an interesting thing.

  3. The children are not mulatto but Octoroon 1/8 or Quadroon 1/4 black as their mom appears to be mixed probably mulatto prior to the ending of slavery the census was White Octoroon Quadroon mulatto black it was in the early 1900’s that the one drop rule took full effect.

  4. Hi, I’ve seen this photograph before on another website (http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/19th_5.htm) and I was under the impression that both the husband and the wife were of African-American (racially mixed) heritage. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I got that impression because they were listed as free “African-Americans” on the website. I don’t know whether they “passed” at any point in time, however–perhaps they did or didn’t.

    I don’t really know what the mother was thinking but I am not sure that any of those thoughts were streaming through her mind–she could’ve been thinking of anything, or the stern expression could likely have been simply indicative of the era. I have seen hundreds of photographs of all ethnicities of families from the 19th – early 20th centuries, everything from Sicilian immigrants to WASP aristocrats, and it was typical for people sitting for portraits to not smile because they did not think it was a dignified expression.

    I remember reading in books such as “Black Society” by Gerry Hodges-Major and “Our Kind Of People” by Lawrence Otis Graham that many people of the Black middle – upper class descended from the free Blacks, who were often of mixed roots like this family.

    Whatever was the history of these individuals, I view it as a beautiful family portrait! I truly love vintage photography.

  5. Also, I am just curious…is there documented evidence that the children of this family definitely passed for White and married White people instead of other free Blacks? I just ask because there were free communities of color all across America and there was one in Virginia (incidentally, my homestate! :) ) as well. I’ve read of the history of free people of color for years now, and it was very typical and traditional for them to marry people of similar ethnic & family backgrounds–the taboo for interracial marriages was tremendous, not to mention the legal ramifications.

  6. In my family photos that I have…my family heritage is white and my great great grandmother and grandfather are not smiling in the pictures and the children look the same..don’t think they were scared or unhappy just the fact that they didn’t smile in pictures in that time period or the fact like my great grandma said when I was younger…”those were not the good ol days these are the good ol day”. Running water, women have more rights and a say, electric, stores, electric irons, indoor toilets, not as much poverty, not always as much about race. My children are mulatto and are just normal children who do not even know they are different. But when we talk about slavery and that time period, my West Virginia family on my mothers side in that time period didn’t own slaves they worked along side of black people just as poor as anyone and on on my fathers side in Connecticut they were apart of the under ground railroad.

  7. it’s just a damm shame that black women was forced 2 have mixed kids 4 the red-necks m****f****s, if they kids came out looking white they could pass as white. but this stupidass shit up to-date still i don’t understand how come the mulattoes are class ass black only when they’ll 1/2 white 2. why disowned that white parent, that’s not right. black & white people make some beautiful kids but some how they’ll only BLACK BULSHIT!!! i would HATE the fact that i was a mulatto because of the unanswer question.

  8. there’s nothing wrong with race mixing, i love high yellow skin, beautiful black hair, & exotic good looks. that’s what makes the black race looks good, when other blacks comes out looking this damm good.

  9. I took Nurses Training in 1960-1963. When I took Labor and Delivery, OB/GYN, we learned that if a mother is white and the father is black the baby is considered white on the records. If the Mother is black and the father is white the baby is considered black on the records. What ever color the Mother was is what the baby was registered as. If Asian, the same, the baby was considered what ever the mother was, no exceptions. That was the law. I do not know when or if it was changed. Does anyone elasse have any information about this?

  10. Good story but I think maybe the children did pass, or they didnt pass who knows, and yes people didnt smile in pictures at that time, maybe some of them had bad teeth, I think the mother wasnt forced to take the picture with her family, shes mulattoe I can tell because of her nose,eyes, and they aresuch a beautiful family, I wish the desendants of this family comes forth,. Because I would love did the keep passing or some blended black, I really would love to know, godbless :-)

  11. I have a suggestion to consider. Since I cannot see any resemblance to the mother in any of these children, who’s to say she was the birth mother of these children? Back then, it was very common for women to die during childbirth. There were also a lot of deadly diseases. The birth mother could have died after the youngest child was born. The father may have married the mulatto woman in the photograph after his first wife died. Just a thought.

  12. yea but other countries aren’t mixed.. so if you are mixed then say so.. and kick the non mixed out..

  13. is regular Europe mixed?? No?? Then they are better than you so you are lying so you can be on the same level as them…

  14. they aren’t good enough for their European culture.. that’s the point.. stay out of Europe.. else it is self hatred… only date people with tainted blood.. who look white..

  15. loved your article…further insight into the mixing of the races can be read in a book by Ray Charles, titled “Color Struck!” from Amazon. He edits and comments on legal interracial petitions; wills; declarations etc. A very good excerpt of the book can be found on Utube.

  16. This entire family could all very well be considered Mulatto, in spite of the European look that they have. There is a blended race of people called Mulungeon, who have African blood but look like dark Europeans…very fascinating, because they all (the Mulungeons, if I’m spelling it correctly) married into one another, thus eradicating the white/black stigma. Mulungeons were considered white, amazingly enough, and the sting of the one drop rule did not apply to them, because they married into one another within their own community…a race unto themselves!

  17. I think some of y’all r reading more into the picture than it is. Back then, it was not polite to show teeth, as in smiling made you look “simple.” This is what my mom said. This explains why when you see old photos no one is really smiling.

  18. She could be his daughter or bed winch, because she is too young to be the mother of the oldest one. She is only about 19 to 22 in this photo. But she is old enough to be the mother of the younger two, because in my over 30 years of African American ancestry research, most of the slave women (bed wenches) had the owners children around the ages of 13 and 14 before they had been touched by a black male slave. He could have simply left with his bed wench. In other words, since she was a slave, this relationship started out as RAPE. The rest of the story is dealing with life’s circumstances as it pertain to her children being found out and her survival. She would say she’s white to cover for her children. But the problem here, she can’t pass and probably made herself invisible for most of her life. How do i know her story? that was the story of my GG aunt. She never saw her children again. But i found her descendents doing my search. It’s easy for her not to smile. Where was she going to go?

  19. Hi I came across your site trying to find info about my family, which like yours has an interesting history. My Dad’s family the Carters seem to have only become black 2 generations ago. A Samuel Carter (listed as Mulatto) married Harriet Holbert (Black possibly mixed) in Missouri 1869. What’s interesting is looking into Samuel’s history his parents are white and from a prominent family in VA and England. This is based on records and family trees. Did he claim himself as Mulatto in order to marry Harriet? On the marriage certificate his parents names are absent. All the history I’ve read on Missouri has it being a volatile place to be Non- white leading up to the Civil War and in some places even afterwards. It’s amazing that interracial marriage was even able to occur. I wish I could find more on my family and love to have any pictures, but alas haven’t found any. Anyway interesting story/theory.

  20. Wow, Faith! That is a fascinating story. I’m so curious! Good luck piecing this puzzle together!

  21. The mother in the photo is NOT “black.” Why is it that Hispanics and Arabs can show buckets rather than drops of the dreaded “black blood” and blacks politely avoid insulting them with the “black” label?

  22. I came across this fascinating picture about a month ago on another site. So glad, I came across your blog regarding it. I have always been fascinated with interracial unions during this era. How difficult it must have been. My great great grandmother married had a union with a slave and had about 8 children. She was white, but noted black on the census records. Her dad was a confederate soldier – whoa! I wrote a little about it in one of my blogs. My family is considered black, but all of that race mixing in the civil war era and after created some interesting chlldren. My blond haired blue eyed black child has confused many people. Once white lady asked – why is her hair crinkly lol. It didn’t occur to me that anyone thought my child was white. Gave me a different perspective. At any rate, thanks for posting this.

  23. Pingback: Swirling In History - Colonial, Antebellum, Reconstruction and Beyond - Beyond Black & White

  24. Interesting article- but perspective of interpretation of current time.
    It appears to me this is a family dressed in there Sunday best for the only photo taken of their family.
    They are really hard working farming people probably in their 30’s.
    What you don’t see is if they are clamped into position which is often done, if the children were whiney or how long the posed in that position.
    Several years ago, I had the chance to sit for a tintype picture.
    It was group photo with 8 of in the photo. We had 2 boys in there early teens. If we had smiled all of us would have had serious muscle cramping. That picture took 2 hours to take for lighting,posing
    and the exposure. The devolpment took even longer. And our Lady in the picture is pretty tightly laced into a corset with the boning jabbing into her armpits.
    Always look at the eyes in the old photos- they tell far more than other facial features.

  25. Dear Tiffany,

    I interpret this picture of “black mother, white children” to be an in-our-face historical document to show us 21st-century people that our pompous Manichaean view of the 19th century is extremely naive, if not ignorant. We see everything in black and white, instead of shades of mulatto.

    People then were not dumbed-down by the Hollywood dingbats — the same people who ostracized a once-in-a-generation screen presence (Bruce Lee), and blamed it on the American public being “not ready to accept an Asian face,” thereby projecting their own bias onto us, and depriving us of many exciting years of would-be smash performances by Lee*. We were being accused of ignorant bias just as we now are accusing 19th-century Americans of ignorant bias.

    People then, in short, were much more racially sophisticated than their portrayal by Hollywood buffoons.

    For instance, the movie Blazing Saddles’ premise for comedy is that a black man would not be accepted in cowboy times. Yet there are many old photographs to prove there were black cowboys mixed right in as respected equals with the white ones. We have first-hand narratives about cowboys not identified by race who in pictures we find out are black.

    Just look at the autobiography of Deadwood Dick**, whose given name was Nat Love. He was born a slave and after the Civil War became a great cowboy, winning a cowboy championship in Deadwood, Dakota Territory — the same town and era when Wild Bill Hickok was shot fatally in the back while holding his famous poker hand of aces and eights. Love wrote about his incredible true adventures, and his great romance with a Mexican girl.

    Love’s true account has everything to become a blockbuster movie, but it erases the entirely sick portrayal of race by Hollywooders, who (contrary to popular belief) choose influencing our politicdal elections over making money†. Hollywood movies are blatantly demogogic to make people feel they are disenfranchised, become “disgruntled,” and vote for scoundrel politicians who play to their fears and vow to “protect them,” while Hollywooders, their propaganda wing, create the straw-man fears.

    I agree with you entirely that “the black-white thing is nonsenical.” Furthermore, history shows that America was not the race-hate place Hollywood doofuses tell us it was. Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother, was a 19th-century American beauty. Her mother told her that she had Iriquois blood — not with shock and horror, but merely conceding, “It may not be chic, but it is rather interesting.” If you look at pictures of her, it may not be axiomatic, but it is not a stretch to think her dark beauty comes from Indian blood.

    Therefore the man Americans identify as the epitome of an Englishman and the English bulldog spirit, Winston Churchill, seems to have Iriquois ancestry. He could tick off “Amerind” on modern race-bating government forms and college applications.

    The races have intermarried and produced offspring for 100,000 years. Hollywood has been around for 100, and they got it wrong. Why should we let our concept of intermarriage be stunk up by Hollywooders? Young people today think that the whole country was like the Jim Crow South, which happened to be run and sustained by the same political affiliation of the Hollywooders.

    Hollywooders reiterated the racial prejudice of our country by making the movie Men of Honor, about the Navy’s “first black diver,” which happened relatively recently, so reading between the lines the navy and the country were racist up until Hollywooders’ wonderful enlightenment changed us.

    Just look up John HenryTurpin, a black diver in the navy present at the explosion on the USS Maine in Havana, which began the Spanish-American war — in the 19th century. My father (born 1914) and grandmother (born 1888) knew him when he was a VIP in Bremerton, Washington. My father told me how the children his age would follow Turpin as he walked, because he was a great man and a legend. But that doesn’t fit the Hollywooders’ premise that the country was dastardly before they came along and fixed everything up with their kumbayas.

    Look how Hollywooders insult our WWII servicemen, like my Army Air Corps pilot father, as being 100% racist in Hart’s War.

    Returning to the photo of the black mother with white children, if you look at the white father you can uncharitably say that he is quite “u-word,” yet the children are not bad looking. The mother is nice-looking, so to get to the point, where did the children get their passable good looks? Certainly not from the father.

    Who has not noticed that children who have parents of different races seem to have a better chance of being good-looking than those who do not? Exhibit A is yourself.

    The promo for the first Robocop movie stated: “Half man, half machine — ALL cop!” For you it would be “Half black, half white — ALL American!

    Besides beautiful children, I think there is another irresitable argument favorable to interracial marriage: it is very romantic. This could sound trite and non-colorblind, but a person is in good company to think so, or else Shakespeare would not have written Othello. The reason it strikes me this way, I think, is because women and men are so different, if it weren’t for the romantic interest, we would just want to hang out with our own kind, our own gender. It is romantic to overcome your differences and be with the opposite sex. Furthermore, since race is a little-bit more of a difference, when you overcome that, too — it’s romantic!

    For doubters of the white children in the picture being the offspring of the black mother, check out Detroit-born black opera diva Patricia Ewing, and her equally-beautiful pale-white genetic daughter, English actress Rebecca Hall. This is proof how it happens, as it has been happening for 100 millenia.

    * Hollywooders still will not give us a romantic-lead Asian male, unless it is kung-foo related, which was only stereotyped into the Hollywooder psyche by their mistake on passing Lee over. Portraying Asians only as martial artists is like their earlier escapades of portraying blacks only as maids and shoeshines. Asian male actors never play an average-American, non-kung-fu leading man. The closest the Hollywooders come is Lou Diamond Phillips, because he is half Filipino and can pass for “Hispanic.”

    ** I published The Life and Adventures of Dead Wood Dick. If you want me to send it to you in .pdf format, let me know.

    † If Hollywooders wanted to make money, they would make nonbiased movies about Jesus, rather than Jesus-bashing. If you want to know the villain in a movie, don’t look for a black hat, look for a crusifix around his neck (or an American flag patch; blond hair and blue eyes on males is also frequently used). They thought they were very clever to sabatoge “The Passion” by making it R-rated, so that it legally would lose a huge market. I have no stake in either the Christian side or the anti-Christian side. I just can’t believe Hollywooders think we are so stupid not to notice their moronic propagandizing.

  26. I wish my black ancestors hadn’t felt compelled to pass as “part Native American” whites. I can’t really blame them, though. Thanks for writing this interesting blog. A DNA test taken by my brother is how I discovered the truth. It also explains why my recently born son is darker than me or my half-Chinese wife. This has confused some ignorant people, but now we know. I’m part black.

  27. Mulatto on a census doesn’t mean they were mix (black-white) and black doesn’t mean they were black; they did anything to keep from putting Indian on the census for two reason… they had a lot of hate for them (a lot of people had their families members killed) so it was away to disrespect them, and they could also charge them more in taxes if they were mulatto, black or white, because Indians got a tax break. So don’t believe the census they weren’t written by your loved ones own hands. DNA is the only way you will know the truth.

  28. or me it all boils down to a few Biblical quotations:”The life is in the blood, and meaningful references to Joseph’s ‘Coat of many colors’…Whites and Blacks are here together for a reason; but it is unfortunate that Hollywood had to make the trip with us-Joseph aka Coat of many colors

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