Although I am reading two books similar to this right now, I am so eager to jump into this one. My “mulatto” google alert alerted me to this review. I found myself fascinated by the first two paragraphs…
The Family That Rejected Jim Crow
By Martha A. Sandweiss
The Story of Three Generations of An Interracial Family in the American South
By W. Ralph Eubanks
Smithsonian. 206 pp. $26.99
W. Ralph Eubanks’s family memoir tells a double story, one about the past and the other about the author’s efforts to uncover it. This has become a familiar kind of literature, the search for family roots that becomes a search for one’s own identity. But Eubanks has an unusual story to tell. His maternal grandparents, Jim and Edna Richardson, lived on a remote rural road in a black community in the now deserted town of Prestwick, Ala. According to family stories, they married in 1914 and by 1929 had seven children. Jim was a white man, a “boisterous adventurer” and bootlegger who ran a logging business. Edna’s racial heritage was mixed, but she thought of herself as black. In Jim Crow Alabama, where the courts had repeatedly upheld the state constitution’s ban on interracial marriages, the Richardsons constituted an unusual sort of family, and they defied the social rules that governed the segregated South. After Edna died in 1937, Jim remained in Prestwick with his light-skinned children. They could have moved away to start life anew as a “white” family. After all, Eubanks says, the children were so fair that a federal census agent once categorized them as “white.” But the family “made a conscious choice to identify as black people, in spite of skin color and features that would have allowed them to move seamlessly into the white world.”
Eubanks sees this act as both radical and heroic. As a black man married to a white woman, he finds in his grandparents’ lives valuable lessons for his own. “Sometimes it even felt as if they had forged a path for the life my wife and I shared, occasionally guiding us on our way.” He thus crafts a progressive tale of social improvement, with his grandparents’ and parents’ lives in the Jim Crow South paving the way for his own youth during the civil rights era and eventually leading to his 11-year-old daughter’s vision of a world “where race matters less and justice and our common humanity matter more.”
You might also enjoy Cane River. It’s also about a family member in search of the family’s history. The author is Lalita Tademy and she gave up her (very nice) career to trace four generations of her interracial family. I will have to check this one out as well 🙂
I don’t know where to start. I am very glad I have discovered you. I am a new-ish fan. My fast approaching marriage has me obsessed with knowing everything about the biracial experience. I am writing you because you said you are reading two books. I am requesting that you always list them. I hate not knowing! If you are reading a book…please share it with us all. I love it when you talk about books you are reading in your videos. I always immediately open a new tab and look it up. After I have finished watching all 100+ of your videos you will probably hear from me again. I have so many questions…
Thank you for your time and for … everything you are doing. You give me hope for my children (they do not exist yet 🙂
thanks, tami. i had no idea that’s what Cane River was about.
bethany, thanks so much! i’m glad you’re getting something out of all of this 🙂
i’m reading pig candy by lise funderburg and where did you sleep last night by danzy senna.
I’ll be reading that. thanks!
this book sounds so interesting.
i was trying to look it up online, to see if my library might have it.
but all the books are checked out and the one book that was just returned already had a hold on it.
i couldnt believe it. they had like 8 or 9 copies in the entire public library system, and not a one was available…..
although, i did get two other books put on hold for me.
the two books by angela nissel. Mixed and The Broke Diaries they sounded interesting, and i want to read them, im just waiting for the call for when they will be ready so i can pick them up.