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
That’s almost 3000 “whites” descended from black Mary Hoggard.
See how nonsensical this white-black thing is?