a rare testament of harmony

This is a fascinating story of interracial marriage, institutional racism, blended families, and mixed race ideology.  I am inspired by the courage of conviction this woman maintained in the face of so much opposition.  Oh! And… um…. excuse me South Carolina… 1998!?!?  Yes, Michigan!

How one woman overcame the racial barriers that divide us

By DAVID LAUDERDALE

Laura Markovich came to Beaufort County in 1965 because it had one of the few places in the South where whites and blacks could gather.

She came from Michigan to attend a religious “summer school” of her Bahá’í World Faith at Penn Center on St. Helena Island.

What unfolded here became a rare testament of harmony in the messy struggle of race relations in America.

At the secluded Penn Center, on sandy soil where the first school for freed slaves was erected in 1862, the young white widow met a tall and striking black widower.

On the surface, the only thing they had in common were children underfoot. Laura had four children, all white, and Elting B. Smalls Sr. of St. Helena had six children, all black.

Three years later, they were married. They lived in the Tom Fripp community on St. Helena and together had four more children.

Laura and Elting Smalls, center, on St. Helena Island with two of her daughters, one of their sons, and two family friends.

It was a life so odd for that era in the Deep South that it demanded hard-to-reach courage, resolve and unity.

Those characteristics — and Laura Smalls’ devotion to her faith, early childhood education and family — were cited Tuesday when a standing-room-only crowd gathered back at that same Penn Center for her funeral. She died Feb. 27 at age 79.

Her children composed a eulogy that makes it sound like they were raised in the world of Ozzie and Harriet:

“Her greatest loves were arts and crafts, playing and teaching children, talking to everyone and anyone, and dancing. You can see this evidenced through her children’s passions….Can’t you yet see her sweet smile?”

‘WEDDED WIFE’

That smile was a triumph of the spirit over harrowing details.

To set the stage, their marriage took place days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and America’s streets erupted into racial violence. King himself had gathered his troops for retreats at the Penn Center for the same reason the Bahá’ís did. They believed in unity, and this was one place they could find it. Just months before he died, King stood at Penn Center to ring home a point to the antsy civil rights activists: “So I say to you tonight that I have taken a vow. I, Martin Luther King, take thee, nonviolence, to be my wedded wife.”

For Elting Smalls to take Laura Markovich to be his wedded wife was not much easier.

Her faith required written permission from her father, and he didn’t want to give it. It took her three years to get it. Her father never did agree to meet Smalls, a Penn School graduate and career civil service worker at Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

And then there was the matter of the law. In June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state laws, like South Carolina’s, that banned interracial marriage. But it took South Carolina until 1998 to officially amend the state Constitution to remove what had been ruled a violation of the 14th Amendment. The Smalls wedding was a quiet affair in the home of one of the bride’s closest friends — in Michigan.

Thus a family of whites from up North and a family of black Sea Island Gullahs became one. They lived united, years before integration was forced on the local schools, much less accepted in the home.

BLACK AND PROUD

Sometimes Laura Smalls would take her troupe of white, black and mixed-race children into the historically white waiting room at the doctor’s office, and sometimes into the historically black waiting room, and always let the odd stares fall where they may.

Family members say the white community in town had a stand-offish attitude, but the blacks of St. Helena welcomed them all, as family.

“She didn’t do it to make a statement,” said daughter Lynn Markovich Bryant of Lady’s Island. “She fell in love with Elting and she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way.”

Bryant gives the world a look at race it rarely sees in her 2002 autobiography, ” ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud,’ Wished the White Girl.”

As a child she was stunned by the ingrained racism she saw in her little classmates. She struggled with white attitudes toward blacks because in her world, there was no racial divide. She chose to attend the predominately black St. Helena Elementary School, where she felt welcomed as a fifth-grader. Today, she has taught there for almost 30 years after finishing second in her class at Beaufort High School, earning a full scholarship to Clemson University, graduating with honors and earning a master’s degree with a 4.0 grade point average.

She sounds like a black person, and she married a black man, joking that she would have had to marry a white for it to have been considered an interracial marriage. Her husband, Wilbert Bryant, teaches at Battery Creek High School.

One day as an adolescent, Lynn Bryant blurted out, “Mama, I hate white people.”

In her book, Bryant writes: “Being a mother to such a multitude of children, this was hardly her first or last problematic situation to resolve. … She ever so warmly and calmly responded as only she could, ‘Well, Lynn don’t you love the Bahá’ís? There are white Bahá’ís.”

EMBRACED

…Smalls was embraced on St. Helena because she was not a white who ignored the natives or said, “My way is better than your way — move over.”

She saw racial progress, her daughter said, but not the level of social interaction that’s necessary for people of different races, cultures and beliefs to quit being so judgmental.

“She taught us that we have more commonality than differences,” Bryant said.

Together, Laura Smalls’ 13 surviving children and stepchildren of all colors wrote: “Our mother did not tell us how to sacrifice and serve others; instead she showed us how to walk the walk.”

SOURCE

white top

White Top Folk Festival by Jason Riedy.

Text of the sign: “The White Top Folk Festival was held annually from 1931 to 1939 (except 1937) on Whitetop Mountain — the second highest peak in Virginia. Annabel Morris Buchanan, John Powell, and John A. Blakemore organized the event that featured banjo players, fiddlers, string bands, and ballad singers, as well as storytelling, clog dancing, morris and sword dancing, and theatrical presentations. Thousands of people attended the festival each year, including nationally known academic folklorists, art critics, composers, and in 1933, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The festival was cancelled in 1940 because of heavy rains and floods and never returned.

A First Lady in a False Kingdom: A Curious

Convergence on White Top Mountain

CHRISTA SMITH ANDERSON

From 1932 to 1939, the Whitetop Folk Festival attracted people from far and wide to the small mountain community. In 1933, even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt stopped by to celebrate.

It was August 12, and the tenure of America’s longest-running first lady was in its infancy. Franklin Roosevelt had been in office just over five months. The FBI was still called the Bureau of Investigation, and its director, J. Edgar Hoover, hadn’t started compiling what would become his largest secret file — the 3,271 pages on Eleanor Roosevelt’s activities, many of them anti-segregation and, thus, “subversive.” The Ku Klux Klan didn’t know Eleanor Roosevelt well enough yet to have a price on her head. Another six years would pass before her infamous resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) over that organization’s refusal to allow African-American contralto Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall.

…One of the festival’s organizers, John Powell, proudly asserted that “the great proof of the importance and the significance of the great musical heritage of our people is in the fact that Mrs. Roosevelt should come.”

Like many a memorable character, John Powell, who was also a founder of the Anglo- Saxon Clubs of America, is both compelling and repelling. A classical composer and pianist from Richmond, Virginia, Powell studied in Vienna with Theodor Leschetizky, in Prague with Karl Navrátil. He made his debut in Berlin in 1907, when he was twenty-five years old; the performance was hailed by critics as one of the most successful the city had ever known.

In the first part of his career, Powell incorporated all forms of American music — notably, African-American music — into compositions like Sonata Virginianesque and Rhapsodie Nègre. But by the 1930s, when he was selecting and shaping the White Top Folk Festival musicians, he was committed to promoting what he considered “Anglo-Saxon” music: a pure, white music from a pure, white region of America, whose music was dangerously at risk of becoming defined by a black American baby called Jazz.

By excluding black musicians, probably of some Anglo heritage themselves, Powell and other festival organizers brought to the mountaintop the pernicious bias that would become Powell’s legacy.

In 1924, Powell was instrumental in a court case that prevented the marriage of Dorothy Johns and James Connor by proving that one of Johns’s ancestors was black, thus she could not legally marry Connor, who was white. Some thirty-four years later, Powell was also instrumental — by virtue of his efforts in the 1920s — in making sure that interracial newly-weds Mildred and Richard Loving didn’t get a full night’s sleep. A few weeks after they were married, the Lovings were awakened around two a.m. by flashing police lights and escorted from their bed so they could be booked into the Caroline County, Virginia, jail. Each was charged with a felony.

The Dorothy Johns case was the first test of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, the Lovings’ the last. The “one-drop” law made interracial marriage a felony in Virginia and was especially targeted at whites marrying blacks, blacks being defined, of course, as anyone with “one drop” of black blood. Powell worked with other racial eugenicists to get the law passed in 1924, and was the self-proclaimed originator of it. By 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Racial Integrity Act in Loving v. Virginia, there were similar laws in fifteen other states as far north as Delaware, and as far west as Oklahoma.

For Eleanor Roosevelt, this 1933 trip to Southwest Virginia was a sentimental journey. Her father, Elliott, lived out the Panic of 1893 — the Great Depression’s predecessor — in the Southwestern Virginia town of Abingdon, close to the Tennessee and North Carolina borders.

At the festival, Eleanor warmly addressed the crowd of some ten thousand attendees: “To the people who live here I want to say a special word of gratitude. They have given me the feeling that they remember affectionately my father, whom I adore.”  And then she ended her speech, “For the rest of the day I hope to be just a spectator.”

Hundreds of performers took the stage for the festival that year. Among the prizewinners was Jack Reedy from Marion, Virginia. He won first prize in banjo; tied for first in clog dancing; and performing with the Blevins Brothers in the band competition, tied for first.


Eleanor Roosevelt posed with White Top Folk Festival contestants Frank Blevins (fiddle), Jack Reedy (banjo), Edd Blevins (guitar), and six-year-old mandolin sensation, Muriel Dockery, in 1933.
Library of Virginia

Mrs. Roosevelt may very well have heard some of the same songs her father did. But didn’t she, or any of those reporters who’d read about the “quartette of negroes” singing to him in the 1890s, think it curious that in the 1930s, not a one of the singers, instrumentalists, dancers, or storytellers at this folk-music festival with a five-state view was black? Did they not find the complexion of this kingdom to be unusually fair?  I’d like to think the White Top Mountain Folk Music Festival was the fool-me-once in Eleanor’s evolution as a Civil Rights activist.  Eleanor never publicly criticized the White Top Mountain Folk Music Festival organizers for their exclusion of black performers. But her reaction to some of the people who did perform hints at the cost of Powell’s agenda on the music he was trying to elevate. In her “Passing Thoughts of Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt” column in the Women’s Democratic News, Eleanor wrote of the women ballad singers she saw and heard on White Top: “[They were] fine featured … showing in their carriage and expression that there is something in inheritance.” As for the music, “Their voices were not remarkable but the whole thing was of great interest to those who believe that there is value in preserving the folk lore which has come out of the early customs and experiences of the people of the country.”

For whatever Powell might have thought of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933, it’s quite certain that his opinion would’ve changed drastically by the 1950s, when racists flat-out hated her, some of them wondering why on earth a white person would talk so much about civil rights, others coming to the conclusion that Mrs. Roosevelt must have some black ancestry. Eleanor was downright snide about the whole eugenics thing. In her “My Day” newspaper column, she wrote about receiving an “amusing postcard” from someone in Mobile, Alabama, who wrote: “Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:
You have not answered my questions, the amount of Negro blood you have in your veins, if any.”

To which she responded: “I am afraid none of us know how much or what kind of blood we have in our veins, since chemically it is all the same. And most of us cannot trace our ancestry more than a few generations.” She went on, “As far as I know, I have no Negro blood, but, of course, I do have some Southern blood in my veins, for my Grandmother Roosevelt came from Georgia.”

As for John Powell, he was too “refined” to wear a white sheet. His cloak was musical brilliance, and that brilliance was about as flooded out as the last-planned White Top Mountain Folk Music Festival. (The 1940 festival was rained out, and organizers never brought it back.)

But for all the record-industry packaging that would corral white into “hillbilly” and black into “blues,” making country music today seem the province of white folk, when it comes down to it, American country music got its start as a Virginia-born, biracial baby. Biracial unless, of course, you were to follow Powell’s one-drop definition — in which case it’s black music, just like Powell’s own early compositions, just like every song played on White Top Mountain with that African instrument, the banjo.

SOURCE

no difference between them

Here’s a new book full of beautiful black and white portraits of interracial couples!  The foreward is written by one of my favorite mixed chicks, Heidi Durrow.  The photos are stunning.  Thank you, Robert Kalman, for this wonderful book that will no doubt help us break our subconscious instinct to assume that these people do not belong together.  You can purchase your copy here.

 

keith bardwell, please read this article

Just to catch you up to speed.  By the way, don’t worry about us.  We are doing just fine.  Thank you for your grave concern.  That you would go to such lengths as interfering with God’s blessing of love and devotion (I know, I know- only to certain couples) just to spare us a lifetime of confusion and exclusion is sweet.  But no thank you.  Times have changed, my friend.  I mean, you do seem to think of yourself as a kind of a friend of the mulattos.  A really ignorant and misinformed friend.  I see how it could happen.  For years (white)people were taught that race-mixing was wrong.  And if those people were desperate not to feel really racist, that belief was justified with feigned concern for the “spurious issue” which would result from interracial couplings.  That coupled with the “tragic mulatto” propaganda that has been bandied about the country since way back in the day… Well, I can see how you may have been lead astray.  I hope you can open your mind now.  After the couple of weeks I imagine you’ve been having, you really have no excuse.

w onesie

Are Mixed-Race Children Better Adjusted?

By JOHN CLOUD Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009

That Americans like answers in black and white, a cultural trait we confirmed last year when the biracial man running for President was routinely called “black”.

The flattening of Barack Obama’s complex racial background shouldn’t have been surprising. Many multiracial historical figures in the U.S. have been reduced (or have reduced themselves) to a single aspect of their racial identities: Booker T. Washington, Tina Turner, and Greg Louganis are three examples. This phenomenon isn’t entirely pernicious; it is at least partly rooted in our concern that growing up with a fractured identity is hard on kids. The psychologist J.D. Teicher summarized this view in a 1968 paper: “Although the burden of the Negro child is recognized as a heavy one, that of the Negro-White child is seen to be even heavier.”

But new research says this old, problematized view of multiracial identity is outdated. In fact, a new paper in the Journal of Social Issues shows that multiracial adolescents who identify proudly as multiracial fare as well as — and, in many cases, better than — kids who identify with a single group, even if that group is considered high-status (like, say, Asians or whites). This finding was surprising because psychologists have argued for years that mixed-race kids will be better adjusted if they pick a single race as their own.

The population of multiracial kids in the U.S. has soared from approximately 500,000 in 1970 to more than 6.8 million in 2000, according to Census data quoted in this pdf. In the early years, research on these kids highlighted their difficulties: the disapproval they faced from neighbors and members of their extended families; the sense that they weren’t “full” members in any racial community; the insecurity and self-loathing that often resulted from feeling marginalized on all sides. That simple but harsh playground question — “What are you?” — torments many multiracial kids. Psychologists call this a “forced-choice dilemma” that compels children to claim some kind of identity — even if only a half-identity — in return for social acceptance.

But the new Journal of Social Issues paper suggests this dilemma has become less burdensome in the age of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama. The paper’s authors, a team led by Kevin Binning of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Miguel Unzueta of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, studied 182 multiracial high schoolers in Long Beach, Calif. Binning, Unzueta and their colleagues write that those kids who identified with multiple racial groups reported significantly less psychological stress than those who identified with a single group, whether a “low-status” group like African-Americans or a “high-status” group like whites. The multiracial identifiers were less alienated from peers than monoracial identifiers, and they were no more likely to report having engaged in problem behaviors, such as substance use or persistent school absence.

The writers theorize that multiracial kids who choose to associate with a single race are troubled by their attempts to “pass,” whereas those who choose to give voice to their own uniqueness find pride in that act. “Rather than being ‘caught’ between two worlds,” the authors write, “it might be that individuals who identify with multiple groups are better able to navigate both racially homogeneous and heterogeneous environments than individuals who primarily identify with one racial group.” The multiracial kids are able to “place one foot in the majority and one in the minority group, and in this way might be buffered against the negative consequences of feeling tokenized.”

In short, multiracial kids seem to create their own definitions for fitting in, and they show more psychological flexibility than those mixed-race kids who feel bound to one choice or another.

Fortunately, all these questions of racial identity are becoming less important, as we inch ever closer to the day when the U.S. has no racial majority. One of these days, after all, we will all be celebrating our multiracial pride.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1880467,00.html#ixzz0W2BxqzTZ

resignation

I thought this news would make me feel better about the situation.  Somehow I’m angrier than before.  First of all, the man doesn’t use proper English.  This bothers me to no end.  But even worse he feels that he is the victim here, being punished for having a conscience.  I’m sure he’s just beside himself with regret and worry for all of the confused half-breeds that he can no longer save from…. from…. what!? UGH! The insanity!

Louisiana justice who refused interracial marriage resigns

November 3, 2009

(CNN) — A Louisiana justice of the peace who drew criticism for refusing to marry an interracial couple has resigned, the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday.

Keith Bardwell resigned in person at the Louisiana secretary of state’s office, said spokesman Jacques Berry. The state Supreme Court will appoint an interim justice of the peace to fill Bardwell’s position, Berry said, and a special election will be held next year to fill the position permanently.

Keith Bardwell has said he was concerned about children of mixed-race married couples.

Bardwell- resigned because, “They was going to take me to court.”

Bardwell, a justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish’s 8th Ward, refused to perform a marriage ceremony for Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond, Louisiana, and sign their marriage license. The two were married by another justice of the peace.

The couple filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Bardwell and his wife, Beth Bardwell, on October 20, claiming the two violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Bardwell, speaking to CNN affiliate WBRZ, said he was advised “that I needed to step down because they was going to take me to court, and I was going to lose.”

“I would probably do the same thing again,” he said. “I found out I can’t be a justice of the peace and have a conscience.”

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-Louisiana, who had called for Bardwell’s dismissal, said Tuesday night that “Bardwell has finally consented to the will of the vast majority of Louisiana citizens and nearly every governmental official in Louisiana. Bardwell’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples was out of step with our Louisiana values and reflected terribly on our state. We are better off without him in public service.”

Initial reports were that Bardwell refused to issue a marriage license to the couple, but in the lawsuit Humphrey and McKay say they obtained the license from the parish court clerk’s office and contacted Bardwell to see if he would perform the ceremony and sign the license to legally validate the marriage.

Humphrey wound up speaking by telephone with Beth Bardwell, the lawsuit said, and Beth Bardwell asked Humphrey if they were a “mixed couple.” When told they were an interracial couple, Beth Bardwell said, according to the lawsuit, “We don’t do interracial weddings,” and told her the two would have to go outside the parish to marry.

interracial coupleHumphrey and McKay

Bardwell did not return repeated phone calls from CNN in October, but told CNN affiliate WAFB that he had no regrets about the decision. “It’s kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven’t done wrong,” he said.

In addition, he told the Hammond Daily Star in an October story that he did not marry the couple because he was concerned for the children that might be born of the relationship and that, in his experience, most interracial marriages don’t last.

“I’m not a racist,” he said. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.”

marriage license refused

I guess it’s not really a big deal seeing as he’s let a black person use his bathroom and all.  Of course I do not mean that at all and I am appalled by this.  Especially because his reason is to prevent the creation of miserable people like me.  Good God!  I think when this man sees and interracial couple he sees (in his mind) something like this:

white woman black horse

rather than this:

2100800164_a84aecde84

No Marriage License for Interracial Couple

By MARY FOSTER, AP

HAMMOND, La. (Oct. 15) – A white Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

“There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage,” Bardwell said. “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

“I try to treat everyone equally,” he said.

Bardwell estimates that he has refused to marry about four couples during his career, all in the past 2 1/2 years.

Beth Humphrey, 30, and 32-year-old Terence McKay, both of Hammond, say they will consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint.

Humphrey, an account manager for a marketing firm, said she and McKay, a welder, just returned to Louisiana. She is white and he is black. She plans to enroll in the University of New Orleans to pursue a masters degree in minority politics.

“That was one thing that made this so unbelievable,” she said. “It’s not something you expect in this day and age.”

…”It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzmann. She said the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 “that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry.”

The ACLU sent a letter to the Louisiana Judiciary Committee, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and recommending “the most severe sanctions available, because such blatant bigotry poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the administration of justice.”

“He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it,” Schwartzmann said.

…”I’ve been a justice of the peace for 34 years and I don’t think I’ve mistreated anybody,” Bardwell said. “I’ve made some mistakes, but you have too. I didn’t tell this couple they couldn’t get married. I just told them I wouldn’t do it.”