I Married a Black Man
As a white college student in the 1960s, I married my anthropology professor who was a hereditary Mende chief from Liberia, West Africa. In Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to Liberia, which we published in 2009, he shared his experiences in the Black community during the 1950s.
Sexual Conquest of a White Woman
In his words: There was pride in sexual conquest, particularly that of a white woman. Since white women were forbidden fruit, marrying one was an act of defiance.
In a Negro barber shop in St. Louis, I heard one man say to another, “Get it boy! That’s it! They been doin’ this to our women all the time. They think they’re sacred cows. And the bigger and darker you are, the better it is. When they see you, their eyes will bug out, sayin’, ‘Look at that big buck with that tiny pretty white woman.’ ”
Others in the barber shop said, “Ain’t that right!”
He went on, “They’ll see that lovely little white woman lookin’ up at you in admiration, lookin’ into your big black eyes. That’s the only way white folks look up to us!”
Billy’s White Wife
(Disclaimer: I don’t subscribe to this kind of language, but I have kept it, to keep the power of this story.)
In my black friend, Billy’s, garage in Traverse City, Michigan, a group of us men were talking when a Negro who had a white wife walked in. One of the men said to him, “No white man would want that woman. She’s too fat.”
“Well, she’s a good fucker.”
“Man, that’s what they did to our women. But they never did it for love. They fucked the devil out of ‘em.”
“Man, what you think I’m doin’? I’m fuckin’ that woman day and night. Each time I have that’s what I’m doin’.”
“If I find one like that, I’d do it too. I’d fuck ‘er to death.”
After the men left, I said to Billy, “That was his wife they were talking about.”
He said, “Man, they toned it down cause you were here.”
An Interracial Couple at Michigan State
When I worked on my doctorates in the late 50s at Michigan State, my Negro wife and I lived in University Village, married student housing. A newly married interracial couple lived next door to us. One day, the black husband told me his white in-laws were coming to visit them. He wanted me there for moral support. After we all sat down, his white father-in-law told him, “John, I’m in a position to help you. My wife and I have agreed to give you forty thousand dollars. If that’s not enough, we’ll give you fifty thousand dollars to divorce our daughter. Whenever you need anything after that, you can always call on us.”
The husband was stunned and angry. He looked at me and said, “What would you do?”
“Before you ask my opinion, ask your wife. She’s their child.”
The wife was also angry. She told her parents, “We’ve heard you clearly. But nothing’s worth more to me than my husband.”
The husband said, “You heard her. Nothing’s worth more to me than my wife.”
The parents stood up, the mother sobbing. They couldn’t imagine anything good could come from such a marriage. Mulatto grandchildren would put them in a terrible social predicament.
Our Love Story
My husband’s accounts of 1950s & 60s black life fascinated and saddened me because, as an Ohio farm girl, I knew little or nothing about the implications of race. To learn our love story, read Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief.