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 wrote together and was published in 2009, he shared his experiences in the black community during the 1950s. In his words:
Talk in the Black Barber Shop
In a Negro barber shop in St. Louis, I heard someone say, “Laugh, then you can tell ‘em anything. They’ll believe you cause they’re stupid as a Billy goat. They’re all dirty, even those who pretend they’re Christian. When you see those who seem to be liberal, be on your guard cause they’re gonna burn you. They’re so used to cheatin’ Negroes, it’s just a part of their livin’. The white man’ll never change. We know they’re just givin’ us leftovers. Those peckerwoods will drain you. They’ll do anything to get a nigger to do somethin’.”
I Could Mess “Em Up Very Easy
In Lansing, Michigan, a Negro friend told me, “I could mess ‘em up very easy and they wouldn’t know anything but God doesn’t like that. The only thing I don’t have and many of ‘em don’t have, is a college degree. That’s why I’m goin’ to school. You could mess ‘em up too cause you’re smarter than the rest of my teachers.”
Talk in the Black Corner Store
In St. Louis, I walked into a corner store in a Negro neighborhood. One of the Negroes there said, “Hey! Tell me somethin’ ‘bout Africa.”
One of the others said, “He’s goin’ to college – university. He speaks German.”
The first man said, “Do they speak German in Africa? If he speaks all those languages, he may look Negro but he ain’t no nigger.”
When a white man walked in the door, everyone instantly stopped talking and stood there watching him intently. After he left, I said, “Do you know him? Did you think he was going to do something?”
They were quiet for a few moments looking at me and then at each other. Then they burst out laughing. One of them said, “Man, he’s from Africa! You can’t trust a white man till you know what he do’s.”
“Here Comes a Peckerwood!”
In a barber shop in Kansas City, someone said, “Here comes a peckerwood!” A white man came in and asked if anyone there knew where a certain Negro repairman was. Everyone was dead silent. Finally, the barber said, “I don’t recognize the name.” After the white man left, everyone laughed.
Someone said, “What he wanna do that for? Maybe he’s not really lookin’ for anything.”
Another said, “I know the guy he’s lookin’ for but I’m not gonna help a peckerwood look for a nigger.”
Someone else said, “I know ‘im too.” He said to the guy next to him, “You know ‘im too,” and he described the guy to him.
The other man said, “Oh, I know him. They way he said his name, I didn’t know he was talkin’ bout him.”
Someone said finally, “You never trust a peckerwood.”
I Wrote our Love Story
After my husband’s death in 2009, I coped with my grief by writing our love story, Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief.