Anita and Ben Wedding Photo

Wedding photo

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 concerning race where he had a student encounter. In his words:

 A Student Encounter                                                                                                                                                    Slaves to Racism Book Cover

During the 1960s, at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, one of my sociology students asked to see me after class. Sheila was a young, heavy set white girl with long blond hair. As she sat down in my office, she said, “I don’t know how to say this but I’d like you to marry me.”

“What on earth are you talking about? Have I given you any impression that I’m interested in you?”

“No. I just like you because you’re very intelligent. This is my second year at OU and you’re the first black professor I’ve ever had. Your course is more interesting than the white professors. It really means something.

A Student Encounter With An Appalachian Girl

“I come from the back woods of Appalachia not far from here. There’s only a little path to our house. We don’t have a car. At night, we all sleep together in one bed. We’ve got goats and chickens in our yard. And the water around us stinks. I just go to class and go back home. I’ve never been anywhere outside of Athens.

“I told my family about you. My parents are bitterly angry that I’m taking a course from a black man. They’ve even threatened to take me out of school. If I married you, it would kill ‘em and I’d be free.”

“But, Shelia, why should I marry you? You’re young and inexperienced.”

“Well, I’m white.”

Beyond Myself Book Cover by Author Anita Katherine DennisI Wrote our Love Story

My husband’s stories fascinated and saddened me because as an Ohio farm girl, I knew little or nothing about race. To learn our love story, read Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief.