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. After 30 years of marriage, we wrote together Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to Liberia, which described the effect of racism upon his home country, comparing it with America’s racism. In it, he used examples from his experiences in the black community during the 1950s & 60s. The following is an excerpt in his words:
He Taught Classes on African Culture in the 60s
From the 1960s to the 1980s, I taught “Africans and Their Cultures” at three different universities. I had to begin each class by exhorting my students to first “unlearn” what they “knew” about Africa. As a graduate student at Michigan State, I began teaching classes on Africa as part of the emerging African Studies Program. I also taught introductory anthropology.
One day, a white South African geography professor at MSU, sat in on my anthropology class. During my lecture, I said that man first domesticated himself in Africa because of its conducive climate and topology. The first evidence of human writing was found in the Kalahari Desert. Africa was the first place where man made tools, kept them, and improved upon them. The cultivation of plants led to the development of villages and communities – hence, the dawn of civilization.
The Reaction from a White South African
After class was over, the geography professor asked to see me privately. When we got back to my office, he objected to many of the points in my lecture. He proceeded to tell me about the blacks in South Africa. He said, “Do you mean only Africans have done this? Don’t give all the credit to Africa. Inventions and contributions have been made by many peoples.”
I showed him several of my anthropology books and said, “What I presented in class today is all documented here.”
“You’re a young scholar who’s all fired up. No one claps at the end of my lectures. Students don’t come to see me in my office like they do you. You’ve got to remember that this is a white institution. You have to make everyone feel good.”
I Wrote Our Love Story
When he died in 2009, I coped with my grief by writing our love story: Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief.