When my maternal Grandmother passed away nearly three years ago at the age of 94. My family came together as families do. At her memorial gathering each of us grandchildren stepped up to share kind words about her. She was the only grandmother that we knew growing up. When my brother spoke about her, he started out by saying " I never knew that my grandma was white". It was then that I realized that even in our family many did not know about her Identity. I just assumed that we all knew. I realized that her history needed to be shared with everyone. Although she identified herself as being black or "Negro" as she would say. She did look white and could have easily passed for that if she wanted to. Growing up, we didn't see the color of her skin. She was just Grandma. We were crazy about her and she was always, always there.
|My Grandparents: Anthony Bannarn and Margaret Doyle|
Out of the many talks that we had over the years. The one thing that she never talked about was the color of her skin. I wondered if she had ever passed for white. I always sensed that it was a touchy subject for her and although I was curious I could never bring myself to ask her. It wasn't until she was almost 90 years old that she finally shared her story with me. As she started talking I noticed the far away look in her eyes. It seemed as if she was no longer in the room..she had traveled back in time to share her story with me. Her pain was so obvious.
|Siblings: Margaret and Robert Leonard Doyle|
I loved her even more for sharing her uncomfortable memories with me. I understood so much more about who she was. She had answered all the things that I was curious about but could never bring myself to ask her. She knew me as her quiet granddaughter, forever asking questions about the family. She also knew that I wanted to know all that there was to know about her and her ancestors.. maybe that's why she finally shared her story with me.
|Grandma holding my sister, me and my brothers - 1965|
© 2013 Denise Muhammad
I think your grandmother would be very pleased at the way you have shared her story. I wonder how the employers discovered she was black, her husband and children, where she lived?ReplyDelete
Thank you. I would like to think that she would. She never said how people found out, I suspect that within the small neighborhood where she lived, word got around to her employer.ReplyDelete
"The Imitation of Life"scenes with Sarah Jane passing at her job, was a reality of life for a lot of people. As my grandfather went in between both worlds also. But as DNA testing is being very common, the one drop rule is no longer the rule for the European DNA folks who have that one drop or mor of Sub-Saharan ancestry. As DNA and genealogy has proven we are all one people...just took different journeys.ReplyDelete
Yes, I remember that movie. I cannot imagine what life must have been like for them. Thank you Stephani, I appreciate your comment.Delete
Our history is rich & though MANY times bittersweet [and oft times tragic] must be told. Ancestors choose the right descendant to share their stories with love & the reverence due. Grandma Doyle was beautiful, obviously inside & out. A wonderful job Denise helping us learn about her journey.ReplyDelete
Thank you Luckie. :)Delete
A really poignant story, Denise. Thank you for sharing it.ReplyDelete