Alison Bailey, Bloomington, IL. Yes. I’ve been able to find out who my 3d greatgrandmother is until recently. She was the bastard child of Joseph C. Van Mater, or “Big Joe,” as he was called. The Van Mater family were early settlers in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Big Joe was the largest slave holder north […]
Anoosh Jorjorian, Santa Monica, CA. My paternal grandmother came to the U.S. to escape the Armenian Genocide. My maternal grandfather jumped aboard a U.S. submarine during World War II because the Japanese Army put a price on his head. When they raised my parents, they wanted more than anything for their children to assimilate into […]
Jessica Johnson, Long Beach, CA. My grandparents took pride in not being a “typical” black family. I grew up in Prince George’s County, MD (about 10mins outside of the nation’s capital) which is home to the largest number of middle class black families in the United States. But outside of my community, I noticed even […]
R. Denise Everson, Washington, DC. My grandmother reared me. Her positive expressions of beauty being black shaped my perception and made me proud to be black.
Allen Nunez Wickham, Molalla, OR. I remember being asked by my mom at 5 years old if I wanted to learn Spanish., and replying that I didn’t want to. Only later did I realize later that people actually grew up speaking Spanish and English, and my dad’s inability to speak Spanish has greatly impacted my […]
Cheryl Mercado Arnedt, West Orange, NJ. My grandmother and her sister — red-headed daughters of NYC cops — both married full Filipino men and were disowned. There was no race in our family – just rice AND potatoes at every meal. My grandfather “Pupa” intentionally didn’t pass down his Asian-ness or his language Tagalog so […]
Ahtum, San Antonio, TX. I often get asked what are you but when I had a baby with red hair, the question became how did you get a baby with red hair. I always start off with, “well, my mom IS white” then lead into “but my husbands grandmother had red hair” I often want […]
Donna Wolfe Kansas City, MO She bolstered my self-love, self-esteem and confidence. I am eternally grateful. My self-image was that of beauty, grace and intelligence. My elders lived that way, daily. They made us feel loved and entitled to the best the world has to offer.
Adrienne Zimiga, Minneapolis, MN. I was born and raised on the Pine Ridge reservation my first 12 years. Upon moving from Batesland, SD to Castlewood, SD my caucasian grandmother was concerned that my brothers, sister, and I could face social problems being part Native American (iyeska: mixed blood/race) in an all white community. She told […]
Katherine E. Byroade, West Hartford, CT. When I was a child, my southern grandmother took great delight in the fact that she was a Jamestown descendant and DAR member and saw her membership in those organizations as part of her legacy to her granddaughters, ensuring our social success. She was matter of fact that the […]
Liz Pryor, Northampton, MA. Smith College. My mother was white. So was her whole family. After my husband, who is white, proposed, my grandmother cornered my cousin and asked “Does he know about Elizabeth?” My cousin asked back, “Does he know what?” and my grandmother answered, “That she’s Black.”
Morgan Fort Lauderdale, FL My now three and a half year old brother named Kendall was born to two crack addicted parents. My grandmother now has full custody of him and is his Mother figure. My grandma goes a few times a week to the Walmart across the street to do her grocery shopping. Benny […]
Zoe Zeerip, Rockford, MI. The elders in my family still believe race defines relationship.
Blair White Haddad, Los Angeles, CA. Being the child of an adopted mother, for a long time I only knew half of my genetic make up. After being reunited with my bio grandmother we discovered our Native American/ French background. My whole life I’ve been asked the question- what are you? Instead of identifying myself […]
Lemuel Reddikc, New York City, NY. People ask me “where are you from?” and I never know how to answer that. I just say “I’m black,” but then they ask me where my parents are from. My maternal grandmother is from the West Indies and my maternal grandfather was from the Carribean, but I can’t […]
Jeanette Weneill, Seguin, TX.
Vincent Yanez, Long Beach, CA. For as long as I remember my mother, and myself as I got older, was given a very hard time from people in our neighborhood and some family members about my little sister, little brother, and I not being able to speak Spanish. My mother and father both grew up […]
Kendra Jones Selma, AL My grandmother carried her moniker with pride, though it has a dubious beginning: At six weeks of age my mother was given away to an aunt I refer to as my grandmother. My mother’s biological mother meant it as an insult when she said, “Oh, just go to your mammy.” But […]
Lee, North Little Rock, AK.
Francis, Livingston, MT If the civil war had gone differently I could have been born a slave. The children of slaves are almost always slaves. My great great grandmother was native and many thousands of natives were captured and sold into slavery.
Denise Pierce, Sterling, VA. My grandmother who was born in NC in 1901 and lived to be 105 tried to instill in me a love for my land-owning ancestors who also owned slaves. At 99 she was still quoting from the KKK playbook that taught slaves were lucky to have been brought to America and […]
Robin Greeley St. Louis, MO This is what my relatives said to me at a family reunion in the 1950s.They were afraid that if it was known that Grandma was Choctaw, she could be sent to a reservation – something that was done in those days. In Pueblo, Colorado, the hatred and direct discrimination of […]
Clinton Browning Fayetteville, GA
Douglas Rule Colorado Springs, CO 1904 Sopris, CO, killed in a shoot out. Only reason situation not dismissed is that my grandmother’s sister Laura was not just a Mexican.
Sharla Yeutsy Urbandale, IA I’m a white 73 year old grandmother of seven who has always lived in the midwest. I am grateful that I grew up in a family that judged people by the “content of their character” I rejoiced when we elected Barak Obama two times as our president and am so pained […]
Ashley Ward Edgewood, MD My Grandmother grew up in a different time, where to be light was right and to be dark was wrong. My grandmother was extremely light, but my biological father is west indian and extremely dark. Dark like the ocean and I favored his complexion over my maternal genes. I was my […]
Freya United Kingdom 3 years ago my auntie said she knows something but I haven’t called her.
Carol Silva Portland, OR My step-grandma danced, taught, and had her own hula group who performed during the week on Oahu. Once when she and my grandpa were visiting us on the Mainland, my grandpa suggested that when I got older I could come to Hawaii and dance in the show. This was unlikely to […]
Keira Dodd Lakewood, OH My Italian grandmother came here in 1956 on the Andrea Doria, and my mother only knew one sentence of English (“I have to pee”) when she first went to school. She got called names and ostracized for her “otherness.” I remember that when I think of how different immigrant cultures are […]
Carole Woods Sequim, WA Sue worked for my grandmother without pay in Sumter, South Carolina, from her teenage years in the early 20th century until she was quite elderly. Then she was ‘given’ back to her relatives. My grandmother claimed Sue’s father ‘gave’ her to my family. She was a member of the African-American family […]
Joseph Jackson, III Gulfport, MS I asked my grandmother that question after she hit my butt so hard I saw little blue stars. It was 1957, N.O. La. at the grand opening of what was then billed as the world’s largest supermarket. My crime? Being 6 years old and drinking from the whites only water […]
Mara Davis Bermuda Dunes, CA I have one mixed grand-daughter and i love all of my grand-children. Love is not shaped by skin color but by the quality of the interaction between 2 people. This is my family now and I strongly resent anyone mocking us because one child appears different. One day, a new […]
Alice J Walker Gay, GA This concerns a story told to me about my grandmother, who died in 1960 when I was five years old. In the mid-fifties, she lived with my aunt and uncle and their boys in Rome, Georgia. On one rare occasion, she was home alone when Carrie May, the housekeeper came […]
Regina Wurst San Francisco, CA I am on a steep learning curve, but glad for the impetus of family that makes me stretch.
Peter Gilgunn Pittsburgh, PA My race card paraphrases what my grandmother told me the day the orange walk entered the housing scheme we lived in. I was seven at the time. She was worried I would get abuse from the marchers because I was a catholic. My grandmother was an atheist and caucused with the […]
Kat Sabine Phoenix, AZ During my childhood, I was raised to believe that I am Caucasian. I found out through a health crisis that what I suspected about my grandmother as “passing” was true. In her abusive marriage to my grandfather, she lived as a white woman whom he institutionalized in mental health facilities when […]
Susan Fentin Conway, MA My son and his wife had their first child in April 2010, a beautiful brown-eyed baby girl with a head full of dark brown hair, whom they named Laila. Her complexion was a delightful coffee color, a blend of her dad’s fair coloring and her mother’s Indian ancestry. Since I knew […]
Katherine Fulton Chippewa Lake, OH My mother, father, aunt, grandmother and I have been mistaken for everything from Italian to Egyptian. When we tell the truth, reactions range from surprise to disgust.
Angie Featherstone Los Angeles, CA When I was 39 years old, my mother informed me that my great, great-grandmother was an escaped slave named Hatti. Despite all outward evidence to the contrary, I am 1/16th black.
Cynthia Moore Northborough, MA My sweet kind misguided fearful grandmother called the police to report a potential dangerous intruder in the house when my black boyfriend first came to visit where we lived downstairs. The doorbell rang and the police asked me to step outside. They then went inside and confronted him. I thought I […]
Bradley McIntyre Woodbridge, VA I was always the darkest kid in my mostly black school. I always saw myself only as black. Three years ago I learned that my grandmother is not black. My maternal great grandfather is an Irish merchant sailor and my maternal great grandmother is Arawak Indian (native of Jamaica). It is […]
William Straub Morris, MN
Angela Dickerson New Braunfels, TX