“Am I Black? Hell Yeah!”

“Am I Black? Hell Yeah!”

(1)ne Drop Project

Billy Calloway

“You make sure to keep a bonnet on that boy’s head. We don’t need to tip off the sales agent that a Black family is moving in.”

This was the first story I remember being told to me by my dad. My father grew up in Roanoke, Virginia during 1930’s. He was brown skinned. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 and was accepted at the University of Virginia. On the day that he was to register for class he was told the ‘porter’s quarters were down the hall.’ When he produced his acceptance letter he was ushered off the Charlottesville campus. He returned with an up and coming attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who forcible told the school officials that his client would sue if he were not admitted. UVA, instead of fighting my dad, negotiated a deal with him that they would pay for him to go to any other school, just not theirs. My dad went to all Black Fisk University, graduating first in his class at the age of 19 and then went to Meharry Medical College where he graduated second in his class at the age of 23.

My mom was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1936. Her mom was a ‘light skin’ girl and her father was White. She’s what you call a ‘high yaller.’ Both of her parents died when she was very young and she was sent to live with ‘Nanna’ in New York. She was discovered by a talent scout who worked for John Johnson of Ebony and Jet magazine fame.  When the Ebony Fashion Fair toured the south it would be my mom who got off the bus to get food for the rest of girls and crew. She ‘passed.’  For my mom being so fair was not an advantage. She was resented by her ‘friends’ who were darker because they thought she went around ‘passing’ as White when in fact she didn’t and by Whites who called her ‘nigger lover’ because she lived in Harlem and associated with Blacks.

Am I Black? Hell yeah! I have light green eyes, when I had hair it was curly and blonde. My complexion is café au lait…

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