No right to one’s own ancestry?

Conversation with Stephanie Bryant
The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition
Yale Center for International and Area Studies

Stephanie thought she had no right to her Irish heritage. As an adult, Stephanie has thought more about her Irish side and says that her daughter, Rachel, taught her to acknowledge her whiteness and her Irish heritage.

Stephanie is a light skinned African American, as our many of her family members. She was listed as white on her birth certificate which she guesses was a mistake made by a nurse who saw her alone, not with other family members. Years earlier, Elijah and his family were listed as white on the 1920 census, perhaps because the census taker met Mary and assumed the other family members were white. Stephanie grew up in Roxbury, a predominantly black area of Boston, and later West Roxbury, an area that was predominantly white. She and her family left Roxbury during the 1960’s when blackness dominated the identity of African Americans. In the 1960’s, she was stoned/attacked in Roxbury when she walked through because other African Americans assumed she was white. In what Stephanie calls “Old Boston”, she says that most African Americans were light skinned. Many “Old Boston” African Americans were light skinned, and many were blue-eyed. Their color ranged from Stephanie–nearly white to medium brown. When she was growing up, Roxbury was structured by color, profession and economics. Professional blacks were light skinned. Darkest were poorest. The Franklin Park area of Roxbury was where the light skinned lived and the economic path went down all the way to Dudley and Northampton Streets where the poorest, darkest lived. Then in the 50’s and 60’s, an influx brought “very dark” African Americans to Boston, to Roxbury. Light skinned were no longer welcome. Stephanie thinks that it never occurred to newer black residents that people so light skinned were also black.


  1. A.D., I always enjoy your articles and thoughts. This just goes to show the fallacy of “we’re all black, no matter what colour” type of hypocracy. I am 42, and I never fell for that, no matter how many times my parents tried to assure me that my grandmother was “black”. She didn’t look it to me and nor did her brother and my father and my uncle do not look “black”. My youngest brother who is the darkest out of us all is accused by white co-workers of trying to “pass for black”!!! They think he’s Indian or Middle Eastern. So I think it’s more phenotype and hair than it is skin colour. It’s interesting that I started on my quest to destroy “One Drop” more than 15 years ago to piss off whites. Now amny whites say to me they think that it is way outdated. It is now the black indentified who become hostile when they encounter the FACTS. I used to post on a black website,, and was called everything you can imagine by the imbeciles there.Even the host, MBM, who is “light skinned”, bought into the insanity. I left because you couldn’t engage these people into an intelligent discussion without them becoming insulting and hostile. Anyway I just found out about IV and MultiRacialActivist a couple of years ago. The information I have obtained is very intellectual and truthful as oppossed to the left wing rhetoric of the black socialists.I could go on and on, but have to roll

    4/20/2004 3:21:52 PM

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