Lenten music Friday: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass
20 hours ago
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Late in her life...Effa claimed she was not only the illegitimate offspring of a liaison between a seamstress named Bertha Ford Brooks, and a man at whose house she worked, financier John M. Bishop. And since both were Caucasian, Effa in fact was a genetically white person who nevertheless spent her entire life living, without regret, in a black world.
In 1977 she said, "My mother was a white woman. Her first husband was a Negro by whom she had four children. In the course of her sewing, she met my father, who was a wealthy white man...and I was born as a result." Her mother's husband, sued the white financier for alienation of Mrs. Brooks' affection and won a $10,000 settlement.
Mr. and Mrs. Brooks parted company over the affair, and Effa's mother married another black, B.A. Cole. The family included seven childen, six whose black fathers made them definitely regarded as Negroes, plus Effa, about whom questions were frequently raised...
She could never offer a real reason for choosing to live as a black, even when the truth told to her in her teens [by her mother] might have caused her to abandon a life that would clearly subject her to bias, no matter how subtle...In her old age...she mused: "I've often wondered what it would be like to associate with white people."
Recollections of Effa include accounts of her attraction to some of the Eagles, particularly the irrepressible Terris "the Great" McDuffie. Effa, [her husband] Abe [pictured above with Effa], and McDuffie took the facts of this alleged triangle to their graves...