Black, White, Other Flashback: Sallyann Hobson

by | Nov 1, 2013 | Word Up

Here’s an excerpt from the opening of Sallyann Hobson’s original interview in Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity (the book was first published in 1994 and is now available in a 20th anniversary expanded ebook edition):

Sallyann Hobson c. 1993

“My parents met originally through a mutual friend at a birthday party. My mother has also told me stories of living at home as a young girl, sixteen years old, and my father doing mason work and carpentry for her family. My father was twelve years older than my mother.

I think there was some attraction from the very beginning. And when my father asked my mother out, my mother knew right then that this was something her family would not be pleased about, and she began seeing him clandestinely. There was a dual thing here—not only the race issue but also her age.

This was in Orange, New Jersey, which brings up something else: the racial makeup of the town and the way things were. We’re talking about 1948, 1946, years when in the town of Orange, New Jersey, Blacks lived in the town and Whites lived in the town, primarily Italians, which my mother’s family was. The Italians pretty much ran the town—they were the mayors and city officials—and the Blacks who lived there had no political say.
So this relationship was not going to be well received in those days, not at all. At one point, apparently, my mother’s family found out that my father was seeing my mother, and they sent her to California with a one-way ticket to live with her aunt, to stay there until she got her head together. By this time she was a little older. I guess she had been sneaking around seeing my father successfully for about two years or so. And my mother has to this day a letter that my father sent her that said, ‘If you don’t come back I will come and get you. I love you and I want to marry you.’

So my mother snuck away from the trailer where she was staying with her aunt, got on the train, and came back cross-country. Her brothers found out she had left California, and so in Penn Station in Newark, she sees her brothers, who have come to the train station because they found out what train she was on. On one side are her brothers; on the other side is my father. She waved to my father to go away, and she went home with her brothers. They hit the ceiling about her coming back. How could she do this! That night, when they went to church, my father came to the house and picked her up, and she never went back again. He brought her to his mother’s house, and they got married. This was 1949. They stayed together until he passed away in 1981.

Apparently, once she married my father, her brothers were infuriated, and for the most part she is dead to this day to many members of her family. This has been a very sad thing, not only in my mother’s life but in mine and my family’s. My brothers and sister have different feelings about this. I won’t speak for them. I will only speak for my own feelings about it and what I have worked through in my own coming of age and maturity about this. My mother still, at this point in time, has contact with her mother and her sister, my grandmother and my aunt, who are living in the same home with her brother. My grandmother and my aunt call my mother almost daily, but she is not allowed to call them, and when I say not allowed, then we get into the unspoken rules of the game, how it’s played. The rules we have all followed in my family whether we knew it or not and which I, for the first time about two or three years ago, began to break.”

To read what Sallyann Hobson has to say today, click here. (Spoiler alert: you might want to read her full interview before reading the update.)