Freedom's Child: The Life of a Confederate General's Black Daughter

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9780140282528: Freedom's Child: The Life of a Confederate General's Black Daughter

In this loving remembrance of her mother, Carrie Allen McCray portrays the life of a woman who worked to beat down the barriers to equality. Born eleven years after the end of the Civil War, the daughter of a white Confederate general and his black servant, Mary Rice Hayes Allen was publicly recognized by her father.

After she graduated from college she embarked on a career as a civil rights activist. From befriending her hostile white neighbors to starting local chapters of the NAACP, from desegregating movie theaters to writing personal letters to President Harding, Mary was determined to do what she could to improve the lives of African Americans. But the greatest challenge she faced was learning to accept her own father. Carrie Allen McCray's memories of her remarkable mother reward us with an intimate portrait of a woman who overcame a legacy of scandal to pass on a legacy of personal courage, conviction, love, and joy. .

--McCray's gentle, loving memoir of her remarkable mother "is a vivid picture of the joys and struggles of black life, in both South and North, between Reconstruction and the Depression." --The Virginian Pilot.

--"An invaluable work. McCray ... is one of the last links we have to the generation who actually knew individuals born into slavery. We are fortunate that she chose to make sure that those times, and how we rose above them, are never forgotten." --The Washington Post Magazine

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From the Back Cover:

In Carrie Allen McCray's memories of her childhood is the recurring image of a framed photograph on her mother's bedroom mantelpiece. It showed a white man in uniform. She remembers wondering who he was, but being afraid to ask. This book is the result of her decision to ask. What she found out was that the white man in uniform was her mother's father, John Robert Jones of Harrisonburg, Virginia, a retired brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. Her mother's mother, Malinda Rice, a freed slave, was his servant. Their child, Mary, was born eleven years after the end of the Civil War. Malinda Rice died when her two children by the general were still very young. Though the Rice family raised Mary and her brother, their white father recognized them publicly and paid for Mary's education. For this, he was cast out of society and belittled by contemporary Civil War historians. But Mary grew up to become a college graduate, a teacher, wife of the president of Virginia Seminary and, as his widow, acting president, wife of a leading African-American lawyer, mother of ten children, and lifelong activist working for what she called "full freedom" for African-Americans. Freedom's Child is a loving remembrance of how this beautiful and very determined woman spent her life beating down barriers to equality. Carrie McCray's memories reward us with an extraordinarily vivid and intimate portrait of a woman who overcame the legacy of scandal to pass on a legacy of personal courage, conviction, love, and joy. But perhaps even more remarkable is a black woman's slow acceptance of a white Confederate general as her grandfather and her public acknowledgment of his legacy to her - the courage toaccept kinship across racial taboos.

About the Author:

Carrie Allen McCray was born in 1913 in Lynchburg, Virginia, the ninth of ten children. She moved with her family to Montclair, New Jersey in 1920 and stayed there until her high school graduation. McCray earned her BA from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama and her MSW from New York University. She was married first to Scott Young, with whom she had one son. Her second husband was the late South Carolina journalist and civil and political rights activist, John H. McCray. Carrie McCray's career-long commitment to social activism has reached far and wide. She served as the Director of Health Services in the Essex County Tuberculosis League from 1940--65, and from 1940 she was a social worker in New York City and the Director of Psychiatric Services at Sheltering Arms Children's Agency in Brooklyn. In 1960, she and a group of professors in the Department of Social Work at Talledega College organized the Pulliam Street Center in Talladega, Alabama. Governor Brewer of Alabama appointed McCray to work on the Alabama Youth Commission. She received the Social Worker of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Workers and the United Negro College Fund's Teacher of the Year award in 1976. She retired from her position as Associate Professor of Social Work and Sociology at Talladega College in 1979. Though she wrote scholarly articles and some short stories and poems over the years, it was not until she reached age seventy-three that McCray began writing "seriously." Since reaching that landmark a decade ago, her work has been published in numerous publications, including Ms., The South Carolina Collection, The River Styx, The Squaw Review, Cave Canem I, and in Gloria Steinem's 1994 book, Moving Beyond Words. One of her short stories, published in John A. William's Beyond the Angry Black and several of her poems were used in a theater production by Luna Stage in Montclair, New Jersey. Among her many public appearances have been readings at the Charleston Spoleto Festival and on NPR's All Things Considered. Since retiring, McCray begins to write at 5 A.M. each day. She keeps busy conducting poetry workshops in schools, mental health centers, and senior centers; serving as a member of the Board of Governors of the South Carolina Academy of Authors; and working on the Social Action Committee and Missions Board at Second Calvary Baptist Church in Columbia. She also finds plenty of time to enjoy the company of her sisters, two grandsons and two great-granddaughters; her birds and dog; and the many friends she visits with regularly. Carrie McCray lives and works in Columbia, South Carolina.

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