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Centuries before W.E.B. DuBois named the colorline—i.e., racism—as the problem of the 20th century, skin color stratification was a persistent phenomenon. In 1983 Black feminist, scholar, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker termed “colorism” as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their [skin] color”. Using the tools of genealogy, I conducted a critical family history of my parents, Lem and Mae’s, pursuit of their American Dream. Such exploration digs deep to decipher the nexuses of a family’s evolution. Dr. Maya Angelou routinely shared stories about her past to impart the importance of embracing one’s history. For my parents, the American Dream meant opportunity, which included home ownership. Their American Dream began as African Americans in the United States’ Jim Crow south. Lem was a light-skinned man; Mae a dark-complexion woman. They met, married, and bought a small home in segregated Columbia, South Carolina. Bearing the cloak of oppression, my parents joined millions of southern Blacks in the Great Migration relocating to northern cities—my parents landed in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout their journey, Lem and Mae reached back to their ancestors, and drew from within themselves to improve their circumstances.


Published Citation

Davis, Danné E. "Their American Dream." Genealogy 4, no. 2 (2020): 45.