§9 Sarah Patton Boyle
Sarah Patton Boyle was born on May 9, 1906 in Albemarle County, Virginia to Robert Williams, an Episcopal clergyman, and Jane Patton. A cousin to General George S. Patton, she married E. Roger Boyle, a drama professor at the University of Virginia in 1932. By late 1953, Mrs. Boyle had published more than one hundred articles for newspapers, magazines, and religious publications on the issue of integration. In 1962 “Patty” Boyle authored a memoir entitled The Desegregated Heart, which explains her transformation from a traditional white southern aristocratic woman to a civil rights activist. Key to that transformation was the admission of Gregory Swanson, an African American attorney, to the University of Virginia Law School in 1950. Subsequently, she befriended T. J. Sellers, the editor of Charlottesville’s black newspaper, The Tribune. So outspoken was Boyle on civil rights that on August 29, 1956, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on her front yard. She was the first white person to serve on the Charlottesville NAACP chapter’s board of directors.
A self-proclaimed “naive idealist,” Boyle thought that by discussing the intentions of Jesus and by setting an example, she could encourage southern whites to support racial equality. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” credited Boyle for explaining the moral importance of faith in the fight for racial justice. In June 1964 Boyle was arrested in St. Augustine, Florida, during a civil rights demonstration at the Monson Motor Lodge. Boyle retired from active participation in the freedom movement in 1967. In 1983 twenty-one years after the publication of her first book, Boyle authored The Desert Blooms: A Personal Adventure in Growing Old Creatively. She died in 1994. On May 8, 2001, the City of Charlottesville honored Boyle for her civil rights work. A bronze plaque with her name was placed on the Drewary Brown Bridge recognizing her as a “bridge builder.” Her papers are housed at the University of Virginia.
In this very brief speech before the Calvary Christian Church, Sarah Patton Boyle takes up the “great white southern fear”: interracial marriage. An integrated society, she promises, will not lead to increased intermarriage. Why? Experience shows us that, even without segregation of criminals, poor white trash, gangsters, pick-pockets and sex fiends, we don’t worry about our daughters marrying the aforementioned deviants. Note that Boyle, like so many white southerners of her day, assumes a very specific gendered relationship—the old canard of black men marrying white women. Experience and commonsense also reveal that integration will not lead to more intermarriages, as observed in the real world example of New York City. Boyle also subtly expands her case for racial integration by arguing that blacks would not seek social equality with whites, nor would they seek to “storm our private lives.” The point Boyle drives home, though, is about choice: “And yet to them [blacks] it makes all the difference between manhood and submanhood