Black Print with a White Carnation: Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star Newspaper, 1938-1989

By Amy Helene Forss | Go to book overview

1
A Family of Fighters

The jury reached their decision. After nine hours of deliberation, Foreman C. T. Burt read the one-sentence verdict written on the torn scrap of lined legal paper: “We the jury find for the plaintiff and that the will is valid.” The twelve white jurors concurred that William Breeding did indeed write his last will and testament while he was of sound mind and body and he was not affected by any “undue influence of his beneficiaries.” The judge proceeded with the case and awarded William Breeding’s estate to his four sons. For a long moment there was silence, and then the contestants’ reactions were simultaneous. Amid shouts to burn down the Decatur courthouse building, James Breeding, his siblings, and other assorted relatives, including Sam M. Dunnaway, stormed out of the two-story brick building to file an appeal. Alabama’s supreme court in Birmingham would spend several months during the winter of 1900 considering James Breeding’s request for the verdict to be overturned, but before spring planting began in 1901, the higher court upheld the lower court’s decision. Millard, William Taylor, Wilson, and Gus Breeding were officially and legally recognized as the four biracial heirs of William Breeding, their white plantation father.1

Mildred Dee Brown came from a long line of fighters who challenged white supremacy. William Breeding, Brown’s white greatgrandfather, and Sopharina Breeding, her black great-grandmother, lived and loved openly in Alabama during the Civil War and postCivil War era but they were forbidden to marry by the state’s miscegenation law. Existing as a common-law couple meant cohabiting as an unrecognized family unit. As historian Peggy Pascoe wrote in

-21-

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Black Print with a White Carnation: Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star Newspaper, 1938-1989
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1- Laying the Foundation 19
  • 1- A Family of Fighters 21
  • 2- Involving the Community 43
  • 3- Politics of Respectability 59
  • Part 2- Ensuring Her Success 81
  • 4- Working within Her Space 83
  • 5- Collective Activism and the de Porres Club 101
  • 6- Restricted Housing and ‘Rithmetic 123
  • Part 3- Transferring Ownership to the Community 141
  • 7- Changing Strategies for Changing Times 143
  • 8- The Death of An Icon 165
  • Notes 179
  • Bibliography 211
  • Index 233
  • In the Women in the West Series 242
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