Love in the Time of Miscegenation

Kathleen Rice Adams header

She’s the sweetest rose of color this darky ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the Yellow Rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.

Those are the original words to the chorus of “The Yellow Rose Texas,” a folksong dating to early colonial Texas. The first known transcribed version—handwritten on a piece of plain paper—appeared around the time of the Texian victory at San Jacinto in April 1836.

Marie Laveau 1774-1881 Marie Laveau by Franck Schneider

“New Orleans’ Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau (1774-1881) was a free Creole of mixed race.

In its original form, the song tells the story of a black man (“darky”) who has been separated from his sweetheart and longs to reunite with her. The lyrics indicate the sweetheart was a free mulatto woman—a person of mixed black and white heritage. In those days, “person of color” was considered a polite way to refer to black people who were not slaves. “Yellow” was a common term for people of mixed race.

During the Civil War, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” became a popular marching tune for troops all over the Confederacy; consequently, the lyrics changed. White Confederates were not eager to refer to themselves as darkies, so “darky” became “soldier.” In addition, “rose of color” became “little flower.”

Aside from the obvious racist reasons for the modifications, legal doctrine played into the picture as well. Until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 1967, all eleven formerly Confederate states plus Delaware, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia outlawed marriage and sexual relations between whites and blacks. In four of the former Confederate states—Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—marriage or sexual relations between whites and any non-white was labeled a felony. Such laws were called anti-miscegenation laws, or simply miscegenation laws. In order to draw what attorneys term a “bright line” between legal and illegal behavior, many states codified the “single-drop rule,” which held that a person with a single drop of Negro blood was black, regardless the color of his or her skin.

Texas’s miscegenation law, enacted in 1837, prescribed among the most severe penalties nationwide: A white person convicted of marrying, attempting to marry, or having sex with a person of another ethnicity was subject to a prison sentence of two to five years. Well into the twentieth century, it was not uncommon for the non-white half of the illicit relationship to be severely beaten or killed by irate local citizens.

The first American miscegenation laws arose in the colonies in the 1600s. The laws breathed their last gasp in 2001, when Alabama finally removed the anti-miscegenation clause from its state constitution after a referendum barely passed with only sixty percent of the popular vote.

Texas’s miscegenation law plays a role in “The Big Uneasy,” one half of the duet of stories in my new release, The Dumont Brand. The father of the heroine’s intended “lives in sin” with a free Creole of color. Under a tradition known as plaçage, wealthy white men openly kept well-bred women of color as mistresses in the heroine’s hometown, New Orleans. Texans frowned on the practice nonetheless. The situation causes no end of heartache for the heroine.

The Dumont Brand releases Friday, along with 20 other books, as part of Prairie Rose PublicationsChristmas in July event. About half of the books are holiday tales (like The Last Three Miles), and the other half are stories set in other seasons (like The Dumont Brand). Each of them will warm readers’ hearts all year long. Prairie Rose will host an extra-special Facebook fandango to celebrate the mountain of releases July 28-29. You can RSVP here. Did I mention the Prairie Roses will be giving away free books, jewelry, and other fun prizes?

The Dumont Brand 2 Web

 

On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until Amon Collier finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother Ben’s wounded soul.

The Big Uneasy: To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.

Making Peace: After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.

 

The-Last-3-Miles-Kathleen-2-Web_FinalThe Last Three Miles also will debut Friday as part of PRP’s Christmas in July:

When an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive. Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly finished track die.

The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles.

You can read excerpts from both books and peruse a complete list of the titles that are part of PRP’s Christmas in July event here.

 

To do a little celebrating of my own, I’ll give an e-copy of The Dumont Brand to one of today’s commenters and an e-copy of The Last Three Miles to another.

Please note: Both are available only as ebooks.

 

Kathleen Rice Adams
A Texan to the bone, award-winning author Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen's tales, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her at the Hole in the Web Gang's hideout, KathleenRiceAdams.com. Or, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Her Amazon author page is here.

22 Comments

  1. How interesting about “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and how the words were changed. I always thought it was a song soldiers sang back in the day but had no clue of it’s original words. Thank you for sharing.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

    1. Good morning, Cindy! “The Yellow Rose of Texas” is one of those songs that has undergone several revisions since it first appeared. Interesting how these things happen, isn’t it?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Kathleen, congratulations on your new releases!
    I didn’t know that the words to the song had changed. How very interesting! It’s hard to imagine how long it once took for society to change. Today, things are changing so quickly I can hardly keep track.

    1. Isn’t that the truth? I don’t even have time to get the hang of a new trend before something else has taken it’s place! 😀

      Thanks for the congratulations, Margaret, and thanks for stopping by. You’re always so supportive of your filly sisters. 🙂

  3. Bonjour Kathleen (see, I’m nice… ) 🙂

    What an interesting post. You know, I can relate to the miscegenation thing being that I myself married a Laotian and before that, I dated Asians (mostly Chinese). And boy, we were in the 20tht century… but talk about people talking behind my back because of the fact I chose to marry outside my own race! Lost friends (guess they weren’t really friends in the first place) over this, was shunned by others (like not being invited to their wedding on account of my “fréquentations”). Oh well! Their loss. 🙂

    That said, congrats again on your two new books. Looking forward to reading them and seeing you and the others at the fandango.

    Petit Hibou

    1. Liette, you lost friends over whom you chose to love? Isn’t that just the most ridiculous thing ever? I’ve never understood how some folks can be so shallow as to see no deeper than a person’s exterior. We’re all people underneath the hood. 🙂

      Thanks for coming by to lend your personal experience to the discussion today, Petit Hibou! HUGS!!!!

  4. I find that interesting about “The Yellow Rose of Texas” I always learn something when I visit here 🙂 Congratulations on your new books!

    1. Thanks for the congrats, DK! You know, I’m always learning something new around here, too. It’s amazing the depth and breadth of knowledge the fillies possess. 🙂

      Thanks for coming by!

  5. Some of the best fiction stories are about texas. Cool.

    1. You mean there is fiction that isn’t about Texas? **blink, blink** 😉

      Thanks for dropping by, Kim!

  6. Kathleen, I love both of these releases of yours (of course!). The Dumont Brand is the beginning of a slew of stories about the Dumont family. That brain of yours hung on to them like a bulldog with a bone, and what a wonderful bunch of future stories you’ve got coming out based on this family!

    Hugs,
    Cheryl

    1. I’m looking forward to helping that dang Dumont bunch tell their stories. Scoundrels, the lot of ’em. Judging by the number of unexpected relatives that have showed up so far, a few of “those Dumont people” need to have their bustles and denims glued on.

      I’m glad you like the stories, Okie. You’ll be seeing another of the Dumont kin shortly. 🙂

  7. Hi Kathleen, wow, I had no idea about the yellow rose! I made sure I took a picture of an actual yellow rose (Menger Hotel) when I was in Texas, as I thought it was so fitting. It just amazes me, how “law” thinks it belongs in anybody’s bedroom. Sheesh. I know things have improved but there’s always room for more. Thanks for the terrific post, and wishing you much success with the stories! I can’t wait to hunker down with ’em. Hugs…

    1. Thanks, for the wishes, Tanya! I wish you the same with your duet that will be out on Friday, too: SISTERS. Those women had their hands full taming their men, but they got the job done!

      I grow yellow roses in my yard just because this is Texas and I can. I’m not a huge rose fan, but these yellow ones are prettier than most I think. 😉

      Hugs to you, too, my friend!

  8. Great post and great stories, Kathleen!! I always learn something from you. You should start holding classes. 🙂 Cheers!!

    1. Believe me, the only thing I could teach is “don’t let this happen to you.” 😀

      Thanks for coming by, Kristy! I’m looking forward to reading CANYON CROSSING again when it comes out on Friday.

  9. Congrats on your upcoming releases! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your post with us today!

    1. You’re welcome, Colleen. I’m glad you stopped by! 🙂

  10. Congratulations on your upcoming releases, Kathleen! I had no idea the song lyrics had been changed. Thank you for sharing this interesting history.

    1. Howdy, Britney, and thanks for the congrats! 🙂

      “The Yellow Rose of Texas” has been through a number of revisions. Hardly anyone knows that…but now those who read today’s post know. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. It is sad and so wrong that those laws lasted so very long. It is almost unbelievable that Alabama took until 2001 to repeal their lay and by such a pathetic margin. How did those states determine the one drop when they knew little or nothing about someone? I am curious how they handled the situation on military bases in their states. Military families come from all over and many spouses are from other parts of the world.
    With all the songs they could have chosen, one wonders why Texas and the Confederacy chose a black folksong as their marching song. Was it because they liked the tune, or was it more of an intentional slap in the face of the black community?
    Good luck with your books. I have read several things about THE LAST THREE MILES and they were all good. Both books sound like enjoyable reading.

    1. Patricia, I’ve always wondered how they knew who had a drop of black blood. Many people who were of mixed race tried to “pass” as white if their skin was light enough. Some were successful; others were unmasked. Getting caught passing had all sorts of awful consequences, including loss of life.

      I’m not sure why Texans chose “The Yellow Rose of Texas” as their marching song, but other Confederates picked up the song from the Texans — who were everywhere in large numbers. Texas sent more men and material, including food, to the Confederate army than any other state. Texas also suffered the most casualties.

      I’m happy to hear you’ve heard good things about THE LAST THREE MILES. The story is different from anything else I’ve written, mostly because the hero is uncommon in the world of romance: An accident leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. I hope you’ll find him sexy anyway. The war in the Middle East has left quite a few men with physical and emotional challenges, yet their lovers find them very desirable. THE LAST THREE MILES is a tribute to those brave heroes and the strong heroines who love them. 🙂

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