The Vicious Politics of Class and Skin Color Among Blacks
A member of the United States Marine Corps, first colored battalion, Robert Lee Thomas had been severely wounded while serving in the Pacific. He’d stepped on a Japanese land mine while his company was setting up their munitions supply base on the island of Saipan. Although he’d sustained severe flesh burns and multiple bone fractures during the explosion, Robert Lee was totally devastated to learn that he’d also been blinded.
He was immediately evacuated to the Army hospital in Hawaii, where he spent the first month recuperating from his injuries. Then he was sent to the Army hospital in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where he spent the following six months in concentrated rehabilitation, in order to adjust to his blindness. Robert Lee finally arrived home from the Army hospital in early January of 1946. However, he immediately withdrew from his family, as he refused to leave his bedroom.
After a solid month had past, Robert lee’s mother finally broke his self-imposed isolation, when she went into his bedroom and had an emotional conversation with him. She had been able to convince him to come out and join the rest of the family for breakfast. Next she asked him to accompany her to church. Although Robert Lee had been seriously averse to the idea at first, he reluctantly agreed. It had been after this very church service that he’d been introduced to, Miss Jeannette McQueen, his baby sister’s schoolteacher. He’d quickly learned, during their initial conversation on the church ground, that his sister had told her teacher an awful lot about him. However, he’d been very pleased to learn that she’d been impressed and admired him for the way that he’d inspired his sister. Then she told him about herself, and he’d found her very intelligent, quite elegant and sophisticated. Also, he’d found her very passionate and committed to her work; educating colored children. However, he’d been totally shocked when she’d invited him to dinner at her home on the following Sunday evening.
Although Robert Lee had been totally elated over her dinner invitation, something else that she’d told him earlier had also filled him with fear and trepidation. Even though, Miss McQueen, had certainly been a fantastic breath of fresh air for him, because she’d been so warm, sensitive, and wonderful, she was also the Granddaughter of, Evelyn Callaway, the matriarch of one of the richest and most powerful colored family’s in North Carolina. He already knew that this notorious family of coloredaristocrats were very light skinned, very well educated, and politically, very conservative. So he automatically understood, that anything other than a purely casual relationship between him and this, young elegant woman, would be an impossibility. Why, because of his very dark skin, and his folks being poor sharecroppers, would make him as welcome in that family, as a chicken hawk in a henhouse.