As a man of mixed "race", I have been married to a very dark Black woman with whom I
fathered "Black" appearing children. I have also been married to a blonde Swedish
woman with whom I fathered a very fair "white" looking child. Because I am more
"of" the Black culture, I consider all my kids to be Black - and so do they!
Although it has decided limitations in this culture, there is something decidedly
heroic about being Black in America. No one even approaches Paul Robeson or
Muhammad Ali for sheer magnificence of character. I was thoroughly impressed by
"Secret Daughter" and June Cross and PBS are to be commended.
However, what I also found quite interesting is the research found on your web page.
For example, June's very "white" looking mother, Norma, would be considered Black
by America's Draconian standards as would an overwhelming majority (if not all)
"white" folks in America. The "one-drop" standard of Blackness in America goes
back to slavery days. Slavery was an extremely profitable business as was
slave-catching. When the progeny of white-Black unions began appearing in the form
of blond, blue eyed, aquiline featured "Negroes", slave catchers would often make
trips North and kidnap unsuspecting "white" kids and sell them as "octoroons" and
thereby was the slave base expanded.
I certainly hope you will pursue this most important issue in future programs.
My life has been very similar to June Cross's. I was given up 3 days after I was born and
have been the family secret ever since. Instead of race that seperates me from my
mother it has been money. I can understand the pain you feel and hope one day my mother can
announce to the world that I am her daughter, I think she would find it much harder to admit
she kept it a secret due to money. I don't know which would be the sadder story ??
I found myself glued to the TV with
a piece of paper and pen in hand. I wrote notes to myself
as a reminder, after the show I called my father and asked
if he knew anything about Stump and Stumpy. He went on and on
about how he had met Jimmy Cross at the 'Club Delisa'in Chicago
In those days my father was a drummer, he had the pleasure of
not only meeting many greats, but also performing with them.
I cant say I know how June felt, but the emotions were running
thru my heart and mind. My mother had very dark skin and Im
very fair. I knew what people were thinking when they saw us
together! I keep that inside and use it when ever I encounter
prejudice in this world. It makes me stronger as a Black woman
and more determined to acheive my goals. I can only hope this
is how June feels.Forgive your Mom, there is nothing worse thanregret after the death of a parent. God Bless you! There aremany others your story has touched.
I am a daughter of a New York City jazz club performer,
my dad "Skylark" Ketchum was known in the circle as a balladier.
Recently, the Jazz Showcase (Chicago) had a tribute to performers
of the pre-war and pre-television entertainment era. Joe Segal
brought performers together at his Jazz Showcase and for
the first time in my life, I met other performers who had
worked with my dad when he was a traveling, singing teenager
(man) with the big bands.
I must admit when dad took the stage it was a moving moment.
Jazz pianist Junior Mance, who lives in Manhattan (Chelsea)
and still works regularly, and my dad reminicsed
about their favorite musical arrangements. Mr. Segal brought in some
gentlemen who had made it and made it big. These gentlemen
were of European descent and had prospered working
in Hollywood, playing for movie soundtracks, etc.
My dad often said there weren't racist attitudes among the
players. The men had worked together happily, professionally,
Your film touched many parts of me, I often asked my mother,
why wasn't my dad more famous, more successful, more
fufilled with his career? He worked with Dizzy, Carmen MacRae,
Joe Williams, Etta James, etc. Your film helped me understand
why. The war came, my dad couldn't go, he had a damaged
heart from childhood rheumatic fever. Then with the advent
of television came a sudden halt in lucrative work. These are
just a few of the historical bits of information you
revealed to me last night.
But Ms. Cross, I must say when my dad rejoined the guys he
once travelled and played with he was so happy. This was a
way of life he enjoyed, but he didn't have an M.B.A. or a
degree in accounting to manage his financial affairs. Although,
he had graduated from high school with excellent grades
at the age of sixteen. There was one important aspect
missing in the lives of African-Americans living in the
north during 1950-1965. The opportunities to becoming
successful was limited and and a constant struggle at best.
"Secret Daughter" brought up emotions inside of me that I did not know exisited. I
am a bi-racial woman who was given up for adoption by my white mother, only to be
adopted by white family. My relationship with my real mother (others call her my
adoptive mother, but to me she is very real) all but supplanted any thoughts or
fantasies I may have had about the woman who gave birth to me. In June's mother I
saw a vision of what my own birth mother may have been like -- and could truly
empathize with some of the struggles she must have faced. Thank you June.
Rachel Onge Lerman
It has been a very long time since I've forgone "senseless
TV" for PBS, but yesterday's subject, your life, lured me
to your piece like a bloodworm does a brown trout, here in
Pennsylvania. I was afraid of the subject, because I am a
Black man, soon to be divorced from a White woman, with a
beautiful daughter and son. Like your mother, I think my wife was more excited to be married than actually in love.
What happened between your parents was always my fear of
marriage: that fighting might happen. I had seen that with
my parents. I had planned not to marry, ever, but I met a
person that I loved. Oh well.
Your work was so moving for me. I want my children to view it and
I am hoping to purchase it so that I can use it in a course that I
teach to first year students.
I wonder if you have heard from Maya Angelou. Your life shows that
the practice of finding the right people to help raise a child is
still going on. Please try and put this story into print, so that
I may use it in my course. Again, thank you.
As I watched June Cross in Secret Daughter, I saw my own multiracial, adopted,
daughter. I am white and so is my husband and our older adopted daughter. At many
times I watched June Cross through tears just as I watch my computer screen now
through those tears. I'd like to think that June Cross' story will influence, dare
I say change or improve, what my daughter will face in society. She is just 2 1/2
years old and already there have been comments even from our own family. I once
read that being a white mother of a child of color changes the fact that you are
white. I think that it's true of being a multiracial family. I feel that we now
have a responsibility to educate others. I want to share this story with, number
one, my relatives, I'm sorry to have to say, and, number two, with so many others -
strangers who take it upon themselves to judge me and my family. And those
strangers are both black and white. Neither accept my family but I can deal with
that and do what I can to change it. But it is so hard.
What a story you had to tell! I was thoroughly mesmerized
watching your program. I only inteded to watch a few minutes and ended
up watching all of it. I have dozens of questions for you--I wish you
had been my long lost cousin! Only I would not have allowed an
afternoon's visit--I would have insisted on a much longer visit. Yours
is just the wildest story--if yours were a fiction story no one would buy
Part of the reason I was so fascinated with your story is that I
am a Mormon. I wondered how much your cousins told you about your Mormon
heritage. The Mormon story is one filled with persecution,
misunderstandings, and triumph over odds. I think you would find it
extremely interesting. I wondered how you felt as you looked at the
pictures of your unknown ancestors for the first time. Did you feel any
connection to them?
My family's history of racial attitudes quite mirrors that of
your mother's. My fraternal grandparents didn't want to deal with the
subject at all. My cousins interracial marriage was a subject not to be
even discussed. My mother is an awesome example of the opposite of what
my grandmother was. With her help my father was able to reject the
racist attitudes he had been taught. He was the only of his siblings to
say he would welcome my cousin's black husband in his home. My husband
and I both welcome the ethnic and cultural diversity that we find in our
family. It adds interest and at times, a lot of excitement! It is our
prayer that our children will even more fully appreciate people of all
color and kind.
What courage it must have taken to produce that documentary, to examine
so closely your relationship with your mother, to come away maybe not
fully understanding your life, but not being bitter either. You seem to
know that all the answers will not appear suddenly--but may take years to
figure out . Your mother is very fortunate to have such a daughter.
Many people would probably say that you are entitled to a life of
bitternes and hurt. You appear to have let go of our anger and
resentment to grasp onto forgiveness and understanding.
As a 26 year old daughter of a white
woman and Black man, I appreciated watching how Ms. Cross's life unfolded.
It made me realize how much timing, racial attitudes and color impact biracial
As for myself, I am light enough to pass for many different ethnicites--I am often
mistaken for Puerto Rican, Italian, Jewish and everyone white, black or other
swears they have a cousin, or a neighbor who looks just like me. I define myself
as an African- American woman of mixed racial heritage.
But the timing of my birth and the openness of both sides of my family with their
undying love and support has allowed me to be whatever and who ever I choose. I am
about to graduate from Morehouse school of Medicine and will pursue a family
My experience has been very positive. I cannot imagine the pain I would've had to
endure if I had been born into a society that forced me to pass and deny one half
of who I am.
I applaud Ms. Cross' journey to embrace her entire identity and her courage to
document this very important struggle. She proves that despite the constraints
racism has tried to inflict upon us, that our spirits are enduring and courageous
enough to succeed at being exactly whom we choose.
I was adopted by white parents who were advised in 1970 that adopting a black child
could be very dangerous. My father was an air force navigator and the agency
feared that if he were stationed in the south that a white couple with black child
could encounter racial hostility or violence. So they got me, a
half-white-half-hispanic girl. My adoption was never a secret, nor was my mixed
heritage. I remember race first becoming an issue in Junior High when THE style
for wearing your hair was straight, parted down the middle with two paper towel
rolls down either side of your face. How I struggled with a curling iron and blow
dryer! My mother said, "Honey, your hair just won't do this." And then I realised
that no amount of effort would make me look like my classmates. I have struggled
between either being an ugly white girl or a white looking hispanic girl. As I
have tried to relay this feeling to Cuban or Colombian aquaintances, I have met
"You don't even speak Spanish." they have said.
"Even if you learned you would never be Latino."
"It is not your culture."
"You are white."
After so many years of listening to other people tell me who I am, I decided to
search for my birthmother and find out for myself. I have engaged an attorney and
asked the courts for my original birth certificate. New Mexico has designated
searchers to help reunite adoptees and their birth families. "Secret Daughter"
aired the day I was informed that it should be a week to ten days before my
birthmother is found. The program raised so many possibilities. I never
considered that my birthmother might not have been able to face raising a mixed
race child. Suddenly my perceptions of race have been realigned once again.
This search has been ongoing for thirteen months and I have been desperate for
some sort of conclusion. Now I am beginning to realise that June, who has never
fallen out of contact with her birthmother and had to wait more than thirty years
to discuss her origins has travelled this long journey only to arrive at the
beginning. Now that she can sit with her mother and they can begin to see one
another as they are, full of history and well traveled, now, now they can begin to
speak and listen to each other. How daunting to realise that my search that is
about to conclude, will end with a beginning.
Thank you so much for your program.
As I begin to write my comments, I have to deal with the lump in my throat and the
tears in my eyes.
I am a white secret daughter, but as you know, your blood and my blood are the same
colour. Outwardly we have a different skin colour, but inside, we are
human beings created by the same God.
To this day, my mother will not allow me to call her mother. Her three boys think I
am their aunt. My grandparents raised me.
I had no idea how much this hurt me psychologically throughout my life. But I am
seeing myself now, as a casualty survivor. Only now, do I understand the trauma of
that deep secret pain.
I never understood indentity, my identification seem to need my mother's name on
it, so that I could 'feel' valuable, wanted, and approved. If your own mother
cannot approve of you, then who can?
But now, through the pain, years of pain, who I am is beginning to emerge.
June Cross, thank you. I sure wish I could meet you, soul sister.
First, let me thank you for presenting such a thought-provoking program. Having
read a number of reviews and reactions to the show, I agree that this program did
not give anyone the "feel-good" answers or resolutions that they were loking for.
However, I don't believe that this was the purpose. As June Cross said in her
opening, the idea was to begin her discussion, not to end it. I applaud both she
and her mother for their honesty, their recognition of their own foibles, and their
willingness to ask hard questions, even if they did skirt some issues when they
occasionally got too painful. That is all part of the process.
As a gay man in his thirties, with a black heterosexual female roommate and a Jewish
male lover; as a man who grew up in a small city in Eastern Washington; as a man
who has worked with and formed strong friendships with people of all types; as a
graduate of Brigham Young University, I was repeatedly struck by the commonalities
I shared with Ms. Cross, and by the same thought: All of us, regardless of
history, personal story, lineage, etc. have at one time or another experienced
hatred or discomfort from others. No one is exempted. I can look back at my own
experiences growing up gay in a small town and start to feel extremely sorry for
the poor little boy that I was. My path may have been uniquely mine, but it was
not so different from so many other children who grow up afraid to be who they
really are. It doesn't matter whether the source of this shame and fear is family,
friend or society; we all, at some point feel it.
The need, as I see it, is to expand the dialogue beyond racism, homophobia,
religious bigotry, etc. We must, as a society and as individuals, search for the
root causes of our own experience of inferiority and fear, make attempts to
understand why others might try (unconsciously or consciously) to make us feel as
less than the beautiful, brilliant individuals we are, and make every effort to
avoid a repetition of these mistakes. Societies can only change as their members
make individual efforts.
Again, thanks for your positive, insightful, thought-provoking presentation of
Secret Daughter. More, more, more!
I would like to toss another perspective. I absolutely enjoyed the PBS special. I
am Latino and have a sister who is married to an African-American. They had a
child in August of 1992. My patriarchal father has not spoken to my sister ever
since she announced her pregnancy in late 1991. My father does not forbid my
stepmother (my sister's natural mother) from speaking to my sister, but she chooses
not to. It helps that my sister lives on the East Coast. My stepmother has a
casual excuse. My niece is the most loving and beautiful child in the world and
how someone who is related to her can hate her merely for the color of her skin is
beyond my comprehension. My family is a minority and so is my African-American
brother-in-law's, why don't we have more common ground? Perhaps a special on those
of mixed minority race can be explored. My Afro-Latino niece would really
I turned on the television
because I couldn't sleep after having had Thanksgiving
dinner for my family from Texas. Lucky me to
turn on the tube when your show was on.
Wanted to let you know I not only approved,
but I was a more than willing watch, and
as all good autobiography should do, yours
brought back my story to me, which I have
also written about as an independent radio
producer (when NPR was more open to that
kind of work).
My parents are both white, but there was
a distinctive class difference in the small
town, and I've been living with that distinction
for a long time. Even tried to repeat it in
my own attraction to a black trumpet player
who I became pregnant by and unhappily
decided to have an abortion, also wrote a
radio play about that it. But I have thought
a lot about what it would have been for
a child with darker skin to be raised by
lily white me and my world. Even though
they always say 'he or she is black,' even
when one parent is white, I don't agree.
I can see the white in you, and in a lot
of people with parents of both races.
I know there is a whole 'politically
correct' and 'not politically correct'
THANG but to me, that's the mark of
the very best autobiography -- it has
no politics, except as it happens in
the story. Great good job!
I found this program illuminated alot of things for me
My Mother was in a similar situation in the 1930's. Her
Mother was White and her father was Black. Societal and family
pressures, forced her mother to leave her husband and child-
dren and live a sort of secret life, visiting only occasionally
until my grandfather moved out of town. BTW, he was also
in show business in NYC in the 1930's but wasn't sucessful.
I always wondered why in the 1980's and 1990's with the
widespread acceptance of interracial relationships, my grand
mother would not allow my mother or aunt to visit. She would
call and write, but never invite anyone to see her. I have to
admit that it had always been a wish of mine to see her. She died
this summer in a nursing home denying even to nurses who knew
the truth, that she had inter-racial children. I guess the pressures,
white women with inter-racial kids faced could be so painful
that many of them, just decided to leave the whole situation
behind and start over. This program gave me much better
insight into what was happening with my mothers family, some
thing I never understood. The reluctance of women to interact
with their bi-racial children, can be painful and confusing and
seeing that others have had similar experiences is heartening.
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