|Sargent William Adam Green|
(October 1874 - February 21, 1940)
Yesterday, I returned to the home of my cousin, H, in Louisburg, NC, where this picture, along with several others of the white-looking ancestral members of my family, hangs in a private room, which few people even know about. I convinced my aged and ailing cousin to allow me to go back into the room (escorted by his wife) to compare a picture of another mystery ancestor, to a baby picture that I remembered being in there. He obliged my request, and so, while in there, I quickly took new photos of each of the pictures in the little room. All of the pictures are framed, and most are hanging on the wall. The ones that aren't are sitting atop an antique piano, which belonged to the home's original owner.
When I returned home from my trip, and looked over my pictures, I immediately noticed that the military-looking insignia was much clearer than it had been in the first shot, and that the was a unmistakable number "3" above the crossing of the two rifles. I began to get excited, because I knew that I'd found William Green, some years ago, in the THIRD NC Volunteer Battalion, during the Spanish-American War! Could this be him? But, what was on the little medal under the guns? I studied it and studied it, trying to determine if it had the letter H on it, since that was William's company. But, all the blowing up and starting at it couldn't clarify that part of the picture. So, what did I do? I turned to the genealogy community on Facebook! :) Posting the picture and query instigated lots of discussion. In the end, although no one could make out what was under the rifles, everyone agreed that the rest of the insignia definitely represented the Third NC Battalion. Because there was no one else in my ancestral family who served in the SAW, and no one else who would have have been age-eligible and who would fit the physical description of the young man in the picture, I knew I had William!
|Close-up of insignia|
So, there you have it! I am now able to look into the eyes of the youngest son of my great-great grandparents, Nathaniel Hawkins and Anna Green, whom I've never seen photos of. Looking at William allows me to look at the two of them - or at least to imagine what they may have looked like. I see William, and I think about what it must have been like for him to have served in this particular military unit - an all black battalion, which was subjected to the worst kind of racism, in and around their camps. I imagine for William, looking WHITE in this segregated regiment must have presented a multitude of additional challenges, both from within, and from outside of the "protective" walls of his encampments. I wonder, for William, what it was like to (presumably) for the first time in his life be immersed in an all-black world, especially since even the officers in this regiment were black? I wonder if he got bullied? I wonder if he got called, "white-boy" - if he was beat up, or teased for his appearance? I wonder if he was the only one in his company who was like this? I do know that he mustered in as a Sargent, and that was probably due to the color of his skin. But, why wasn't he one of the "officers"?
In William's eyes, I imagine I see the painfully-gained, growing wisdom of a young man, who has had his first venture into a harsh world, away from his family. I feel as though I see the contemplative wheels a-turning, and he considers his next move(s), knowing that he will never see himself the same way he may have before he enlisted, and understanding in even greater depth than before, the juxtaposition he would face as a white-looking black man in the Jim Crow south. And, for the first time since I learned of William Adam Green, who moved to New York, not too long after this picture was made, and lived out his life "passing" as white - I understood, and I forgave him.
August 9, 2009 (Updated on 1/5/2015)
Last week's mystery was about my gg grandmother, Anna Green. Today I'll introduce her son, William. William Green was born in
Florine tells a story of going with her aunt, William's sister, to New York for his funeral, but not being able to attend because she was "too brown" and would have given away the "secret". (Interesting, because Florine is very light, but not light enough to pass.) So, she stayed at the house - which I'm assuming was her Aunt Betty's (Elizabeth GREEN Miller's) house. Betty was also living in New York and passed for White. This was sometime in the 1930's. (She, along with her sister, Ruby, were the two, mentioned above.)
What I know for sure:...
1. William's middle name was Adam. Now, this is complicated, but I have a Family Group Record from familysearch.org that shows William's 1904 marriage in Manhattan. This marriage was to Sally Lou Johnson, who was also from Louisburg. (Florine says this is not the white woman, but a first wife, and I'm guessing she was Black.) On this document, William lists his parents as Anna Perkins and Nathaniel Green. If this is my William, which I believe it is, this document corroborates the oral history that Anna was originally a Perkins before she came to Louisburg. Nathaniel also matches the first name of the person I was told was Wm's white father, but I have a different surname. I'm assuming that William may have been guessing at this, because his father died when he was six and he was just probably assuming that his mother got her last name (Green) from him, but she didn't. They were never married. The other thing about this document is that I can no longer find it or pull it up on Family Search! Thank goodness I printed it out when I originally saw it, but it's a mystery as to why it no longer seems to be there. The middle name, Adam, was also confirmed on William's WWI Draft Registration (see below), and on his service record from the Spanish-American War.
|William's WWI Draft Registration|
2. William died in New York. William died on February 21, 1940, in the Bronx, NY. He is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County, New York. His niece, Ruby Green, was the informant on his death certificate. William's wife, Margaret Boyle, had long predeceased him, having passed in 1929. I have not found evidence of them having any children, but I'm told that they may have had a son.
3. William's sister, Betty, also lived in New York and was passing for White. She was a "hairdresser to the rich folk", according to Cousin Florine, until William's wife found out that they were Black and went and told everyone. Then she lost all her clients. Florine says she lived in the Riverdale section of NY. Bettie married Roy Miller, a postal worker. According to Florine, my cousin H, and my cousin Virginia, Betty was also Doris Duke's personal stylist, and "traveled with her everywhere she went". I do have a picture of Betty relaxing on a ship deck, and others of her wearing furs, so perhaps this is true. I tried to verify this a few years ago, but I'd gotten the name wrong, and ended up writing to Doris DAY's people, instead of Doris DUKE's. A followup is on my to-do list. :)
William names his father as Nathaniel Green on the fs.org document. Our oral history gives the name Hawkins. (What the heck - that's the name. Nathaniel HAWKINS.) Well, this goes to show what a short time it's been since I discovered and uncovered my Hawkins ancestry! There's no further conflict on this. William's father was Nathaniel Hawkins.
1. Did William ever have any children, either by Sally Lou, or by his white wife? If so, what happened to them, and how can I find them? The whole Sally Lou thing is still a mystery, although I have a few suspicions. However, I don't find her anywhere else, in Louisburg, where it says she was from, or in NY. Florine insists that William had a child, but I'm thinking that if that child was in Louisburg, we'd know about him/her, so I don't know.
4. Did William maintain any type of communication with his mother, Anna? (Was she even still living, when he left NC?)
5. Did Anna ever visit William in New York? Could she have gone to live with him? (Perhaps as a servant? Remember, Anna disappears from my census findings after 1880.)
Today's mystery question: How can I find out more about William Green? The work continues...
*The picture of William A Green is the explicit property of this writer, and should not be copied without my permission. You may, though, feel free to share this post, in its entirety. :)
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