I don’t want you all miss one. Scroll down to the last one.
A few months back (I think it was April), the history channel aired Texas Rising, a 10-hour series that detailed the Texas Revolution and the establishing of the Texas Rangers. It was the airing of this series in which I learned of a Black Biracial woman by the name of Emily D. West (sometimes mistaken as Emily Morgan; played by British Actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson). She was the inspiration behind the American traditional folk song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” which was written by an unidentified Black Man who is said to be her long lost love. I never heard of Emily nor the song, a Black Love song, until I watched the series. I found this bit of HER-story interesting and like to share it with you all.
Actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Emily D. West)
While many Americans are familiar with the song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” few know the story of Emily West, the African American woman who was the inspiration for its creation. In the excerpt below from a longer article that first appeared in 1996, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill English Professor Trudier Harris explains that history.
I would venture to say that most Americans are familiar with the folksong, “The Yellow Rose of Texas:” If they cannot recall all of the lyrics, there is still a resonant quality about the song. I would also venture to say that few of those Americans—Texans notwithstanding—have reflected overly long on the implications of the fact that the song is not just about a woman, but about a black woman, or that a black man probably composed it. Scholars such as Martha Anne Turner have linked the song to its contextual origins—that of the Texas war for independence from Mexico in the 1830s and a specific incident in 1836—and others have argued its irrelevance to that event. It was only in 1989, however, when Anita Richmond Bunkley published Emily, The Yellow Rose, a novel based on the presumed incidents that spawned the fame of the yellow rose, that the fictionalized expansion of the facts encouraged a larger and perhaps different audience to become aware of the historical significance of Emily D. West, the hypothetical “Yellow Rose of Texas:”‘ This publishing event certainly re-centered the song and the incident in African-American culture, for over many years and numerous versions, the song had been deracialized. Bunkley, herself an African American woman, researched the complex history of another African American woman and imaginatively recreated and reclaimed it.
The presumed historical facts are simple and limited. Emily D. West, a teenage orphaned free Negro woman in the northeastern United States, journeyed by boat to the wilderness of Texas in 1835. Colonel James Morgan, on whose plantation she worked as an indentured servant, established the little settlement of New Washington (later Morgan’s Point). When Santa Anna and his troops arrived in the area, he claimed West to take the place of his stay at home wife in Mexico City and the traveling wife he had acquired on his way to Texas. The traveling wife had to be sent back when swollen river waters prevented him from taking her across in the fancy carriage in which she was riding. Santa Anna was either partying with West or having sex with her when Sam Houston’s troops arrived for The Battle of San Jacinto, thus forcing him to escape in only a linen shirt and “silk drawers;” in which he was captured the next day. West’s possible forced separation from her black lover and her placement in Santa Anna’s camp, according to legend, inspired her lover to compose the song we know as “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Publicity surrounding the hotel in San Antonio that was named after Emily Morgan asserts that West was a spy for Texas. Other historians claim that there is absolutely no tie between West and the events of the Texas war for independence from Mexico. Still others claim that it was only West’s heroic feat of keeping Santa Anna preoccupied that enabled the Texas victory. Broadening perceptions of how texts are created and the purposes to which they are put provide the context, during the course of this paper, from which I want to explore West’s story and take issue with the assigning of heroic motives to her adventure.
Bunkley’s novelistic representation of the events provide motive, emotion, sentiment, and introspection to flesh out the bare bones of the presented history. According to Bunkley, a twenty year old orphaned Emily D. West journeyed to Texas in the hope that its status as Mexican territory would help her to realize more freedom than she had experienced in the so called free environment of New York. Upon arriving in Texas, West discovered that her freedoms were minimal, that the land was much more harsh than she had anticipated, and that her circumstances were not appreciably different from those of enslaved African-Americans. She fell in love with a black man, a musician, thought to be a runaway from slavery. Bounty hunters and the pressures of the fast-approaching war for independence from Mexico interrupted their sustaining relationship. Her lover attempted to get away from his pursuers and the war, while West found herself in the midst of both; their separation led to his composing “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Unfortunately for West, the plantation on which she worked lay directly in the path of the oncoming Mexican soldiers, led by Santa Anna. Upon arriving, burning most of the plantation, and killing several of its inhabitants, Santa Anna discovered West and ordered that she be taken captive. Forced to engage in sex with…Santa Anna, West unknowingly but greatly aided the Texan cause. After an…encounter with West, Santa Anna fell into a slumber from which he could not arouse himself sufficiently before Sam Houston’s troops attacked his camp, killed many of his soldiers (who were quickly scattered without the commanding voice of their leader), and captured Santa Anna. During the battle of San Jacinto, West made a convenient escape.
The presented history and the novelistic depiction of it are certainly the stuff of which legends are made, and Bunkley appropriate subtitles her novel “A Texas Legend.” As the events come to us today, therefore, West is considered to be “the yellow rose;” the woman in the song, and the incident of its composition is equated to lovers being separated during the war for Texan independence, with West subsequently playing her alleged historical, legendary role with Santa Anna. The black woman, Santa Anna, the black male composer, April 21,1836, The Battle of San Jacinto, the song—these are the people, the time, the place, the incident, and the creation surrounding it that have merged history, legend, biography, and musical composition. No matter who would desire otherwise, the links are now inseparable in viewing the story of the song and its presumed subject, Emily D. West.
What fascinates about the story beyond its legendary proportions is its centering of an African-American woman in a significant piece of American history. The forced separation of the lover from his loved one, with the events of the war as backdrop, led to the composition of the song. Following are the first verse and the chorus:
There’s a yellow rose in Texas
That I am a going to see
No other darky [sic knows her]
No one only me
She cryed [sic] so when I left her
It like to broke my heart
And if I ever find her
We nevermore will part.
She’s the sweetest rose of color
This darky every knew
Her eyes are bright as diamonds
They sparkle like the dew
You may talk about dearest May
And sing of Rosa Lee
But the yellow rose of Texas
Beats the belles of Tennessee.
The centering of the black woman in the song and its ensuing historical significance comprise an unprecedented circumstance matched only by the second fascination—a love story between black people that was powerful enough to be immortalized in song. The woman and the song serve Texas history well, but they serve African American history, folklore, and culture even better…
A search through African American folklore reveals that few black women have been painted as desirable and sexually healthy persons. One little known strand of the lore has vestiges of viewing black women in the way that Emily D. West came to be viewed in “The Yellow Rose of Texas:” I refer to nineteenth-century courtship rituals during slavery and Reconstruction. These rituals suggest the black women to whom they were addressed were viewed as special females indeed…. I like to read “The Yellow Rose of Texas” as presaging that strand of African-American folklore. I like to think that the composer of the song so revered the woman he compared to a rose that his choice of expressing her beauty through nature elevated her to a position of value that has few comparative patterns. We cannot say, “the song about Emily’s value is like…” because there is no immediately comparable “like:” What we can say is that the separation, the pain this composer felt, led him to create a song about a beautiful woman, one who became the center of his existence as well as his creativity. The fact that she was “yellow” (mulatto) was less important to him than the human longings that are the essence of love.
How he viewed her as woman, lover, universal human partner, however, is obviously not how she or the legacy she left came to be used in American history or folklore studies. Her name has certainly served the tourist trade in San Antonio. Her presence or not at The Battle of San Jacinto has engaged many lively minds….In being transformed into a state icon, West loses the individuality of a personal life, but not the individuality of a symbol. Her name, the song, and the circumstances of Texan triumph become emblems of the best the American frontier had to offer…. In this script, West is subsumed under the great American concept of Manifest Destiny—with a slight detour southward—that did not allow for fissures in the sometimes fragile pot of nationalism. The history and the song suggest that in the killing frontier, where true blooded Americans were always subject to attack by some ungodly force, these Americans lived up to the best of their inheritance from back east; they fought, some of them died, but they ultimately triumphed over the forces of evil and repression….
West’s physical body, subject to exploitation as readily as those black persons who were legally enslaved, serves in this legendary capacity to elide the brutality to which black female bodies were potentially victim. There is a clash between the ideal (romanticized Texas history) and the real (a black woman being raped during the process of history-making events). By elevating West’s role in the capture of Santa Anna, by making her a seeming voluntary participant in the sequence of events, commentators and appreciators of the tale and the song could effectively deny slavery or certainly deny black women’s exploitation during slavery (since technically West was not an enslaved person). More specifically, they deny the brutal fact of rape, which West experienced not only from Santa Anna, but from a Texas soldier as well. Territorial and national unity implied in the events behind the song does not allow for the fact that black people were treated as badly, in this instance, by the Texans as they were by the Mexicans. The song becomes a pretty site, a pretty body, on which troubling issues about war, slavery, and sexual exploitation can be overlooked in the praise for a beautiful woman who evoked images of a yellow rose…
Ultimately, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” is a fascinating study in elision, erasure, and transformation. The song, its subject, its history, and its creator have all been used. Obviously there are good uses and bad uses to which any work of art, any historical event, can be put. Add to these usual patterns the fact of folklore and legend and the uses become even more expansive. Where all of this ends, however, is with the exploitation of the creator of the song. He who created the yellow rose is more lost to us than the subject about which he sang. Yet it is because of this black man’s song that researchers have been able to uncover as much as they have about Emily D. West. We have all, collectively, “taken his song and gone” far beyond the pleasure of appreciating it, far beyond the popular interest in transmitting it. Folklorists, historians, and scholars have made the song as much a legend as its subject, have made the events surrounding the composition of it as much an issue of erasure of composer as erasure of Emily D. West.
Trudier Harris, ‘“The Yellow Rose of Texas’: A Different Cultural View” in Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore, ed. Francis Edward Abernethy et. al. (Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 1996).
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
I Salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!
Born: Rosetta Nubin on March 20, 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas
Parents: Katie Bell Nubin (singer, mandolin player, and evagelist) and Willis Atkins (singer)
Spouse: Thomas Tharpe (Preacher, m. 1934-1938), Russell Morrison (m. July 3, 1951)
Accomplishments, Achievements, and Contributions: Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist. She became popular in the 1930s and 1940s with her unique style mixing gospel spiritual lyrics with rythamic rock ‘n’ roll. She was gospel music’s first crossover artist and the greatest recording star. She influenced Elvis, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. She pushed spiritual music within the mainstream performing in nightclubs with big bands and pioneered the rise of pop gospel with her 1939 hit ‘This Train.’ She offered some of her conservative Christian fans a taste of pop, yet she never left gospel. She has also influence more modern gospel artist such as Ira Tucker, Sr. of the Dixie Hummingbirds. According to wikipedia:
Tharpe’s 1944 hit “Down By The Riverside” was selected for the American Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2004, with the citation stating that it captured her “spirited guitar playing” and “unique vocal style”, which were an influence on early rhythm and blues performers, as well as gospel, jazz, and rock artists.(“Down By The Riverside” was actually recorded by Tharpe on December 2, 1948, in New York City, and issued as Decca single #48106.) Her 1945 hit “Strange Things Happening Every Day“, recorded in late 1944, featured Tharpe’s vocals and electric guitar, with Sammy Price (piano), bass and drums. It was the first gospel record tocross over, hitting no. 2 on the Billboard “race records” chart, the term then used for what later became the R&B chart, in April 1945. The recording has been cited as an important precursor of rock and roll. Tharpe has been called the Godmother of Rock n’ Roll.
“All this new stuff they call rock ’n’ roll, why, I’ve been playing that for years now… Ninety percent of rock-and-roll artists came out of the church, their foundation is the church.”
—Sister Rosetta Tharpe in an interview with Daily Mirror in 1957
Awards and Honors: Posthumously, Inducted in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, the United States Postal Service issue Sister Tharpe with a 32-cent commemorative stamp on July 15, 1998, January 11 is Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day in Pennsylvania, In 2008, a concert was held to purchase her a gravestone and put in place later that year. In 2008, a historical marker was placed at her home in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Yorktown. Her story has been featured on PBS’s American Masters and on March 20, 2015 BBC Four aired an hour long documentary by Mick Csaky, The Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll:Sister Rosetta Tharpe .
Death: October 9, 1973 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania of stroke
I Salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!
QUEEN KHALIFA (AKA CALIFIA/CALAFIA) THE AFRAKAN EMPRESS OF CALIFORNIA – BY JIDE UWECHIA
California, the land of the ever-living Muurish Empress Calafia/Califia. Calafia was the title of each empress. California was her land. She was known to be dark of skin, of the muurish nationality, and ruled over Islands and Islands of afrakan people, from California, Baja, to Hawaii.
A muurish Island, ruled by women. It was first mentioned in the records of the western European christians in the seventh century, and retold “The Song of Roland” where a passing mention of a place called Califerne, was made perhaps because it was the caliph’s domain. See (Putnam, Ruth (1917). Herbert Ingram Priestley. ed. California: the name. Berkeley: University of California)
Spanish conquistadors told stories about a mystical afrakan muurish queen that ruled a State of California, situated in the same location as the present day California. The modern state of State California continues the legacy and the memory of this great afrakan Queendom and its Queens.
(Califia, Queen of California painting by Arthur Wright)
The Muurs and Calafia
Khalifa means God’s ruler (in Muurish Arabic).
The story of Calafia was later re-narrated in the book The Adventures of Esplandián, a book written in 1500, probably based on stories gleaned from the old Muurish seamen of Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium and England.
Calafia is introduced as “… a regal Muurish afrakan woman, courageous, strong of limb and large in person, full in the bloom of womanhood, the most beautiful of a long line of queens who ruled over the mythical realm of California.”
She supposedly commanded a fleet of ships with which she ruled and maintained peace in the surrounding lands, and islands including Baja and Hawaii. She reportedly kept an aerial defense force of “griffins”, and other fabulous animals which were native to California, trained to defend the land against invanders.
She was so powerful she could project her imperial power over the seas of the mediteranean at will. The Esplandian narrates that Calafia maintained cultural and trading contacts with the Muurs of Africa. It told of her wars in the mediterranean seas,in Anatolia, the Byzantine empire and in southern Europe. Seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calafia#cite_ref-Sabir2004_23-1
According to the author of The Adventures of Esplandián:
“Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by dark brown women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.”(Putnam, Ruth (1917). Herbert Ingram Priestley. ed. California: the name. Berkeley: University of California)
The crusader and conqueror of the territory of California Hernán Cortés and his men were familiar with the book. Cortés quoted liberally from the book and it did have an influence on his decision to look for the Island of California. As governor of Mexico he sent out an ill-fated expedition of two ships, one guided by the famous pilot Fortún Ximénez. That expedition did not fare well at all and most of the ships and the men were lost.
In 1535, Cortés led an expedition back to the land of Calafia or California, and decided to re-named it Santa Cruz. However, that name did not stick, as the natives, and the Muurs and the dark brown Indians and red Indians and so-called whites continued to use the ancient and old name of the land “California”.
Cortes himself and his contemporaries appeared to have used the name too. In 1550 and 1556, the name appears three times in reports about Cortés written by Giovanni Battista Ramusio.
Thus over the years of increasing conquest, colonization and rape of the land of California, the ancient land of the muurs has held onto its name and identity, in the knowledge that one day, it will be as it was in the beginning.
African-Americans and Queen Califia
In 2004, the African American Historical and Cultural Society Museum in San Francisco assembled a Queen Califia exhibit, curated by John William Templeton, featuring works by artists such as TheArthur Wright and James Gayles; artistic interpretations of Calafia.
The show displayed a 1936 treatment of Lucille Lloyd’s “California Allegory” triptych, with Queen Califia as the central figure. Templeton said that “Califia is a part of California history, and she also reinforces the fact that African Americans had always been in California. See, Sabir, Wanda. “Wanda’s Picks”. San Francisco Bayview. Retrieved January 2, 2011.http://sigidiart.com/Docs/WandasPicksCalifia.htm
“Califia is a part of California history, and she also reinforces the fact that when Cortes named this place California, he had 300 Afrakan people with him. And throughout the whole Spanish-Mexican war, 40 percent of the population was black.” .
Templeton pointed out that most of the navigators on the explorations to the New World were African, because Africans knew how to get the New World.
For instance, Columbus had a afrakannavigator. Muurish folks had been going back and forth between Africa and America from the dawn of time. All they had to do was get in the wind right off the West Coast of Africa.
A Muurish (African) Emperor Abu Bukari took 1,000 ships to the New World in the 1300s. So Muurish navigators and sea men were highly sought in those days that the previously land-bounded Europeans were in their infancy in navigational and maritime sciences.
A afrakan man used to own the San Fernando Valley. That was Pio de Jesus Pico (1801-1894). He was also the last Mexican governor of California. In total, in the 1800s, there were atleast four afrakan governors of the state of California. See Sabir, Wanda. “Wanda’s Picks”. San Francisco Bayview. Retrieved January 2, 2011http://sigidiart.com/Docs/WandasPicksCalifia.htm
Dr. William E. Hoskins, director of the museum, said that very few people know the story of Queen Califia. He said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is let people have the additional insight and appreciation for the contributions of African Americans to this wonderful country and more specifically to the state of California”. See Sabir, Wanda. “Wanda’s Picks”. San Francisco Bayview. Retrieved January 2, 2011http://sigidiart.com/Docs/WandasPicksCalifia.htm
Source: From Kemetic Dreams, Tumblr
I Salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!
Born: July 15, 1864 in Richmond, Virginia
Parents: Elizabeth Draper, a former slave and Eccles Cuthbert, Irish American; step-father William Mitchell
Siblings: Half-brother, Johnnie from mother’s husband William Mitchell
Spouse (s): Armstead Walker, Jr. (m. 1886)
Children: 2 sons Russell and Melvin Walker
Education: Lancaster School, Richmond School, Richmond Colored Normal School and Independent Order of St. Luke
Occupation: Teacher, Community and Civil Rights Leader, Banker, and Businesswoman
Accomplishments, Achievements, and Contributions: “In 1902, she established a newspaper for the organization, The St. Luke Herald. Shortly thereafter, she chartered the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Mrs. Walker served as the bank’s first president, which earned her the recognition of being the first woman of any race to charter a bank in the United States. Later she agreed to serve as chairman of the board of directors when the bank merged with two other Richmond banks to become The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, which grew to serve generations of Richmonders as an African-American owned institution.”
Quotes: “When it comes to success the choice is simple. You can either stand up and be counted or lie down and be counted out!”
In Maggie’s honor Richmond Public Schools built a large brick high school adjacent to Virginia Union University. Maggie L. Walker High School was one of two schools in the area for black students, during the period of racial segregation in schools. The other was Armstrong High School. After generations of students spent their high-school years there, it was totally refurbished in the late 20th century to become the regional Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies.
The National Park Service operates the Maggie L. Walker Historical Site at the former Jackson Ward home. In 1978 the house was designated a National Historic Site and was opened as a museum in 1985. The site states that it “commemorates the life of a progressive and talented African-American woman. She achieved success in the world of business and finance as the first black woman in the United States to charter and serve as president of a bank, despite the many adversities. The site includes a visitor center detailing her life and the Jackson Ward community in which she lived and worked and her residence of thirty years.The house is restored to its 1930’s appearance with original Walker family pieces.” 
The St. Luke Building held the offices of the Independent Order of St. Luke, and the office of Maggie L. Walker. The office is preserved as it was at the time of her death in 1934.The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982
Death: December 15, 1934 in Richmond, Virginia of complications from diabetes
I Salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!
The movie, ‘Straight Outta Compton’, made me take a look at how Black men treat Black women and I am not liking what I see. Did I pay my money to see the movie? Hell no! And I based it on principle because I had read about that abusive motherfucker that calls himself, Dr. Dre. I had read about his contempt, disdain and apparent hatred for women and the sad fact is that many Black men are in fact, just like this piece of shit that has been lauded as some sort of thug hero and for what? I don’t know. Because if he is considered to be a hero for promoting rappers to ‘rap’ about niggers, hos, and bling, I don’t see what the fuss is all about. And neither should your Black ass because that would mean that you are just as ignorant as this punk ass bitch and…
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Great post! Apology NOT ACCEPTED!!!
Straight Outta Compton;
the biggest lie ever told.
Gloss over the truth
and the public is sold.
Offer an apology,
why don’t you Dr. Dre?
It’s so late in coming.
Did fame get in the way?
Beating up on women
can be overlooked.
What’s a little abuse
when the matinée is booked?
No ho can steal the thunder
of Niggers With Attitude
making money for the man.
Who needs their gratitude?
When we tell our story
who will fill in the blanks
about the women that got beaten;
those hos, bitches and skanks?
Sell-outs rule the day
from Compton in L.A.
to the District of Columbia,
and all across the U.S.A.
Get with the program,
it’s all about getting paid.
If the bitches come around
they know, they gone get laid.
If she stepped outta line,
she got beat just like a man
by a nigger with an attitude.
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