For those who’ve read To Crown with Liberty, you know that there are two characters, Mario and Celeste, a white man and a black woman who refer to each other as husband and wife, but whom the law forbids to legally marry. They have four children, whom Mario was forced to purchase from Celeste’s former slave master, and then set free, so that his own children could have the rights of being his children.
When my mom read the book, she asked if I had based these characters on our family. I didn’t—they’re from Strange True Stories of Louisiana by G.W. Cable, the book on which To Crown with Liberty is based. But it occurs to me that maybe G.W. Cable based them on my family.
You see, back in the late 19th century, after slavery but before interracial marriage was legal, I had a some-number-of-greats uncle who fell in love with a black woman, took her into his home as wife despite not being able to legally marry, and was then forced to legally adopt his own children in order to give them familial rights such as inheritance. They lived in New Orleans (or somewhere nearby)—the same place that Cable lived, right around the same time that he wrote Strange True Stories.
So maybe Mario and Celeste were based on my family after all. And if not, they were surely based on some similar couple of the era.
(Photo is not my ancestors—I don’t have one of them. It’s just one I found on the internet.)