Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987) by Nancy Werking Poling, 192 pages, ISBN 978-0-9985651-0-1 $13.95, is not a happily-ever-after story, but an honest portrayal of the love and hurt that any two people, not just a bi-racial couple, may encounter in an intimate relationship. It is the story of an independent white woman, a talented black man, and the times in which these two remarkable people lived. Email the author or call 828-291-1930.
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Because Indiana law prohibited marriage "between a white person and a person of one-eighth or more Negro blood," Daniel Winters and Anna Harley drove to Chicago to marry.
Their forty-two-year marriage would span key historical periods of U.S. history. Overlying everything was the legacy of the KKK’s prominence in Indiana during the 1920s. In the 1950s came McCarthyism. Though Daniel had a college degree, as a black man he could only find employment as a janitor. The union, however, valued his education. He and other union leaders were branded Communists.
A move to Mexico seemed an alternative to U.S. racism.
She was the one who finally had to remind them both that tomorrow was a work day. Daniel shifted his body and started the engine. With his handkerchief he wiped away the fog that had gathered on the inside of the car window and turned on the wipers to brush away the snow.
As he leaned back, waiting for the windshield to clear, he rested his arm on the seat behind her. Slowly he let it drop to her shoulder, then pulling her toward him, he kissed her.
It was a gentle kiss, wonderfully tender. The meeting of their lips, one of his hands resting ever so lightly at her waist, the other pulling her toward him—even through her heavy winter coat, her body was sensitive to every place he touched her.
Their lips parted; his hands returned to the steering wheel; the car moved forward. They rode in silence until Daniel asked, "Are you sorry I kissed you?"
"I’d rather you hadn’t." Which wasn’t exactly the truth, for the single kiss had stirred a desire for more. On the other hand it was the truth. This wasn’t the right man.
Iva Freeman, retired librarian and a fan of memoir and biography says, "Poling's strong research is evident throughout as she weaves the story around the times. This is an engrossing read, and a clear picture of race relations in the U.S. as well as Mexico where the couple spent a good part of their married life."
About the Author
Nancy Werking Poling’s motivation to write emerges from a concern for women’s struggles and triumphs. Their experiences have inspired her published works: Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman, a collection of short stories in which she imagines biblical heroes, such as Noah and Moses, as women; Out of the Pumpkin Shell, a novel about women’s friendship and family secrets; and a book she edited, Victim to Survivor: women recovering from clergy sexual abuse. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and literary journals. She and her husband live in the mountains of western North Carolina.