The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian's Stand in Time of Transition

The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian's Stand in Time of Transition

by Sarah Patton Boyle

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781787201897
Publisher: Golden Springs Publishing
Publication date: 10/27/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 323
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Sarah-Lindsay Patton “Pattie” Boyle (May 9, 1906 - February 20, 1994) was an American author and civil rights activist from Virginia. She was the first white person to serve on the board of directors for the Charlottesville NAACP chapter. She is the author of The Desegregated Heart and various articles and books about race relations in Virginia and the South.

Born near Charlottesville, Virginia on an Albemarle County plantation which dated back to the Colonial era, Boyle was a cousin to General George S. Patton and her grandparents were veterans of the Civil War who had fought for the Confederate States. She grew up with black servants, who she was allowed to be friends with until she turned twelve and was inducted into the "Southern Code." And her family expected her to have only "formal relations with blacks."

In 1932 she married E. Roger Boyle, a drama and speech professor of the University of Virginia, and they had two sons. The couple divorced in 1965, but it was whilst she was a “faculty wife” at Virginia University that Pattie Boyle became friends with a black woman who was able to pass as white, and she began to question her own prejudices.

She began writing magazine articles around 1950 when, through Gregory Swanson, the first African-American student admitted to University of Virginia Law School, she met T. J. Sellers, the editor of the black newspaper in Charlottesville, The Tribune. Boyle became one of a few white supporters of desegregation in Virginia, writing hundreds of articles and speeches imploring immediate integration.

Her fight for desegregation was praised by name in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Boyle died in Arlington, Virginia in 1994 aged 84.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Intangible Assets

I was born into a society which in most places outside the South is smilingly and in quotes referred to as the "Southern aristocracy." Within the South, however, the quotes are almost everywhere absent and the smile, if present, is one of tender, sometimes reverent pride. We believe that our aristocracy is second to none in its inbred knowledge of gracious living, its high purpose in human relations, and its awareness of the true values which lend worth, lovability, and dignity to man. On such an assumption was I reared.

    I was taught that my father was a great man. In one larger and one smaller sense I think he was. The larger is summarized in the first sentence of a resolution adopted by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, October 1940, following the announcement of his retirement: "Robert Williams Patton, Doctor of Divinity; son of Virginia, citizen of the world; priest of God, servant of man."

    Besides this, in his own small world of the Church he certainly was one of the tall figures of his day. The resolution listed an array of achievements in the national Church. More important to this story is the fact that he instilled in me a conviction that the only thing which really matters in anyone's life is a consistent choice of right over wrong.

    It seemed natural to me that he was a great man, for I was assured by my mother and grandmother that all our ancestors were great. In slightly lowered tones they said that our family was the best in Virginia. I knew this meant itwasthe best in the world.

    I suspect I wasn't alone among young Southerners in receiving this low-voiced instruction. When junior members of First Families of Virginia got together, there was often a look of conscious kindness on all faces as each dutifully praised the families of the others and carefully ignored his own.

    I was told that I was descended from governors, generals, presidents, kings. Instead of fairy stories I was told how my great-great-great-grandfather rode into battle brandishing his sword and shouting, "General Hugh Mercer never surrenders!" Also, how my great-grandfather was called by Daniel Webster "the greatest legal mind of his time" and later became governor of Virginia. (Actually, he was acting governor for I forget how many months.) I was told how one of my grandfathers, a colonel under Stonewall Jackson, "led the Stonewall Brigade" in some famous charge in which his brother—who was the grandfather of George S. (Old Blood-and-Guts) Patton—was killed. I was told how my other grandfather, Franklin Stringfellow, who was General Stuart's aide and his and General Lee's personal scout, had in his possession letters from Stuart, Lee, and Jefferson Davis showing that they thought him the most valuable scout in the South.

    This grandfather lived until I was seven. He told me exciting tales of being captured repeatedly and condemned to be shot at sunrise (although he firmly referred to himself as a "scout," never as a spy). He escaped miraculously so often that he was convinced that he was being spared for a Purpose. So he became a minister after The War. (When I was growing up "The War" always meant the Civil War.)

    He married a beautiful Dresden-china girl, four feet eleven inches tall, who singlehandedly prevented the escape of a jail full of Yankees, simply by standing guard at the hole they made in the prison wall and refusing to let them crawl out until help came. This she did with pure moral force (plus sex appeal, no doubt), having no weapon of any kind.

    She and my grandfather were married under the lovely crystal chandelier in the dining room of the Carlisle House in Alexandria, Virginia, where she had been raised, and where, later, my mother was born. This house became one of the showplaces of Virginia, and having its grandeur and glamorous past reviewed for me by a professional guide, after hearing my mother and grandmother tell stories about their life there, was one of the romantically satisfying experiences of my childhood.

    All this emphasis on background inevitably bred in me a loathsome sense of social superiority. But it also gave me a feeling of roots reaching far back—and far forward—into history. I was taught to think of myself as a part of the very backbone of Virginia, which was the backbone of the South, which was the backbone of the nation, which was the backbone of the world. In the years ahead, when Southern editorial pages not infrequently demanded that I leave the South, I was grateful for the indoctrination that my roots were strong and deep.

    Being a sensible girl, I received with a grain of salt the information that our family was the best in Virginia. I said to myself, "That's probably an exaggeration. Probably it's only one of the two or three best."

    But this—shall we call it "social security"?—was partially redeemed by the fact that real values were entangled in it. Being "the best" carried with it heavy obligations: You owed a great debt to everybody else. If you had "the background to set a standard, you must do it," I was taught. "You must be more courteous, gracious, courageous, honorable, and dependable than others or you forfeit the right to be on top."

    The entwinement of snobbery and high principle served to support both. The noblesse oblige made it possible to maintain snobbery with a fairly clear conscience, while the ego-satisfaction of snobbery lent a kind of animal good spirits to the grueling task of keeping aloft the standard you were directed to carry.

    Incidentally, in the South of my childhood, the phrase "to be on top" didn't have the financial implications it often has today. One's inheritance was entirely of intangible assets. Those "on top" were supposed to have inherited culture, character, principles, possibly—though not necessarily —intelligence, and almost certainly debts.

    In fact, most Southerners of my parents' era were raised to feel that it wasn't respectable to be rich. We felt that all patriotic Southerners had lost everything in defense of the South, and sufficient time hadn't elapsed for respectable rebuilding of financial security in a war-impoverished region. If you had money you were assumed to be one of three things: a person who had failed (or whose family had failed) to give everything to the cause of freedom when the South was desperate; or a person who had somehow turned the general desperation of your region to your own profit since The War; or else—Heaven forgive you!—you were a Yankee.

    With the memory of large past riches, the Southerner who was "on top" felt only contempt for those who couldn't share his honorable poverty. "The best people" wore poverty with lighthearted pride. Like the hero of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, who rejoiced in the wound that proved him not a coward, we found gladness in our evidence that we had lost everything for the South.

    "The Southern Cause" was of course presented to me stripped of all ignobility. We had "fought The War to preserve our freedom from Yankee oppression, to defend our honor against Yankee insult, and to preserve a noble, gracious and warmhearted way of life unprecedented in history."

    My family had an additional source of pride in poverty. As field secretary for the national Church my father received a salary which, while modest, was larger than usual for clergymen of his day; and while we still would have been poor enough for respectability, we would have been moderately comfortable but for two things. First, at my grandfather's death my father had voluntarily assumed debts which he wasn't legally required to assume. And, second, having failed to persuade the Church to vote him sufficient funds to carry out one of the important projects for which he was responsible, he had borrowed on his insurance and mortgaged his property to the hilt in order to do the job right.

    He spent his entire life discharging these debts. But when my mother reminded my sister and me that it was because of this that we couldn't do or have the things we longed for, the lilt of pride and satisfaction in her voice made us not mind sacrifices. Her tone said that, since we were the kind of people who always put first things first, we had to do without these lesser material items. So great was the family emphasis on the unquestionable rightness of these choices that, even with many girlhood desires thwarted, I can't recall ever wishing that my father had chosen other than he did.

    We were spared, I hope, the worst features of personal pride in this moral achievement by stretching it to include the whole region and assuming that this was the kind of thing that Southerners naturally did. But our regional pride was horrifying.

    Of course I was by no means unusual in believing that among all the nations of the world the South shone forth. I recall a popular song which said, "They made it twice as nice as paradise, and they called it Dixieland." We believed that, fervently and deeply. This dogma was the true religion of many of us, whether or not we called ourselves Christians. The South and what we thought of her, her ideals and her people, were more precious to us than anything we learned in church.

    We thought our beliefs about her could be reached by pure reason. We would gravely point out that Virginia was settled originally by "the best class of people—younger sons of the nobility, mostly—from England and Scotland." Some of these had drifted south—never north!—with a majority staying in Virginia. This was the reason Virginia was the Mother of Presidents and why most of the nation's greatest statesmen came from the South.

    Then, too, an abundance of slaves had granted Southern people leisure to accumulate culture, charm, and human understanding.

    The gentle climate may have contributed something. Perhaps it was the grim weather nearly as much as heredity which made Yankees so brash and tense, so chilly-hearted and suspicious of their fellow man.

    Yet the facts of breeding mustn't be minimized, we pointed out. If you could breed horses, dogs, and other animals for certain specific characteristics of disposition and body, it was silly to say that these same hereditary laws didn't apply to people. The best people in Virginia tended to meet—and therefore marry—only each other. As a result a wonderful, special breed of people had come into being, as different from other people as greyhounds are different from other dogs.

    Thus we smugly reasoned. Yet placed like a jewel in this poor setting of twisted genetic and historical facts, of snobbery and exclusiveness, was something of great value. This was our vision of what our special greyhound breed of man was. For he was not a superman who ruled by power, bending others to his own advantage. He was one whose glory was an inner glory, one who placed culture above prosperity, fairness above profit, generosity above possessions, hospitality above comfort, courtesy above triumph, courage above safety, kindness above personal welfare, honor above Success.

    We, a defeated nation, stood before the world without power, wealth, success, or real hope of ever regaining any of these, and yet we were able to stand tall and straight within ourselves because we believed we had those things which are good without adornment—those things without which power, wealth, and success are empty victories.

    I attributed kind thoughts and high motives to everyone and assumed that they attributed them to me. I expected gentleness, justice, courage, and honor from all. These were the basic nature of man, I believed, and—so believing—was much at home in my world. No one was a stranger to me. I fell naturally into conversation with any person who was near enough to talk to—on street corners, on streetcars, in stores, on trains. I belonged to a great universal fellowship of golden hearts which even included Yankees.

    But of all that was wonderful, I was sure Virginians had the largest measure. I did more than love Virginia. I adored her. I felt high pride in her and in the lofty principles for which she had always stood. She was my country. I thought of her as quite apart from all other states.

    I recall laughing tenderly over the story of a soldier during World War II, who, when asked if he was an American, replied, "No, I'm a Virginian." His state pride seemed both charming and appropriate. In fact admirable. Virginia stood for the highest aims and ideals in our nation. Therefore, he showed his personal identification with the best.

Table of Contents

Author's Notexxx
Part 1The Southern Never-Never Land
Chapter 1Intangible Assets3
Chapter 2The Rising Wall10
Chapter 3The Southern Code21
Chapter 4Product of the Code29
Chapter 5The Tidal Wave43
Chapter 6Everybody Else Is Prejudiced53
Chapter 7Noncommital Answers61
Chapter 8We Want a Negro70
Chapter 9Library Liberals78
Chapter 10I Nearly Die Aborning86
Chapter 11Hurt Until You Give93
Chapter 12Not a White Lady Slumming102
Chapter 13Convex and Concave110
Chapter 14Once to Every Man and Nation117
Chapter 15The Semantic Barrier126
Chapter 16No Ears to Hear132
Chapter 17Mirrors and Candles143
Chapter 18Facts and Figures of Good Will154
Chapter 19Jeffersonian Americans167
Part 2Bloodless Destruction
Chapter 1"I Will Not Run"179
Chapter 2The Public Education Hearing189
Chapter 3The Power of Positive Thinking197
Chapter 4The Middle of the Pyramid206
Chapter 5"Set Not Your Faith in Princes or in Any Child of Man."214
Chapter 6The Wall226
Chapter 7"Discussions"233
Chapter 8Insults240
Chapter 9Threats245
Chapter 10No Hiding Place255
Chapter 11The Power of Evil262
Chapter 12The Kiss of Death270
Chapter 13Whitewashed Tombs279
Chapter 14Discredited Currency289
Part 3Thou Shalt Love
Chapter 1Decision297
Chapter 2Love308
Chapter 3Service318
Chapter 4Man325
Chapter 5God334
Chapter 6Christ344
Chapter 7Children--of God357

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A most interesting and revealing book, honest, compassionate.... It is beautiful in its candor and deeply moving; a book all people, not just southerners, could read with pleasure.
Once read, they will return to it.

University of Virginia Press

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