My family is connected with an important part of history. In the book I have written about my father I included a chapter on my mother, Norma. I don’t write about her often, except on Mother’s Day and when the date of her death comes around or the date of her birthday, which is on November 17th. This is Norma about 4 years before she married my father. But the history I want to write about started with my maternal grandmother.
My mother’s mother was born in 1896, her name was Sinclaire White. In 1912 Sinclaire got a mention in The Crisis magazine for her skills as a violinist. The second photo here is the cover of that 1912 issue. The lady on the front is not Sinclaire. I only ever saw one picture of my maternal grandmother and I do not remember her as she died when I was a year old. My siblings never knew her or even saw a picture. Nor was she ever talked about as we grew up. As a violinist she was magnificent. Later in life she taught violin. Inside this magazine in the MUSIC AND ART section is this article about my grandmother:
” Miss Sinclair White of Chicago, Ill., who graduated June 18 from the Chicago Musical College, took part in the commencement program, playing the first and second movements of Sitt’s concertina in A minor. Miss White, who is a violinist, was the winner of the diamond medal awarded in the “teachers’ certificate class.” Accompanied by her mother she leaves shortly for Russia, where she is to have the advantage of five years’ study.”
At the time The Crisis was a very influential magazine. Published by W. E. B. DuBois who was also a co-founder of the NAACP. William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. Due to current racial issues he and the NAACP have been in the news more often, lately. I love his picture. It’s possible Sinclaire knew DuBois.
By the 1930s Sinclaire was living in Pasadena with her husband and my mother. She was now Sinclaire White Murdock and she was the head of the Sinclaire White Murdock Music Arts Association. The meetings would proceed with musical selections and a reading of stories such as, “The Immortal Story of Enoch Ardin,”, by Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson. Sometimes, the meetings were held in the Second Baptist Church; other times meetings were held at the Sojourner Truth Home in Los Angeles.
Sojourner Truth (1797 – November 26, 1883) was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York. We didn’t talk much about Sojourner Truth when I was growing up, but they obviously recognized her in Pasadena back in the day and Sinclaire had the good sense to hold her meetings in a building named after a woman who would become a force in 2017. As of today Truth’s statue will stand on the Empire State Trail in Ulster County.
My family history is very much Black history. Though for some reason Sinclaire listed herself as Spanish in my mother’s school records.
My family history is also Italian as Sinclaire also married Guiseppe Amato (or Joe) and had my mom, Norma. Joe’s parents emigrated from Italy to New York in the early 1900s. Joe became a barber and gave my brother’s their first haircuts. It’s more difficult to find Italian records but that is on my to do list.
I love my family. And I love connecting with you, too.
Thanks, for stopping by. And, KCB.