As promised several weeks ago, I want to share more about Vermelle Ely, one of my generous experts for Half-Truths, my WIP which takes place in Charlotte, NC in 1950.
|Vermelle and I in her Charlotte, NC home|
- In the late 40's and early 50's, a light-skinned African American girl was treated like a queen. If her hair was long and fair, she was even more special.
- Sometimes people passed for convenience: to go out to eat, get their hair done, get waited on, or to move up to the front of line. Kids at the time might think, "In the movies no one would know know if you’re white or black. Let’s see if we can do it just for fun."
- Vermelle commented on my two characters that, "Lillie could have gone anywhere with Kate because she was so light. But Kate would have stuck out in the black community. She would have been accepted, but the police would have questioned her."
|I found these posters at Vermelle's house and|
photographed them. They were taken in 1968 to commemorate
the Queen City classic rivalry between
Second Ward and West Charlotte High
- According to Vermelle, the girls would have been too scared to go to the movies or library together, but they may have talked on the phone.
- About 100 students who attended Second Ward lived in Biddleville and it took them 30 minutes to walk to school, including going through a cow pasture near Thompson orphanage.
- "We didn’t know, 'separate but equal.' We heard our parents talk about it though. We got all the hand me downs from the white schools. Books would have so many names in them, you couldn’t even put your name in it and the backs were off. We got stuff from Central High and inherited blue and white because that was their school colors."
- Vermelle’s great-grandfather was from England and her great-grandmother was native American. When her maternal grandmother and grandfather died, the family went to Wilson, NC for the funeral. She discovered that her great-grandfather was buried in the white cemetery and her great-grandmother was buried in the black cemetery. “I was grown before I knew it. Nobody talked about race. My mother said her mother’s family was very fair and her father marched in the Elks parade."
|Vermelle as Miss Queen City Classic in 1948|
- Vermelle remembered that the black WACS in WWII had to go up the backstairs of Montaldo's (a very expensive department store in downtown Charlotte) to try on their uniforms.
I am indebted to Vermelle and my other experts, who have shared their life stories so that my story is more authentic.