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Wednesday’s Woman … Lucy Parsons

February 12, 2014

Lucy Parsons as she was best known was born c1853 in Waco, Texas, she claimed she was not black but a child of a native American and a Mexican; Although she provided a variety of maiden names on different documents she claimed her name was Gonzales to verify her Mexican ancestry. Around 1871, she formed a happy relationship with Albert Parsons, a Confederate scout who had become a Radical Republican and an advocate of civil rights for black people after the war.

Lucy, had been living with a former black slave Oliver Gathings.  Lucy and Albert were set apart by local Texans because they were miscegenationists  So when the reconstruction government came to an end they knew they would have to leave Texas.

The question of her marriage and race were to plague Lucy for the rest of her life. Her denial of her black heritage is a real indictment of the racist society which made her compelled to do so.

Waco had been the scene of intense racial brutality in the years that followed the war.  As the Ku KLux Klan gained power, the atrocities committed against black people in Waco were multiplied across the south.  Many years later Lucy wrote of the shocking scenes .    Among the crimes committed by the Klan,  in or near Waco were the castration of a black boy in 1867, the murder of an eight year old girl by rape in the same year and the murder of a black man in Waco Public Square the following year.  White vigilantes and the Klan got bolder as the Republican Construction became less effective, In April 1868, the Klan mass murdered 13 blacks near Waco. Later they killed the father, mother and brothers of a black woman.  She was nearly witless when interviewed by the officers of the bureau and when Freedmen’s Bureau officer and the District Court Judge attempted to hold court in the case, the mob bought in a rope to hang them. The list continued.

Carolyn Ashbaugh  in Lucy Parsons; an American Revolutionary goes on to say that Lucy may have seen the raids and may have also been raped or her family had been victims.  She never recounted the details of what she had seen ; but always denounced crimes against black people with passionate anger.   

In 1873, Albert and Lucy left Texas.  Albert was elected to the Radical Republican Convention in Travis County.  Albert; with his charm, good looks, military and political connection would have been welcome in the states high society but he gave that up for a life long commitment to advance the poor and downtrodden. He became a believer in racial equality and his ‘marriage’ to Lucy identified him with the oppressed.   

In Chicago, Lucy would no longer have to fear rape by the Klan.  She would have space to develop her own potential as a crusader for human rights … to be continued

Further reading Lucy Parson : an American revolutionary by Carolyn Ashbaugh

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