Sunday, June 22, 2008

April 1919

In April 1919, with the war ended, a U.S. Navy ship arrived in Charleston from France. The local newspaper, the News & Courier, carried an announcement of the event and invited the public to celebrate the ship's arrival. However, Uncle Teddy and other black Charlestonians were rebuffed at the dock. He wrote a scathing letter to the editor.

I do not know, Mr. Editor, who was responsible for the order, but it certainly caused a number of people an unnecessary and unwarranted humiliation. In future announcements state when possible whether it is the "public" that is invited or "whites only." Perhaps, I do not need to tell you, Mr. Editor, that we know how to stay away.

Later that month, he traveled to Atlanta, where he was painting a portrait of Alonzo Herndon, the nation's first black millionaire. The portrait now hangs in the Herndon Home, a museum dedicated to the life of the former slave who acquired his wealth as the owner of a barbershop catering to a white clientele. Herndon later established the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

While working on Herndon's portrait, Teddy took a side trip to St. Augustine to visit his older sister, Katherine, who had married and settled there.

Tantie, meanwhile, remained in Charleston, planning a trip to New York, where she would enroll in photography school.

2 University Place
Atlanta, Ga.
April 1919

My dear Elise,
Oh you saucy one! I had your letter with the two pictures and my! oh my, some blessing out. Well, if you say I do, I do, and I will not argue back.

It seems that you have tried to make [me] toe a certain line which I can't seem to be able to toe. ... I cannot fathom the psychology of you little women and maybe you can't ours, so don't worry, you'll get wrinkles. (This is an essay -- it starts from anywhere and gets you nowhere.)

You are perfectly at liberty to go where you will to stay -- if to the "Y" so much the better and you shall have funds sufficient for your needs.

I am leaving Atlanta tonight for Florida, and have to return by way of Atlanta as the Herndon picture is neither varnished or framed -- the frame has not yet arrived from Boston. Everybody concerned is very highly pleased with it -- I have been much flattered with the enthusiasm. It is to be "unveiled" next month.

Here's a stake for "Liza" with more to come next week. And please cheer up. I'm getting off or I would write more sensibly -- I will write you from St. Augustine.

Yours with love -- I mean the real sure 'nuf kind as they say in Georgia.


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