Mother of Orphans
Mother of Orphans: The True and Curious Story of Irish Alice, a Colored Man's Widow is the compelling true story of Alice, an Irish-American woman who defied rigid social structures to form a family with a black man in Ohio in 1899. Alice and her husband had three children together, but after his death in 1912, Alice mysteriously surrendered her children to an orphanage. One hundred years later, her great-grand daughter, Dedria Humphries Barker, researched the reasons behind this mysterious abandonment, hoping in the process to resolve aspects of her own conflicts with American racial segregation and oppression.
This book is the fruit of Barker’s quest. She turns to memoir, biography, historical research and photographs to unearth a fascinating story from the vantage points of four generations of white and black women in her family, including herself. From early twentieth century to the present, she constructs a fragmented yet comprehensive perspective on the continuing crises of care for and education of black children. This haunting, introspective meditation on race and family ties, delivered in lyrical, evocative prose, is part personal journey, part cultural biography. Mother of Orphans examines a little-known piece of this country’s past that ultimately leaves us hopeful about the world our children will inherit.