The African American Connection to the Black Dahlia

Race, skin color, with all its complex layers of dissent and entanglements, is embedded in the social fabric of America. For more than two centuries we have struggled between embracing him unscrupulously and condemning his inhumanity. We have used it for profit; ugly guilt of our misfortunes; they sacrificed each other for the right to enslave, and passed their prejudices down from generation to generation. It is so ingrained in our spirit that the breed has become synonymous with the word “America.” Even now, at the dawn of the 21st century, we cannot let go of our racial ties.

This true story, One Day She’ll Darken, is not about America seen from the outside, but America from the inside, from the inside of a kid who saw things differently.

It begins in the early 1950s in San Francisco, before Fauna Hodel was born. The 16-year-old daughter of a prominent white California family became pregnant and insisted her father was “black.” Outraged by her daughter’s boldness and the stigma attached to a mixed-race child in their midst, the family quickly arranged for the baby to be adopted by someone so far removed from her social footprints that even the shadows vanished.

Jimmie Lee Stokes, a simple black maid working in a Nevada casino, and her common-law husband, Chris Greenwade, reluctantly agree to become the recipients of this new life as “all the arrangements have been made.” They fast travel to San Francisco to retrieve the baby from the hospital and discover that the unwanted mulatto girl is pinkish-white with blue eyes, not what they expected as the offspring of an African-American father and Caucasian mother. However, the birth certificate clearly states that the father is “black.”

Chris convinces Jimmie to accept this “angel of God”. She soon, however, is filled with resentment and overwhelmed by the problems of raising a white-skinned baby in her black community. Jimmie starts drinking heavily and her husband quickly leaves him. Alone, poor and black, she is forced to cheat to keep her baby. The black woman and her white son spend the next twenty years fighting extreme poverty, alcoholism, sexual abuse, pregnancy, marriage and death, all bound and bound by unrelenting prejudice.

The only world Fauna knew growing up was one she didn’t belong to. She was a white-skinned girl in a black world with only her birth certificate to confirm her authenticity. Racism on both sides dominated her life, but not her spirit. Her only salvation was finding out the truth about her mixed race from the only person who knew for sure: her birth mother, Tamar, the woman of her dreams.

Fauna set out to discover the story that created this strange life and the reason it was given away. The search for her ends abruptly with a phone call from Tamar informing Fauna that her real father was not “black” at all. Having spent her life defending her African-American roots, Fauna is traumatized. Her life has been a lie and now she needs to know why.

Her journey takes her from the Reno ebb to the island of Oahu, where she finally meets Tamar, who explains her decision to have her first child raised by blacks. “In my little world, I believed that black people were made of far superior stuff than the white people I knew. I was ashamed of being white.”

Dissatisfied with such a simple answer, Fauna investigates further. Tamar reveals the secrets of his rich, powerful and darkly mysterious family and a story so incredible it makes Fauna’s own story pale in comparison. She discovers that her grandfather was involved in a sensational incest trial that may have resulted in her own birth and the murder and maiming of numerous young women, including the now infamous case of The Black Dahlia.

Meanwhile, Jimmie’s health is failing; she can’t let Fauna go, neither because of her real mother, nor because of Fauna’s new husband. Forced to choose, Fauna returns to Jimmie. In the final hours, before the old woman dies, both discover that the ties that united them grew in their hearts and could not be undone by ignorance, prejudice or hatred.

One Day She’ll Darken is a story about conquering fanaticism with unconditional love: a love that knows no bounds, a love that knows no color.

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