Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2013


One hot summer's day in the late 1950s, a young mother put her three young children down for a nap. She also bathed and prepared four of her sister's children for naptime. This young woman had volunteered to care for her nephew and nieces while their mother, her younger sister, was in the hospital delivering her fifth child. A short while after putting all of the children in their beds, the children's father, her brother-in-law, knocked on the door. The young woman assumed that he had come over to see his children and to bring them news of their mother and newest sibling. Instead, he pulled out a gun, threatened to kill her and all the children, even his own, and proceeded to forcibly rape the young woman. The distraught young woman did not know where to turn for help. She could not tell her estranged husband, so she instead went to her mother. Her mother told her that if she made a big fuss about the rape, she would destroy her sister's marriage, and further, if her brother-in-law landed in jail, her sister would be left to support five children by herself and her husband might be unduly harmed. The young woman was urged to just forget what happened and go on with her life. She did just that, until she decided to break her silence thirty years later by telling me this story. That young woman was my mother. This Article is dedicated to my mother and all of the other Black women who had to "be silent and just forget what had happened. "