Friday, January 14, 2005

Before Rosa Parks refused to go the back of the bus...

...Mary Custis Lee refused to go to the front of the train.

I just ran across this forgotten historical tidbit. Robert E. Lee's daughter, Mary Custis Lee, was arrested for violating the Jim Crow laws, because she insisted on sitting in the car reserved for black folks.

This reminds me of a story about her father, which shows where she got it from:

One Sunday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, a well-dressed, lone black man, whom no one in the community—white or black—had ever seen before, had attended the service, sitting unnoticed in the last pew.

Just before communion was to be distributed, he rose and proudly walked down the center aisle through the middle of the church where all could see him and approached the communion rail, where he knelt. The priest and the congregation were completely aghast and in total shock.

No one knew what to do…except General Lee. He went to the communion rail and knelt beside the black man and they received communion together—and then a steady flow of other church members followed the example he had set.

After the service was over, the black man was never to be seen in Richmond again. It was as if he had been sent down from a higher place purposefully for that particular occasion.

The Lees were a more complex family than is often assumed to be the case.