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[Colored] Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

It’s Me!



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“I feel a little guilty saying how much fun I had being a colored girl in the 20th Century.” Anita Reynolds, American Cocktail: A ‘Colored Girl’ in the World

First thing this morning, l read an article called the Wild Adventures of a ‘Colored Girl’ in the Early 20th Century. It had been published on the The Root by Teresa Wiltz, nearly a week ago, about the recently found memoir of a young Black woman named Anita Reynolds, a flapper of sorts traveling the world, schmoozing with VIPs and having some very important familial (Langston Hughes was a distant cousin) and romantic (W.E.B. Dubois was her first lover) connections. 


Anita Reynolds

I learned she had come from a prominent well-to-do family of mixed race heritage, but during those days, being multicultural was hardly anything to celebrate the way we celebrate it today. Anita’s mother was a Black woman, labeled “blond” because of her “passing” (pretending to be White or another ‘race’ because you look like that ‘race’) ability; and, indeed “passing” was a coping mechanism Ms. Reynolds was able to use to her advantage (people thought she was Mexican, Native American, etc–she never corrected them).

“Passing” in the Black community was anything but acceptable–it was blasphemous! Writers like Charles Chesnutt knew, first-hand, the lure of “passing” but chose not to do it because it created an even more difficult existence for anymore “caught” in between races.  The “one drop rule” gave Black people a different ethnic appeal and imprisoned them at the same time. The “passable” Black women from places like Louisiana deemed octoroon (1/8th Black ancestry), quadroon (1/4 Black ancestry), and mulatto (having one Black parent and one White parent) were often lauded as the prettiest women on the planet, yet they lived the same lives as any other ‘colored girl’ and sometimes lives that were marred in too-frequent sexual advances from men salivating over their beauty and needing to experience just a little bit of it.  Alex Haley explored this topic in his novel Queen: The Story of an American Family that was later adapted into a movie starring Halle Berry.  

As long as American identity remained Black and White, on the Black side is where these mixed-race Blacks stood and where they were expected to stay.  I completely understand why Anita Reynolds professed her guilt for having fun because she lived a life that ‘colored’ girls did not have access to and were not supposed to live–a life filled with adventure, the finest clothes, admirable company, gawking eyes, and the chance to laugh from all the fun she was having. 

Virginia State University graduate, attorney and billionaire, Mr. Reginald Lewis, wrote a book decades later entitled Why Should White Guys Have all the Fun?  It seems to me that he responded to Ms. Reynolds’ confession of guilt by living his ‘Colored’ life without any guilt, unapologetically, and by terms not completely determined by his race, rather his hard work and success. 

Today ‘Colored Girls’ like singers Alicia Keys and Tamia leave Anita Reynolds’ shadow of guilt to dissipate into the sunlight; thus, they are Black women living life to the fullest and impacting the lives of others through philanthropic efforts. 



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