MS. REBECCA SHEIR
For the past few weeks, we've brought you interviews recorded at the Storycorp mobile booth in Arlington, Va. Storycorp is the oral history project that gives Americans the chance to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives. This time around, we'll hear from Percy White III and his friend Terry Wright who talk about growing up African-American in very different family situations.
MR. PERCY WHITE III
I am named after my father, Percy Ell White, Jr., who was named after his father, Percy Ell White, Sr. So I do love saying my name because I get to remember all of my other -- my other family. But my mother's father, Arthur Wright, is something you and I would joke about because his last name is the same as yours.
MS. TERRY WRIGHT
So my last name of Wright is a man my mother knew that was married to at some point but I do not know who my father is. So, as you have like a very rich family history and knowledge of it, I don't, unfortunately. But I think that's why we have been very interested in each other, you're trying to help me find mine and I probably know more about your family history than you even do.
But I would love to know more about yours.
Well, so my mother's Caucasian, my siblings are Caucasian and I was born one week after Martin Luther King was assassinated. So that was April 4, 1968 and I was born April 11, 1968. So I can't imagine that time, a white woman's giving birth and here comes a black child out of her, you know. And what all that meant. It just is mind boggling.
In hindsight, do you have any feelings attached to that?
I do. I grew up in a suburb of Buffalo, it's called Grand Island. And it was predominately all white. And I actually grew up at a foster home because my mother struggled with alcohol and then later died from that. And...
Were you the only African-American in school, in your class?
There was, like, a couple I could probably count on my hand, one hand. But they had the support of their black family. So I was the only one in that situation of Who am I? But I don't know if I actually shared something with you, as I was growing up. I had come outside to play and there in the yard was a burnt cross. And so I am thinking it's against God, you know, I was brought up Catholic. And my foster Mom knew about it, everybody knew about it.
And it was, like, a big secret. And then I happened to see a Ku-Klux-Klan movie. But it all hit me at once. I saw these huge crosses, I'm like, Oh, my gosh. I was furious, but also disappointed, sad. I was upset by my foster parents, like, you put me in danger. I needed to have this information. And I think they were trying to protect me. But I felt like, I need information in order to protect myself. So I think that's why I will always treasure our relationship because as you force me to look at who I am, you know, it -- it just helps.
And thank you, I do like learning about history and sharing it with you when you and I get to talking about it and meeting different people. So I feel very blessed.
That was Percy White III and Terry Wright at the Storycorp mobile booth in Arlington, Va. The mobile booth departs this weekend, but thanks so much to everyone who came by over the past month to share their tales.
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