A Change of Plans
Marilyn Harris, now a dark, slender southern woman, was born on the July 5, 1953 into a poor family of eight (six children) in Durham, North Carolina. She recalls the first years of her life being a happy time where she had the most fun because since all the people she had been exposed to at that point were lower-class citizens, she didn't know there was a whole different world out there and she didn't realize just how deep in poverty she and her family were; "I remember everyone being just as poor as we were, so in my mind, that's how it was meant to be" she said in a tone that almost defied me to question such iron-clad logic. Her mother was a strict and religious home keeper and her father as far as she knew was easygoing in most situations. He was a railroad worker. Marilyn's life changed radically when she started school because she was introduced to the idea of segregation and realized that in the eyes of society, not everyone was entitled to the same treatment, and for the first time, she had to wonder why she didn't "have nice things like everyone else."
She also encountered segregation within her own race and noticed that African-Americans of a lighter complexion received better treatment than the ones with darker skin. "My cousin was very light skinned and we spent all our weekends together. One day, we decided to take a walk and pick some flowers across town where all the pretty houses were and she skipped ahead of me. Some white teenage boys saw her and started to yell "go away nigger girl!" They didn't get violent until I caught up with her and they saw how dark my skin was. I had a bruise for days. The black folk back then treated her almost like royalty (*chuckles*) she was closer to being white that any of us could ever hope to be." She punctuated this statement with a short bark of laughter devoid of all humor.
Feelings of confusion were perpetual in her childhood, "It was so confusing to...