Two main points impress me when reading Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes. One impression: before and after the Civil War, the luck of having already been born free in the North, granted freedom in the South or born into an aristocratic Southern family made all of the difference for Black families and their future. The Fitzgerald family displays these mechanics of freedom and status and every way. While Harriet would certainly consider her plight one of misfortune, in the Smith family scandal, it of course led to good fortune for her descendants, like Cornelia.
I’m also impressed by how fortunate and wise the Fitzgeralds were in positioning themselves as people of business. They had no debt. Thomas Fitzgerald lived by the “no-debt” code and taught the same to his offspring. The Fitzgeralds were also literate, a rare characteristic for anyone during this period and they also skilled trades. The stars aligned well for the Fitzgeralds and they capitalized on their good fortune with hard work, smarts and entrepenurial spirit.
The whole Smith family saga and Cornelia’s loyalty is a topic unto itself, which I’m sure we’ll discuss in class.