NORMAN D. BROWN, Edztor
The Seed of Sally Good'n: A Black Family of Arkansas, 1833- 1953. By Ruth
Polk Patterson. (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1985.
Pp. xv+183. Preface, maps, tables, photographs, illustrations,
notes, bibliography, index. $19.)
Ruth P. Patterson has presented an interesting and thought-
provoking century-long reconstruction of a family of African and
Anglo-American descent in the U.S. South. The Polk family of Muddy
Fork, Arkansas, is descended from Sally, an African-Cherokee slave
woman, and Taylor Polk, who in the 182os purchased her, presumably
to be his concubine. Polk eventually brought Sally to his plantation
where, regardless of the "vehement opposition" (p. 17) of his legal wife,
he built the young slave woman a cabin next to his house.
Together Sally and Taylor Polk had four children. There were three
sons: Peter, Frank, and John Spencer; and a daughter, Eliza. The sons
resembled their father in physical appearance, that is, in skin color,
hair texture, and facial features. Eliza, on the other hand, had dark
skin and hair that had "too much of the natural African curl" (p. 17) to
convince Polk of his paternity. Polk sold Sally shortly after Eliza's birth
because he believed that she had been unfaithful to him. Her children
remained on the Polk plantation, however, and were reared as Taylor's
"black family." Thus, as slaves, they received some preferential treat-
ment and protection. After the Civil War they retained some ties to
their white kin, which contributed to their acquisition of unusually
large landholdings and a somewhat prominent standing within the
white community. Patterson focuses on the lives of Spencer Polk, the
third child of Taylor Polk and Sally, and his descendants, traced pri-
marily through the children of Spencer and his second wife, Ellen,
from the late 186os until the mid-twentieth century. The author is, her-
self, a grandchild of Spencer Polk.
The Seed of Sally Good'n is intellectually provocative primarily because
of Patterson's methodological approach and the relatively unique char-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed March 13, 2014.