The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 108

Southwestern Hzstorzcal Quarterly

acteristics of the "black" family that she describes. The author offers a
case study of the Polk family built on archaeological findings, oral his-
tory, and traditional primary sources such as family letters and news-
paper clippings. As a case study, the book provides some insight into
family relations and activities that are often absent in larger, more gen-
eral studies of the black family and miscegenation. The oral history and
archaeological findings that the author draws on provide the basis for a
particularly rich discussion of this family's material culture. The family
of Spencer Polk is not the "typical" black family that historians such as
John W. Blassingame (1972), Eugene D. Genovese (1974), Herbert G.
Gutman (1976), Burton (1985), and Jones (1986) have chosen to em-
phasize in their works. In fact, however, the experiences of the Polk
family were not rare, given the prevalence of miscegenation in the an-
tebellum South. Consequently, this work is one of the first to suggest
the diversity of the historical black familial experience.
As the story of a family that was created through miscegenation and
that grew during an era of racial oppression and chauvinism, The Seed
of Sally Good'n is the story of a family that struggled to survive despite
the impact of an increasingly hostile white community. Yet there were
even more destructive conditions with which family members had to
come to terms: their own disdain for all "blackness" and, consequently,
their denial of an African genetic and cultural heritage. This family
was ripped apart because of the perceptions of the family patriarch,
Spencer Polk, and most of his descendants regarding skin color, hair
texture, and other physical manifestations of their ancestry and thus of
their worth.
Patterson manages to present the history of the Polk family as an in-
teresting and tragic one. Yet she is remiss in her descriptions and analy-
ses of some of the most vital issues with regard to the subject of the
family. Such issues include marital relationships and the variables that
influenced them; family responses to the illegitimacy of some of the
members; the role of religion within the family; the family's seemingly
passive response as the victim of white violence and manipulation; the
impact of color stratification within the family on the psychological
makeup of the children; and the responses of other blacks and whites
in close proximity to the "mixed" Spencer clan. Thus, while Patterson
hints at areas of family conflict, she fails to present in-depth discussions
of them. Moreover, the work lacks an effective conceptual framework,
and the reader is thus confronted with serial descriptions of various as-
pects of the lives of some family members, chronologically strung to-
gether by genealogical notes. The Seed of Sally Good'n is an interesting,
sometimes passionately written Case study, but because of these flaws,


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. ( accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.