Was interracial love possible in the days of slavery? Descendants of one couple think so

Kittie Simkins, a black woman born into slavery, married a white soldier.

He was buried in a white cemetery. She was buried in a black cemetery. Their marriage was unheard-of at the time.

Both William Ramey and his wife, Kittie Simkins, were born and raised in Edgefield, S.C., a town known for its grisly murder rate in the antebellum South. Their relationship defied convention, and yet it survived war and bitter family resentment.

Ramey, born in 1840, came from a prominent white family. Simkins was born a slave in 1845, most likely on a property called Edgewood owned by Francis Pickens, who would become a Confederate governor.

The love affair could have been lost if not for Paula Wright, a seventh-generation descendant of the couple who inherited vintage photographs documenting eight generations of her family, dating to 1805. The box of 500 mostly black-and-white photographs offered a rare glimpse into an interracial marriage that took place nearly 100 years before Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down miscegenation laws.

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In 1861, Ramey enlisted in the Confederate army. He was wounded near Richmond, and was soon discharged. He returned to Edgefield to convalesce and began an affair with Simkins.

Simkins eventually left the plantation, and sustained herself as a seamstress and housekeeper. Ramey began a law career. At one point, he became engaged to a white woman, but he called the wedding off when his second child with Simkins, a son, was born in 1870. He married Simkins two years later, in 1872, during an interlude in Reconstruction when statutes prohibiting interracial marriage had been suspended.


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