' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Part 2: The daughter I gave up for adoption had a daughter she gave up for adoption

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Part 2: The daughter I gave up for adoption had a daughter she gave up for adoption

Continuing the story of a granddaughter lost to adoption, and later found:

Upon recovering from the shock of learning that my daughter, Jane, whom I gave up for adoption, now had a daughter she was planning to give up for adoption, I thought: Well, at least she won't have to go what I went through. She'll be able to place her daughter in an "open adoption," where she would always know where her daughter was, who her adoptive parents where, she or I would be available in case the adoption did not work out. It was 1986, and while open adoptions were not as commonplace as they are today, they were possible then, and, I believe, in Wisconsin. (In fact, I think they were pioneered there and in Traverse, City, Michigan, and if anybody has any information to add about this, please do!) So I started talking about open adoption to Jane, but it was falling on deaf ears.

Jane said that the father, a young African American man she met at Burger King where she was working, and he were together for several months, but they had broken up before the baby was born. She casually added that he did not want her to give up the child, and his mother wanted to raise her. Oh my god, I thought, that is wonderful! She can be raised by her own family! I'll be able to know her too! Jane will never have to be a woman haunted by the loss of her daughter--and the child will not have to be adopted by strangers, genetic strangers. The ironic twist is that the father's family was from Inkster, Michigan, the community directly next to the town I grew up in, Dearborn, and that is where she would be raised.

Dearborn in the Fifties and Sixties was a community run by an out-and-out racist, Mayor Orville L. Hubbard, who made no secret of his racist views. Dearborn sits directly to the west of Detroit, and during the era of "white flight" from the city center of Detroit, people of all races were moving out of the downtown ghettos to the edges of the city, moving, in other words into suburbs just like Dearborn. Wikipedia says:
Dearborn in the Orville Hubbard years became known nationally as a symbol of racial segregation. Hubbard's longstanding campaign to "Keep Dearborn Clean" was widely understood as a thinly veiled campaign to keep Dearborn white. Hubbard became the most famous segregationist north of the Mason-Dixon line, and when he left office in 1978 [note: he was mayor for 36 years, having been elected 15 times], only 20 African-Americans lived in Dearborn--a city with a population of 90,000.
Frankly, I'm surprised any African Americans lived there then, the atmosphere was so poisonous to them. No, we did not have segregated lunch counters--but no blacks ever tried to eat there. Police stopped non-whites when they drove through town. When a black family in the early Sixties rented a house and moved in a crowd gathered outside, epithets were yelled, the police simply stood around, doing nothing and under orders to do nothing, it would later be learned. Nothing got more violent than the few people who threw vegetables and eggs at the house, but it was not a good scene.

Hubbard's statue in Dearborn
Not everyone in Dearborn was a bigot. Some year up to thirty percent of the population, including my parents, voted against Hubbard, but no one thought anyone else had a chance of winning. Thirty percent against means seventy percent for. The music played on a loud speaker at campaign events was--and I'm not kidding--"Bye Bye Blackbird," with the clear implication of who the "black bird" was.

The only Freedom March of the Sixties in the North was in Dearborn. I  was a college student then at Wayne State University, and went to see the marchers as they walked by City Hall in silence. It was quiet that day, no one jeered, a few people clapped but mostly it was eerily still and calm as the marchers passed by a small crowd gathered at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Schaefer Road, the center of east Dearborn right by City Hall. Personally, I think most of the people who came out that day were in support of them. I'm sorry I did not join the marchers, but instead stood on the steps of City Hall. A story that's still remembered in journalism circles is that the Time magazine reporter, Ben Cate was physically hustled out of City Hall a few weeks later when he was researching a my home town and the Freedom March.

Not long after that I graduated from college and left Dearborn for good, but on one trip home I happened to take my mother, who still lived there, to the Dearborn Youth Center--a rather huge facility with an indoor roller rink. She was going to some senior citizen event that day. Dearborn had lots of nice frills like that, having the benefit of being the home town of the Ford Motor Company, which paid a lot of tax dollars and funded a lot of extras like frequent trash collections, great schools, snow-plowing on the sidewalks, a well-maintained park system with swimming pools and artificial ice skating rinks. Anyway, directly past the entrance of the Youth Center hung a poster-sized blowup of a photograph of an African American woman kissing a white man hung on the wall. You could not get in without walking past it. Everybody who came to the Youth Center saw it.                                                                        

Even though I know how racist Dearborn had been and still was, I was stunned. Hubbard ran the town with an iron fist, and the citizens of Dearborn were letting him get away with this. No words were written under the picture, but the message was clear: Look at what can happen if Dearborn were to integrate. Miscegenation! Horrors! After I got over my shock, I realized I knew the black woman in the photograph. I'd interviewed her on a number of occasions.

She was Charlayne Hunter, who in 1961 was one of two black students who first broke the color barrier in higher education in Georgia. While she was waiting for the courts to force integration of the University of Georgia, she attended Wayne for her first semester, where I was a reporter for The Daily Collegian. And yes, she did marry a white man she met at the University of Georgia. I know I've gotten off the seeming track here, but it's worth knowing our history; it's worth remembering that racism crept far North. Today there is a statue of Hubbard in Dearborn (see above), and one of the senior-citizen housing units is named for him: instead, he ought to be stripped of any glory, the statue toppled, his memory thrown into the dust bin of history. His family, still in Dearborn, however, bristle and complain when anyone around remembers what a horrible bigot he was and their thoughts are published in the Detroit newspapers. And yep, that's a book about him: Orvie: The Dictator of Dearborn : The Rise and Reign of Orville L. Hubbard (Great Lakes Books)

The point of this riff about my hometown, Dearborn--it's still iffy to mention to a black person of a certain age you grew up there, without quickly explaining you know what that means to him--is that the community where my granddaughter's father lived, where my granddaughter might be raised, was Inkster, directly west of Dearborn.

Jane was adamantly opposed to letting this happen. I was more than a thousand miles away, halfway across the country. She also refused to pursue open adoption. I did not know how much of an effort his family would put into stopping the adoption proceedings, and did not tell her I hoped they succeeded. She was my daughter, first and foremost, and I listened to her grief, gave her my love, and would not risk alienating her by opposing her. We'd already had too many ups and downs over the course of the five years I knew her when her first daughter was born.

In the end. the baby was adopted. At the court proceeding, she said, neither he nor his family showed up. She told me that she met the adopting parents, a white woman lawyer and a black doctor, and shook their hands. I never went to court when she was adopted, so I don't know how much of this is true--because, I hate to admit, Jane had a slippery relationship with the truth. She often said what was most convenient at the moment to the person she was speaking to; she made up innumerable, improbable stories that she later forgot. Her lying  hampered our relationship on many occasions, and I know, it did the same with her relationship to her adoptive parents. It was as if the truth did not matter to her. And she knew that one way to shut me up--about an open adoption, about his mother wanting to raise her--was to come up with such desirable parents--one white, one black, both well educated with fancy careers--for her biracial daughter, my granddaughter. Neither my husband or I ever really believed her on this, but there was no point in refuting her. She would just insist that it happened that way.--lorraine

To be continued.


  1. Lorraine, I hate to say it, but that was the lie they used to shut the last nail in my motherhood coffin. The white lawyer (woman) and the black doctor (man). I don't know how your granddaughters story stands now, but I do know that the likelihood of that occurring in that time frame was very slim....at least on the professional level. Sigh, aint racism grand.....

  2. Carolina WhitefreezeJune 10, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    As a long-time (but no longer) resident of Dearborn, I came after the Hubbard regime, but while its effects were definitely still apparent. At times, it was embarrassing to give Dearborn as my hometown because of that. I still have a small, hotel-size bar of soap that says "Keep Dearborn Clean," which they apparently gave out at some point. I'm glad that part of Dearborn history is (at least mostly) over.

  3. Lori--same bleepin' story? It is worth telling our stories so that the many lies are revealed. In my case, however, I'm sad that this came from my daughter.

  4. Carolina:

    I've written a number of op-eds about racism and I often mention my youth in Dearborn, and explain a bit. The piece usually draws a letter from at least one African American who is relieved that someone remembers how rampant racism was in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties. I believe Hubbard was mayor until 1974 when he had a massive stroke, and the rest of his term was filled by the president of the city council. I also found this on Wikipedia:

    In 2005, Senator Carl Levin spoke at the funeral of Rosa Parks, making the following comments about Hubbard: "The South had Orval Faubus; Michigan had Orville Hubbard. Orville Hubbard vowed to keep Dearborn clean, meaning keep Dearborn white."[17] Levin's comments drew an angry response from Hubbard's family. A letter published in the Detroit Free Press from Hubbard's granddaughter, Susan L. Hubbard, referred to Levin's comments as "mean-spirited ramblings of an arrogant, Washington politician."

    NO, Levin spoke the truth. That stupid statue of him is listed among 20 monuments in the country that should be topped. It is am embarrassment that it still stands.

  5. I am so glad you have re-connected with your lost granddaughter Lorraine... I hope that the cycle ends with her.

    Much love,

  6. What did the social workers tell your daughter's adoptive parents about you? Maybe your daughter just did what she knew happened in adoption - social workers lied.

    I've said this before. I think that is one of the reason so many adoption agencies are opposed to reunion. They know the lies that are out there and that will be revealed when adoptee and mother meet.

  7. UM--You forget that my daughter said she met them, shook their hands...so their occupations were not a lie told by the social worker in her case.

    I was not lied to by my social worker, Helen Mura, when my daughter was adopted. She told me that they were "professional people," and they were. A nurse and an insurance adjuster who handled disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

  8. Your story is so crazy Lorraine. Interesting, as in the Chinese (?) curse, "may you live in interesting times"

    You got to live your dreams, you got to move to New York and be a writer, something I imagine in your generation and circumstance was not common. Correct me if I am wrong.

    The nightmare aspect seems to have loomed just as large however.

    I wish I could get behind Buddhism more, I am too human. I feel all of the nitty-gritty.

    What we (collectively) live through is pretty darn amazing.

  9. Lorraine, yep, just about. But they did not introduce me to anyone. It was, according to what I have found from research, a common rouse in that time frame - I am guessing somewhere from 1975 to 1989, and possibly later. I think that the saddest part is that it is likely that your daughter told you that to make you believe she did something with full knowledge. In essence to protect you from her being lied to and hurt.

    I know that a lot of people think that I am bitter, I used to be, but I am not. Sad about the lies. Sad that her father never got to know her, and he wanted to. And a thousand other reasons. But I can't change it.

    Yes, our stories need to be told. I recently was contacted by someone who wants to share our stories, but I am not so sure I want to be part of her deal with....advice privately would be appreciated!

  10. A mother needs our help, her 18 month old baby was stolen and sold off to adoption, she managed with help from an organization to track him down in the Netherlands. There is a court case this month and they still need several hundred euros for the airfare. Please can we help this family?
    WHERE TO DONATE:http://againstchildtrafficking.org/Donations.html (write for Nagarini)
    newpaper article here:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7144837.ece

  11. " Orville Hubbard vowed to keep Dearborn clean, meaning keep Dearborn white."

    This remark, along with handing out bars of soap is disgusting. I agree any image of this terrible man should be swept out of Dearborn. He is the one who wasn't clean with his dirty soul. Hubbard is lucky I didn't grow up in that town because I would of ripped that poster to shreds and dumped it on his front lawn, but then again, I;ve always been improper...

  12. damn laptop with the keyboard from hell, LoL

    but then again I've always been improper....



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