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Archive for February 16th, 2023

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes — Hannah Elias (Contest)
Thursday, February 16th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!

Passing as white in a racist society was more commonplace than many would think and generally enabled the passer to thrive if not survive.  As in the case of Belle DaCosta Greene, passing enabled her to receive renown as the librarian of the J.P. Morgan Library. The truth of her race wasn’t uncovered until long after her death. Hannah Elias never claimed to be white, but never acknowledged her blackness either. When asked what she was she’d say either Sicilian or Cuban. The discovery of her true race didn’t lead to admiration and accomplishment but to trial and tribulation.

Hannah was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1865.  Her father was mixed-race (African-American and Native American). Her mother was light enough to pass for white. An enterprising “better-to-ask-forgiveness-than-seek-permission” type, Hannah “borrowed” a dress from her employer in 1884 to wear to her sister’s wedding. The act landed her in Moyamensing Prison and thrown out of her family’s home.

She made a living as a sex worker in Manhattan’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where she met rich glass factory owner John R. Platt, who was forty-five years older than she. She left the brothel and engaged in an affair with him, although some resources state they were married. Platt lavished her with gifts and money, enabling her to amass wealth through investments and real estate. She moved into a mansion on Central Park West. Their happy-for-now existence was shattered in 1903 when famous city planner Andrew H. Green was shot to death in a case of mistaken identity. The killer, Cornelius Williams, a former tenant in one of Hannah’s boardinghouses, mistook Green for Platt.

The case brought to light Hannah’s true racial identity. Her home became a stop on a sightseeing tour, and she found herself harassed and assaulted by White New Yorkers outraged that a black woman could be living in Central Park West, own various real estate properties, and be worth millions of dollars. In 1904, Platt’s family bullied him into filing a blackmail complaint against Hannah to strip her of her wealth. She took the stand in her own defense, prevailing against Platt at the original trial and in the appeal.

In 1915, she lived in the penthouse of one of her own buildings and by then had joined in business with African-American real estate developer John E. Nail to turn Harlem into a mecca for African-Americans arriving from the South in search of decent housing.

She went to live in Europe and died there of a heart attack at the age of 73.

As a New Yorker I’d always heard of or read accounts about the murder of Andrew H. Green but not until reading Shomari Willis’ Black Fortunes did I learn of Hannah Elias and her role in his death. Another great account of this phoenix who rose from the ashes is the Barbara Chase-Riboud novel, The Great Mrs. Elias.

Discovering hidden histories like that of Hannah Elias feeds my hunger to learn all I can about the lives of African-American women and fuels my desire to help put the spotlight on them.

For your chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, comment on Hannah’s life and/or share similar hidden histories of women you’ve learned about.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

Freed Man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black township of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.


She sidled up to him, cupped his erection and fondled his balls.

“Ready for bed or ready to bed me?”

He moaned, placed his hand atop hers and increased the pressure. Already hard, he hadn’t imagined he could get any harder.

“Is that beautiful brass bed new?”

He gulped. “Ye—yes. Bought it—bought it for the honeymoon.”

“I’m ready to be bedded now,” she whispered. “Or is that something we must negotiate?”

All thoughts of dinner vanished.

“No,” he rasped, leaning forward, as hungry for her lips as he was to be inside her.

“Good.” She stepped back, out of reach. “But, let’s be clear…” She bent over, so her butt protruded toward him. She massaged each buttock so her crack parted invitingly. “Tonight it’s the Greek way or no way.”

He blinked, stunned by this demand to be taken anally. His master had had books filled with drawings, depicting naked Greeks wrestling. Those pen and ink depictions flashed before him now. Arms constrained by arms, legs entwined with legs, butts and groins enmeshed in snug contortions. He’d love to take Queen that way, experience first- hand the erotic intimacy etched in the men’s struggle-laden features.

He took one step toward her then stopped. No. One day, he would…but not tonight. Not their first time. Their first time would be the nose-to-nose, chest-to-breast, cock-to-vagina coupling he’d hungered five years for.


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