I am not sure if this has been discussed. I did a search - but didn't find anything that covered this topic.
I came across the picture the other day of Varina Howell Davis -- and the first person I thought of was my Great Grandmother. In each picture I found online of Mrs. Davis it was very clear to me she was Creole (Quadroon) and passing or "Mulatto." She was born in Natchez, Mississippi - which many Creoles are from and still live today.
I have always been fascinated how many Creoles of color - the women (and men) during that time - could actually pass as white. And not be found out. Varina was able to keep her background secret and be with one of the most powerful men of the Confederate party.
I wonder if other Creoles/Mulattos knew about Varina -- as one glance is enough to tell. I wonder if Jefferson Davis would have found out - would he stayed and loved her anyway? I'm just guessing that one drop = NO for him. But, I would hope not.
I am not the only person who noticed this. I found a few links and message board post inquiring about the same thing.
What do you think?
Cane River Creoles
While the sophisticated Creole society of New Orleans has historically received much attention, the Cane River area developed its own strong Creole culture. The Cane River Creole community in the northern part of the state, along the Red River and Cane River, is made up of multi-racial descendants of French, Spanish, Africans, Native Americans, similar mixed Creole migrants from New Orleans, and various other ethnic groups who inhabited this region in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The community is located in and around Isle Brevelle in lower Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. There are many Creole communities within Natchitoches Parish, including Natchitoches, Cloutierville, Derry, Gorum, and Natchez. Many of their historic plantations still exist. Some have been designated as National Historic Landmarks, and are noted within the Cane River National Heritage Area, as well as the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. Some plantations are sites on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail..
From Saratogian News:
Former Wilton resident Jerrie Hinchman teamed up with Kent Boklan, a university professor and former government code breaker, to transcribe and decode the diary, written in 1863-64 by Confederate Army Lt. James Malbone, an officer in Company B, 6th Virginia Infantry.
In his diary, Malbone recorded information about soldiers in his unit, items he bought and sold, his African-American slaves, the faithlessness of other officers’ wives, Confederate deserters, women and military movements.
Malbone used a code of letters and symbols to keep some diary information private. This includes his own personal speculation about the race of Davis’ wife, Varina, whom he described as “dark complected” with “very very brown skin, dark eyes” and “high cheek bones (and) wide mouth.”
This was undoubtedly a reference to African-American features and possible ancestry. In the slave-owning Confederacy, these musings would have been explosive statements, said Boklan, a Queens College associate professor and National Security Agency-trained cryptographer.
View the diary here: http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/Malbone.htm
From Ohio State University:
"Varina Howell Davis was born at her family plantation, the Briers, near Natchez, Mississippi in 1826. As a plantation owner’s daughter, Davis received her education from a private tutor and later attended finishing school. She was seventeen when she met Jefferson Davis while visiting the Hurricane, the plantation of his older brother, Joseph Emory Davis. “Uncle Joe” was an old family friend, but it was the first time she met any of his extended family. Davis was taken with her beauty and intelligence, and by the time her visit ended two months later she and Davis were unofficially engaged. Margaret Howell, her mother, objected to the engagement. She was not convinced that Davis, widowed and eighteen years older than her daughter, was a good match for Varina. She thought he was too brooding, and feared that Varina would be second fiddle to his former wife. Eventually, however, she gave in and they were married on February 26, 1845."