Happy Sunday, scandal mongers! Have you been herded into your Godbarn? Have you had your hangover-curing brunch at Perkins? Have you finished reading
the trite emotional manipulation the faux catharsis made with ironic photos and tape the wildly depressing confessions disguised as healing Post Secret? But still haven’t decided to actually buckle down and do any of the work you put off in favor of juvenile carousing? Then we’re here for you, with a bright and sunny little mini-post on one of America’s favorite best-loved largely recognizable comediennes, Wanda Sykes.Well, it’s tangentially about her, in that lots of generations of sex-having created that sassy little lady, but in actuality, thanks to the nytimes, we’re pulling out from the Scandal Vault the super salacious history of Wanda’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Banks.
Let me set the scene: it’s the 17th century, it’s America, and it’s kinda shitty, let’s be real. Most people are either exiled younger sons of Europe’s mercantile class, dirt poor debtors with nowhere to go because Australia hasn’t been invented yet, or super-cray religious conservatives who like to stone people.
And there are also slaves and indentured servants. The lowest of the low, the first slaves arrive in Jamestown in 1619, and nearly two-thirds of the English settlers in the 17th century in America were indentured servants. Granted, an indentured servant had an expiration on their servitude, but while they were workers, they had no rights, and could be bought and sold just as slaves could. They weren’t allowed to marry during their indenture, and to get, *ahem*, knocked up during your servitude was a big no-no to say the least.
Enter Ebeth Banksey, indentured servant from Scotland. Probs born in 1665, she came to Virginia most likely around age 15 or 16. in 1683, when she was 18, she was charged with “fornication & bastardy with a negroe [sic] slave.”
BOOM, you get it Elizabeth Banks; you get it hard.
She received 39 lashes (come on, how did she survive that shit?) and an extension of her servitude as punishment, but died a free white woman, with not one, but FOUR children, at least two of whom were half black. All her children were free because of Elizabeth’s status, and thus started America’s oldest, unbroken line of free blacks.
It wasn’t necessarily unusual for black slaves and white indentured servants to get it on in early America. More than 1,000 mixed-race children were born to white women in colonial Virginia and Maryland, but Elizabeth Banks’ line is the first that can be traced to the present (including a record of the family’s first legally recognized marriage in 1853, between two “free negroes”). Baller. But really.
So let’s tip our collective hats to Elizabeth Banks, because not only did she spit in the face of e’rybody to be with the guy she loved, without her, we never would have gotten this.