Lady

We called her Mother Smith

the plump congenial woman

who was housemother

in the red brick Antebellum

sorority house.


As house manager for the sorority

I helped her in any number

of ways and was privy

to much of the business

of the house.


She was interviewing

for a new cook.

A neat woman in hat and gloves

a pocketbook over her arm

appeared at the kitchen door.

I admitted the woman

and went to tell Mother Smith

a Negro lady was here

to be interviewed.


Later Mother Smith

called me into her office

and instructed me on a bit

of protocol.


“Honey,” she said sweetly,

“Negro women are never

referred to as ‘lady.’”


Janet Taliaferro



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