remembering their grandfather Thomas Miles, who was lynched in 1912 in Shreveport, LA.
LM: When my grandmother passed away, we ran across a little box of papers, under her bed, and of course being nosey, we picked it up and it was clippings.
PD: Yeah, and when I read the newspaper clipping, we discovered my grandfather was lynched in Shreveport, Louisiana April 9th, 1912. I’ve never seen a picture, but I just see him being afraid of this mob, you know, he’s alone, and he can’t defend himself, and, he most likely knows he’s going to die that day. And it’s almost like I could feel that fear, and it kind of made it real for me. And Dad was only six years old.
SD: He was old enough and aware enough to realize that they murdered his dad, and that they had to then run, and they changed the spelling of his last name.
SD: The original spelling of Miles is M-I-L-E-S, and now we spell it M-Y-L-E-S, because they were essentially trying to hide, and…
LM: That’s when the family uprooted and came to California.
PD: I think that since they were running from the authorities, back in Shreveport, my Dad changed his birth date, and his birth place, he was saying that he was born in San Francisco, because he wanted to have had all his paperwork burned in the great fire I think it was in 1906? I just think he felt safer, having another name another birthday, they couldn’t attach him to that lynching.
LM: A lot of the time he preferred to be in other countries, I guess where he felt more comfortable, and that was probably the root of it.
PD: I think my dad did not appreciate how important a father figure is in the family. I personally, would’ve liked to have had my father around a lot more. But since he grew up with just women, you know, his mom, his grandmother, maybe he didn’t realize, you know what, I should be more present in the family.
LM: When you see the whole picture, the puzzle comes together. Because we always wondered, oh, he just likes Mexico better or he likes South America better. But, as for raising us, I think he wanted to keep us away from the racism, and that was his way of doing that.
LM: You know, you never know the whole story as to why.
SD: I didn’t realize that you guys only found out once your grandmother died, and then you found the clippings, I didn’t even know that.
LM: It was known to just not ask, you know. Speak when you’re spoken to, that kind of thing. If my grandmother didn’t bring it up, you wouldn’t bring it up either, you know what I’m saying. My father never brought it up, and his mother certainly never brought it up, and we lived with her, for periods of time.
PD: Right now that she’s mentioning that, so far I’ve been focusing on my grandfather. I didn’t think about my grandmother’s feelings. Here she is at a young age, she was all part of that too.
LM: Yeah, she was only 26 when she became a widow.
LM: If my grandmother was here today, I would ask her what it felt like when the incident happened. And why didn’t she tell us about it? She missed out on a source of comfort, and I don’t think we would have judged her. I think we would have felt, “Wow, you went through a lot,” you know?
SD: When I found out all that information, I started crying, mostly for my grandfather—the pain he went through. And then crying for my mom and her family, because I started to understand how the pain that he suffered affected his relationship with his family. How something like this can impact generations.