New Haven woman publishes parents’ love letters, encourages other Black families to look into their histories

Black History Month

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A New Haven woman who published her own parents’ love letters, is encouraging other Black families to look into their histories.

“After my mother passed away in 2007, they were stuffed in a plastic bag in her nightstand,” said author Jill Marie Snyder.

Snyder is talking about dozens of love letters written between her parents in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She put them together in the book “Dear Mary, Dear Luther.”

“You know, every day is a holiday since the day I met you,” she read from a letter her father wrote. “Yes, indeed, Mary, you really do things to me.”

“I can’t conceive anything but planning my life for you and with you,” read a letter her mother wrote. “Since meeting you, I have derived so much pleasure at the sight of you.”

Mary and Luther spent about four years apart before getting married and moving to New Haven, just before the start of World War II.

“They found in New Haven a segregated city,” Snyder explained. “It was very difficult to find a place to live because areas where black folks could live were limited.”

Snyder will be talking about that, and the letters, in a lecture this Wednesday night. It’s being streamed by the New Haven Museum on its Facebook page since people cannot attend in person these days.

It’s the perfect combination of a Valentine’s week love story and Black History Month lecture, because once she started digging into her family’s past, she found proof that her great-great grandfather had been enslaved, but escaped from a plantation in Virginia.

“His obituary, which actually goes into detail about his escape and his life and his getting married and raising a family,” Snyder said. “He’s my hero now.”

By learning about their history, she says African Americans can take back their culture.

“In African culture, ancestors are revered, but they’re not revered because they simply lived and died,” said Snyder. “They’re revered because of what they did in their lifetime to make our lives better.”

For more information about how to watch her Wednesday lecture, click here.

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