Deservedly or not, the Daughters of the American Revolution have often been accused of racial insensitivity, in part because memories of their refusal to allow Marian Anderson to sing in the D.A.R.’s Constitution Hall in Washington, B.C., in 1939 remain fresh (see our February, 1977, issue), but also because the national organization has never had any known black members, even though some five thousand blacks fought in the Revolution.
No black members, that is, until October, 1977, when Karen Batchelor Farmer, a twenty-six-year-old black businesswoman from Detroit became the 623,128th Daughter of the American Revolution. On leave from her real estate business to care for a newborn son in 1976, she found herself with a lot of time on her hands, and began to look into her family’s history. She knew when she started that her great-grandmother, Jennie Daisy Hood, had married Prince Albert Weaver, a black man, in Cleveland in 1889. Working back from there, she traced her great-grandmother’s side of the family to William Hood, an Irish immigrant who served in the Revolutionary forces as a private, sixth class, in the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) County Militia.
A librarian suggested that she apply for membership in the D.A.R.—whose only official requirements are proof that a direct ancestor served in the Revolutionary forces or aided the patriot cause, and that the applicant be sponsored by a local chapter. Mrs. Farmer’s genealogical research proved flawless, and after some delay a sponsor was found, the Ezra Parker D.A.R. Chapter of Royal Oak, an affluent Detroit suburb.
The D.A.R. is pleased with its new member, Jeannette O. Baylies of Scarsdale, New York, president-general of the D.A.R., told the New York Times . Letters received from other Daughters are “99 per cent most favorable. Everyone who’s met [Mrs. Farmer] feels that she’s the tops, and we’re delighted to have her.”