A Remarkable Woman Who Knew the 'Color of Water'

Ruth McBride Watson died last week, a mother of 12 who was twice widowed but saw all her kids graduate from college, as she did herself at age 65.

After growing up in the segregated south, she ignored all distinctions based on race or religion.

"Within the family, questions about racial identity were answered with loving circumspection. When James asked his mother about why she was different from her children, she would say only, “I’m light-skinned.”

When he asked if he was black or white, she said, “You’re a human being.”

And what about God?

“God is the color of water.”


Her son wrote a best-seller about her life called: “The Color of Water”.

Sounds like she was an awesome woman. I will have to get that book. Thanks for sharing. :thumbsup:

i think i saw an interview about her once. what a remarkable woman!

she was an inspiration to her son. i am sure the book is very interesting. sounds like they should make a movie of her life.

[quote="Beau_Ouiville, post:1, topic:183458"]
Ruth McBride Watson died last week, a mother of 12 who was twice widowed but saw all her kids graduate from college, as she did herself at age 65.


A couple of corrections, Mrs Ruth McBride Jordan was 88. Below is the headline from the artical quoted in the original post.

Ruth McBride Jordan, Subject of Son’s Book ‘Color of Water,’ Dies at 88

Accuracy is important.

The article says she received her degree in social work at age 65.

i don’t think it says that she died at 65. that was how old she was when she received her degree from college.

Righteous woman; I think most of our mothers struggle.

[quote="stanmaxkolbe, post:7, topic:183458"]
Righteous woman; I think most of our mothers struggle.


Most mothers don't have to raise 12 kids.

In her time most Catholic mothers did.

My grandfather died when my mother was eight years old, my widowed grandmother Catholic, Irish, and poor had to raise seven kids alone.

My fathers mother Catholic, Polish, and poor had to raise fifteen kids.

I think that most of us mothers and fathers, know that we are not doing anything by ourselves, we always have God besides us. Raising 1 kid, 7 kids, 12 kids or 20 kids is always a gift.

I love pro-life stories like this because it shows God’s greatness.:thumbsup:

Well, the book relates that as an unmarried teenager in the forties, bearing a mixed race child, the lady in question had an abortion.

Her family then wrote her off as dead when she converted and married a black man and it was 20 years before she found out her brother had died during the war. The book is quite interesting since her son had to pull details out of her and she had not previously revealed any of this to her kids, including her maiden name and where she was born.

This is from the Sony Ebook store it’s $17.47 I just downloaded it thanks; Beau this should be a good read.

The Color of Water
Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared “light-skinned” woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother’s past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.

The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in “orchestrated chaos” with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. “Mommy,” a fiercely protective woman with “dark eyes full of pep and fire,” herded her brood to Manhattan’s free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion–and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.

In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother’s footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents’ loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.

At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all-black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. “God is the color of water,” Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life’s blessings and life’s values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth’s determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college–and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.

Interspersed throughout his mother’s compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self-realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.

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