The film The Color Purple takes place between 1910 and 1940. So how can an African American (Mr. or Albert Johnson) have a huge house, a plantation, a farm/ranch (animals as well), prosperity, and a decent amount of respect in the South during a time when African Americans were lynched for merely existing, no matter how much or little they had?

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    @memor-x, while the original version of your question was probably a little OTT, I feel like your edit is almost revisionist. I think removing the “from white people” part in particular takes away the main thrust of the question. Segregation happened, you can’t change that fact. – Darren Feb 4 '18 at 0:33
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    @Darren my primary purpose was to remove the "white people in the RACIST, PREJUDICE, SEGREGATED, KKK ridden,former slave owning South" as saying "former slave owning" while talking about a time where there was slavery, to me, makes the parts before that a current generalized verbal attack at anyone white person living in the south. i don't deny that segregation happens but how it was worded did not sit right with me in regards to the be nice policy where the OP was, as per the page, being a jerk – Memor-X Feb 4 '18 at 1:18
  • I'll say this: if the film was faithful to the book, I doubt Walker got her facts wrong. – Obie 2.0 Feb 5 '18 at 3:56
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    Isn't this a history question? I think the short answer is "you have an oversimplified idea of that period" – Raditz_35 Feb 5 '18 at 12:37
  • Your understanding of American Southern history is lacking. In 1910 it was possible, although a rarity, for a black man to be reasonably successful. – Django Reinhardt Feb 10 '18 at 15:44

It is possible that he earned or stole his wealth, but many times more likely that he inherited it.

The earlier the scenes with the rich Mr. Albert Johnson were set, the more likely he was to have inherited his wealth from a white ancestor. And I think that even in 1940 it would have been very hard for an African American in the south to have earned or stolen enough money to become a plantation owner.

In that era most southern states had laws restricting the rights of African Americans or blacks. And they had "single drop of blood" laws saying that if someone had even a single known black ancestor many generations earlier he was legally totally black. And often laws that if someone had even a single Indian ancestor many generations back he was legally totally black. And they had anti miscegenation laws making sexual relations or marriage between whites and blacks illegal.

So for generations partially black persons in the south were considered totally black and were only allowed to marry other partially or totally black persons. If someone was partially black in the south, his descendants would be legally black for generation after generation without hope of ever becoming white.

So if Mr. Albert Johnson in The Color Purple is considered black by everyone it would still be possible for him to be biologically part white in ancestry.

Before emancipation, male slave owners and their male relatives often had sexual relations with female slaves who had no legal right to resist. Thus many wealthy slave owners had illegitimate half black children. And some of the wealthy slave owners treated their half back illegitimate children as slaves the same as the rest of their slaves. Abolitionists clamed that some descendants of the Founding Fathers of America had been sold in slave auctions. And some of the wealthy slave owners treated their illegitimate half black children like they would treat their illegitimate white children, as family members, though lower in status than their legitimate white children.

Thus wealthy slave owners sometimes provided for their illegitimate half black children by giving them education, money, and landed property. So before the war there were some partially black wealthy slave and plantation owners in the South. And like the white plantation owners, many of them retained their plantations after the war and used sharecroppers instead of slaves to grow their crops, and bequeathed their plantations to their children.

So Mr. Albert Johnson in The Color Purple probably inherited his plantation from his ancestors like most white plantation owners, and his relationship with wealthy and influential white plantation owners who might have been as close as his first cousins probably protected him from trouble.

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Albert Johnson has the same mindset as Calvin Candie's Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) from Django Unchained. No "you are now free" could magically change it. The way Stephen treated other blacks is the same Albert treated Celie.

Black people didn't automatically treat every other black person with respect (why should they?) and there wasn't always a unified front against slavery or oppression. Some of the blacks saw themselves as different, and liked the idea that there are people beneath them who they can treat as tools or animals. You can see that without Celie, Albert's farm and house begins to crumble as there is no cheap labour to care for it.

And I think white people liked that kind of mentality, the black man who "knows his place".

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