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From The Oakland Vault: The Love Story Of Fred And Julia Palmer

From the Oakland Vault: The Love Story of Fred and Julia Palmer

Love is in the air at Oakland Cemetery! To celebrate this Valentine’s Day, HOF is releasing a few Capturing the Spirit of Oakland scripts from the Oakland vault. Discover the love stories of some of our sweetest couples and the exploits of our favorite flirts.

Dr. Fred Palmer (1834-1919) was a white druggist at Jacobs’ Pharmacy and inventor of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. Julia Hayes (1851-1916), a Black woman, had been born into slavery. In the years following the Civil War, the pair met and fell in love. Although interracial marriage was illegal at the time and they faced discrimination and outright hostility, Fred and Julia Palmer lived together openly as husband and wife. Their son, Dr. Loring B. Palmer, was born in 1881. The Palmers, Loring, and his wife Rosa are buried together in the African American Burial Grounds. The Palmers were featured residents in the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland tours in 2015.

JULIA HAYES PALMER AND FRED PALMER
Capturing the Spirit of Oakland 2015

JULIA HAYES PALMER
Good evening everyone. Good evening. My name is Julia Hayes Palmer and this is my husband Dr. Fred Palmer.

FRED PALMER
Hello! We’ve just walked up here for a picnic.

JULIA
(To audience) It’s a lovely spot, isn’t it?

FRED
Never lovelier than you, my dear. (to JULIA) Shall I set this down?

JULIA
Yes, please. (to audience) I suppose our story is fairly ordinary in some ways. We met, fell in love, married, had a son – all the things people do. But you may have noticed that I am of African descent. And Dr. Palmer is not.

FRED
I believe they’ve already observed that, dear.

JULIA
True, but there’s a point to be made here.

FRED
Oh, yes, our marriage caused quite a stir in Atlanta back in 1872.

JULIA
A ‘stir’, Dr. Palmer? An uproar is more like it. (to audience) You must understand that marriage between a white man and Black woman was not only shocking but illegal. This during Reconstruction and Georgia was still reeling from the war. And add to this the fact that I was formerly enslaved? Well, this made our union even more dangerous.

FRED
In Georgia, a marriage such as ours was illegal until 1967, nearly a hundred years after our wedding day.

JULIA
It’s remarkable, really, that we managed to survive those turbulent times. (Quoting) “Let us have faith that right makes might.”

FRED
That from the bible?

JULIA
No, dear, Lincoln’s speech at Cooper’s Union in 1860.

FRED
(to audience) My wife is a library of her own making. She can quote Socrates, Sojourner Truth, Lincoln, and the Bible all in the same breath.

JULIA
You flatter me, Dr. Palmer. (to audience) After our wedding, we knew that we could not live happily with my husband’s people and so he became part of my community.

FRED
(to JULIA) Whither thou goest.

JULIA
Now that’s the Bible, dear. Ruth in the Old Testament. “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.”

FRED
And there will I be buried. And in fact, we are buried side by side, in the old African American section of the cemetery up that hill, a bit (points toward the area.)

JULIA
Dr. Palmer said to me, “We sacrificed to be together in this life, I’ll be damned if we’ll be separated in the next.” And after scolding him for his language, I agreed with the sentiment. Our son is buried alongside us, too. (to her husband) Oh, but we haven’t even told them about our son!

FRED
We were blessed with a bright, happy child: Loring Palmer.

JULIA
He was raised in our house near downtown Atlanta across from the Mitchell Street Colored School.

FRED
(To Julia) You loved everything about that house.

JULIA
None of you here tonight can ever know what it meant to me to have a home of my own having once lived as another man’s property. My house. My home. Mine. And to have a son that could not be taken from me? That filled me with a joy beyond words. My Loring. Such a smart boy!

FRED
We were so very proud of our son. He graduated from Atlanta University, then the University of Pennsylvania medical school to follow in my footsteps and become a doctor!

JULIA
He became the personal physician of millionaire Alonzo Herndon, who was the country’s wealthiest African American businessman. But Loring was also what you might call a civil rights activist, a leader in our community.

FRED
The lives of some young men demand more character than others, and because of our marriage, this was true for our Loring.

JULIA
He raised funds for the Leonard Street Orphans Home, a place for the homeless children of our race to find refuge, and ran a hospital for African Americans called the Fair Haven Infirmary. I swear that child acquired enough character for two good men.

FRED
Any goodness he got, he got from you, my dear.

JULIA
You flatter me, again. My husband neglects to tell you of his own achievements. It’s a fact that many of you may have heard of him, and don’t even realize it. Dr. Palmer was a well-respected pharmacist over at Jacobs’s Pharmacy.

FRED
Where they famously served up Coca-Cola for the first time!

JULIA
Yes, but my husband was an inventor, too, and created a company some of you, especially the ladies, would know as Palmers Lotions and Cosmetics. Why you could run up the street to a drugstore right now and buy a jar of Palmers Cocoa Butter Formula. I hear tell it’s the #1 cocoa butter brand in the world today!

FRED
Now you flatter me, Mrs. Palmer. I’m afraid these nice folks have other stops to make. Why don’t you leave them with another of your fine quotes?

JULIA
Let me see…Well, I often think of what a great man once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” And we did. (To her husband) Now, don’t tax your mind, dear. It’s Lincoln, again.

FRED
Very well done, Julia.

JULIA
Why, thank you, Fred. I wish I’d made enough food for all these nice people!

FRED
Maybe next time, dear. Maybe next time. Thanks so much for stopping by.

JULIA
Goodnight everyone, good night!

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Marcy Breffle

Education Manager

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