The two oldest members of this family - Joby and Louvinia - came from Carolina to Mississippi as slaves of John Sartoris. With two exceptions, they and their descendants serve the Sartorises loyally, as slaves before the Civil War and servants afterward, for five generations and in 3 novels and 9 short stories. Simon Strothers appears in the first chapter of the first Yoknapatawpha fiction, Flags in the Dust. Joby and Louvinia's grandson (in one novel) or their son (in another), Simon lives his entire life in the cabin his family first occupied as slaves, and connects the antebellum era with the 20th century: in Flags (1929) he recalls the days of slavery nostalgically; at the end of The Unvanquished (1938) he is last seen wearing a ragtag Confederate uniform and grieving for Colonel Sartoris. The two exceptions to this pattern are among Faulkner's few openly rebellious African American characters. In The Unvanquished, Joby's son Loosh eagerly awaits the arrival of the Union army at Sartoris; after showing the troops where the plantation's silver is buried, he emancipates himself and his wife by going off with them. In Flags, Simon's son Caspey returns from serving in the U.S. army during the First World War to proclaim "I dont take nothin' offen no white man no mo'." Before the end of these texts, however, both quietly resume their places in both the family and their racially prescribed roles.

Overall the Strothers' condition across all five generations seems to confirm the Southern cliche that on the old plantations even the blacks were treated as members of an extended (white) family. Rosa Millard, for example, John Sartoris' mother-in-law, tells her grandson Bayard that her money-making efforts are "for all of us, for John, and you, and Ringo and Joby and Louvinia." The Ringo she mentions may in fact be a member of the family biologically. He appears as both a slave and a major character in multiple short stories, where neither of Ringo's parents are identified. Bayard, the narrator of the stories, notes that Ringo calls Rosa "'Granny' just like I did." These details foster the suspicion that he could be John Sartoris' mixed-race, illegitimate son. When Faulkner revised the stories for publication in The Unvanquished, he makes it explicit in the first chapter that Ringo is both Louvinia's grandson and "Simon's son"; even there, however, Ringo's mother is never mentioned. And in one case, or at least in one text, the familial metaphor is literalized. In Flags, Simon's daughter Elnora is described (without elaboration) as "a tall mulatto." In "There Was a Queen," when the narrator notes that Bayard is "her half-brother," we learn the identity of her one white parent: he is Colonel Sartoris - although she herself refers to her father as "old Marse John," and still lives in that former slave cabin behind the big house, serving the Sartorises as both a cook and a kind of guardian of the white family's aristocratic greatness.

Set against the consistency of the black family's loyalty, Faulkner's own cavalier attitude toward their history across the course of the fictions is striking. Simon is variously identified as Joby's grandson and his son. Caspey is both Elnora's brother and her husband. Elnora has either one or three children. Loosh and Philadelphy appear in the one post-Unvanquished story that Bayard narrates as Lucius and Philadelphia. You can trace these inconsistencies from text to text on the genealogical charts.

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Strother Family Biography