"She was a very charming and beautiful woman"
Virginia Rose remembers her mother, Bessie Trotter Craft, and her uncle William Monroe Trotter.
Family: Fossett (Hemings)
Residence (at time of interview): Oakland, CA
Virginia Rose was the daughter of Elizabeth Letitia (Bessie) Trotter and Henry Kempton Craft, a Harvard graduate, electrical engineer, teacher, and YMCA executive. He was the grandson of William and Ellen Craft, famous for their daring escape from slavery in 1848. Bessie Trotter, who attended the New England Conservatory of Music, was the sister of the prominent civil rights leader William Monroe Trotter.
Virginia Rose attended the University of Pittsburgh, graduated from Barnard College, and did graduate work at Western Reserve University. She married Joshua Rose in 1934 and they moved to California, where he headed the Oakland branch of the YMCA. She passed her pride in her Trotter and Craft heritage along to their three children, who shared memories of cross-country car trips to keep up with their East Coast roots. Only late in life did Mrs. Rose begin to “ponder” her connection to the Fossetts of Monticello. As she said in 2006, “You don't know who you are until you know where you came from.”
15 July 2006, Oakland, CA
Interviewee: Virginia Craft Rose
Also present: Richard Rose, Virginia Rose Niles, Mary Ellen Butler, Donald Butler, Stephanie Perry, Allegra Aldridge
Virginia Rose describes her reaction to publicity for a talk she was to give.
Virginia Craft Rose: That was a revelation in recent years, that there had been enslaved people on the Thomas Jefferson plantation and this was information that we were getting from the, you know, as adults. We were reading it written by other people, not related to us by our family. So it was something to wonder about, to think about, to accept or not accept. And I know one time here in Oakland, I was asked to give a speech to talk to a group of college people. And when I—it was at Laney College—and when I got there, there were signs—“Thomas Jefferson relative to speak.” I tore the signs down. [Laughter] … I didn’t want to be labeled as a relative of Thomas Jefferson, because he was white and we were black.
Virginia Rose reflects on the importance of passing on family names.
Virginia Craft Rose: And the fact that our children have a middle name. Richard Craft Rose. Virginia Trotter Rose. Mary Ellen Butler, Mary Ellen Rose. Because the Mary and the Ellen were two of my grandmother’s names. And I think I’ve always been proud of the fact that we have a family heritage and you are somebody and you can be proud of that. Stephanie’s name, Stephanie Craft Perry and our grandchildren have the name Monroe. There’s Noah Monroe Aldridge. There’s Tyler Monroe Niles. He’s my, Mary’s—no, Virginia’s daughter’s child. So I have always wanted our family to know that they have a good heritage and reason to succeed themselves and they have. They’re all very successful in the field that they have gone into.