Black is an invisible colour

I used to say I like every kind of music except Country. That was until my good friend Steve Abel made me sit down and listen to ‘Johnny Cash at San Quentin’, recorded live at the infamous prison. I was an instant fan.

So when “Walk the Line”, the Johnny Cash biopic, was released in 2005 I was eager to see it. I thought it was a great movie, with some brilliant scenes, like the one where Ma and Pa Carter see off Cash’s dealer with shotguns as he quits cold turkey. They seemed to epitomise the best of White Southern Christian Decency, in contrast to the usual treatment we see of Southern hypocrisy, malice and racist cruelty.

The romance between Johnny Cash and June Carter was of course the main thread of the movie. It winds around his protracted wooing of her and ends with a caption celebrating their 35 year partnership on and off stage after she finally agrees to marry him. His first wife Vivian is portrayed as a woman just never suited to be his wife and who drove him away with her bitterness, jealousy and resentment. I remember idly wondering what she was really like, and whether this was a fair portrayal of her character, as the story moved back to his great love for June.

Watching the movie for a second time the other day I was again swept up in what a nasty, bitter woman Vivian was, even as another part of my mind again questioned the representation. In the garden with my wife the following day, we began deconstructing the movie as we worked. As we talked through different elements of the plot, I began to feel more and more uneasy. Later I decided to google Vivian Cash. I found a review of her book ‘I Walked the Line’, written after the film came out. Not surprisingly it gave a very different story to the film, suggesting that their marriage had been very happy until June stole John away. What WAS surprising, though, was when I looked at photos of Vivian. Turns out that she was a black woman.

john and vivian cash 1jonny and vivian cash 3

You’d never know from reading any of the articles about her.

You’d certainly never know from watching the movie, where she is played by Ginnifer Goodwin.

ginnifer goodwin

In fact the only thing I found in my admittedly brief search that referenced her ethnicity was a newspaper headline from when he was busted for drugs that says “ARREST EXPOSES JOHNNY CASH’S NEGRO WIFE”. Presumably exposes her for the sin of being black in the USA.

Interestingly, in contrast to the newspaper article from the time, the film shows him leaving court alone and coming home to her censorious displeasure. It is shortly after this arrest that the chronology of the film shows them separating.


I’d noticed before that there are almost no black people in the film. Two shoe shiners are the sum total are far as I remember. I imagine the director, James Mangold, justifies this by saying that there are no black characters who are important to the story. That is if you don’t include his first wife.

Suddenly the treatment of Vivian makes complete sense. In the world of American Country music, of course the black woman is the villain of the story – even when her husband leaves her and her four daughters for another woman. June and John are considered one of the most iconic couples in country music history, and no black woman is going to undermine that narrative. Her character has to be destroyed. But even that is not enough. Her very identity is robbed from her, made invisible by whitewash.

They say that black is not a colour, it is the absence of light. That certainly seems to be true in Hollywood.

EDIT: I have been asked in some of the comments to withdraw my post because Vivian’s birth certificate and recorded genealogy state that she is white. I will not do so, for two reasons:
1. Regardless of what was written on her documents, it is apparent to many of us (especially those of us of mixed ancestry ourselves) that she is black / mixed (there must be a better word for that). This is an opinion based on every single photo of her to be found. There is a one photo from later in life which some say shows that she is white. I guess if you don’t have elderly multiracial friends or family (and ignore every other photo of her) you might think so but it is not convincing. There are numerous possible explanations for the discrepancy between her official papers and her appearance, many of them outlined in the comments.
2. Given the effort made in the movie to try to cast actors who resembled their characters, casting Ginnifer Goodwin for someone who is at the very least ethnically ambiguous is still whitewashing. Her ethnicity was important to their story, as evidenced by the attacks upon them both.
Ethnicity and racism are very touchy subjects to be sure. I have never had such interest in a post, and almost exclusively from North America. Why? Perhaps the USA needs some kind of national reconciliation process to help it deal with the trauma and shame of its past.
As of 13 May 2020 I am closing the comments because a growing number of posters from the USA are getting increasingly abusive of each other.

Tagged , , ,

549 thoughts on “Black is an invisible colour

  1. Wow thanks for sharing another invisible aspect of American history. The sad thing is how many Americans only learn history from film and television. Yet the narrative from these industries are not always fair, honest, or accurate towards people of color. When they are called out on the bigotry portrayed the denials and apologies are strife with sullen rejection of the black viewpoint. We blacks are said to be overly sensitive or extremist.

    • Caryn says:

      It’s actually nonsense, well, sort of. See my post below.

    • Lonnie Ross says:

      Yea, its like the movie about gov, george wallace of Alabama Never once in the movie did it mention that he was a democrat

      • kenjimoto says:

        That was different party then, and you know it. The Dixiecrats are all Republicans now. Look it up.

      • Stop detractors says:

        Did it say he was a republican?… stop detracting, you’re transparent.

      • janilee says:

        You’d have to have been there. I was. Over the decades, Democrats became liberal, and Republicans became extremely conservative.

      • dan says:

        Don’t you realize that parties shifted throughout the years. MLK was a Republican also BUT if you dig a bit deeper you will see it’s not about the party label but the ideology. Even though Wallace was a Democrat, he was a CONSERVATIVE! Yes look at history and you will find parties evolved over time.

    • janilee says:

      American history has been “whitewashed” in every sense of the word. I believe that to be true of almost every nation. Unfortunately, much of what is wiped out in the American South is those who are not prejudiced and speak out against it. That, I hope, is also true for other nations.

  2. Liz Driscoll says:

    Wow. That is very sad.

  3. Kissmineck says:

    Whaaat!!!😨 hollyweird at it again.

  4. KennethJames says:

    Thank you for sharing this bit of history.

  5. Betty says:

    What about their 4 children? What happened to them?

  6. Grahame Edwards says:

    This article is misinformed and inaccurate. Vivian Liberto was of Italian-American descent, not of African-American descent. It is true that Cash’s behaviour was badly affected by drugs, was very erratic and contributed to the breakdown of his first marriage.

    The movie, ‘Walk The Line’ is OK as far as it goes but, like so many movies is over-simplified and over-dramatised in parts. Watching a movie like this is not research, nor can it give all the information necessary to write an informed article. It is like reading a Classics Comic instead of reading the original book.

    Johnny Cash performed with many artists of African-American descent from Louis Armstrong to Ray Charles. He stood up for the underdog including native Americans, the poor including African-Americans, prisoners and so on. He never, at any time, displayed a trace of racism towards any ethnic or religious group.

    • Sometimes it boggles the mind when nationality is used as a barometer for race and ethnicity. The people of Southern Italy are part African, even though some would deny it for obvious reasons. And then there was the Moorish influence throughout Europe. Most people of African heritage have distinct features and more melanin than those called “white” or Caucasian. I guess there are distinct features for those from the United States called “Americans,” too.

      • Betty Hearn says:

        GREAT FACT as to the Moorish influence and their distinct features.

      • Vince says:

        Moors were North African Caucasians (Arab-Berber) not Blacks, and Sicilians have less than 4% Moorish ancestry anyway. Other Southern Italians have none.

    • Dorothy Hamilton says:

      Are you blind… She ain’t pure Italian, man there’s no such thing. History shows a brown person is in everybody’s Family tree from the fake Royal Family to the Sea, her hair and features tell you that.

      • Toya says:

        Noticed he said Italian-American decent…she is obviously mixed! Some people never want to believe the obvious…so many in this world hate to see Black/African women loved.

    • Classy says:

      This article did’t say that Cash was racist so the fact that you are defending him on racism is pointless. And if she wasn’t of African Desent, why does the offical newspaper article from that time show her and reads as such…. Also, why mention the poor and refer to them as African American? You should like a racist and someone trying to cover up for the wrong this article describes about how Vivian was treated.

      • Marto says:

        The “Official” newspaper article is from a white supremacist newspaper that made the accusation as a way to discredit Cash. She identified as white. Maybe she had mixed ancestry but there is zero evidence of that, only speculation.

    • Paris says:

      Then who are the pictures with…She does not look Italian to me and probably not to you also… What about the article. I researched it and the article was published, so where are you getting your rebuttal? I don’t care what she is mixed with..remember the rule…(just a drop of black blood). She’s BLACK, period. WOW.

    • Nicole says:

      The article does not make any claims of Johnny Cash being racist. Instead it points out how a significant person in Johnny’s life, a black woman ( Italian or not), was completely erased from this important figures life.

      • Carlos Zeda says:

        Right on! Thank God for skin color. It gives us added chooses to our search for beauty. red, Black, Yellow, white, olive etc!
        All are beautiful. And when you mix them, even more so.

        And yet, the press, Media, want to show an all white world. Stupidity at its highest level. She was black due to her skin color, Italian due to her nationality, and beautiful Becuase of her features.
        What’s the big deal

    • Ned says:

      That’s a black woman. As an African American with Irish ancestry, many a member on my paternal branch have passed as being Italian or Middle Eastern or Sicilian or Latin. It’s interesting how whites can only see the white even with GLARING African features.

    • Robert says:

      I know mine when I see them and that right there is a black woman

    • That photo is a Black Women. Why do you want to challenge the article so bad? Black is Beautiful! You Better ask someone!

      • Marto says:

        The photo is of a women who identified as white and whose children claim was white. The newspaper article claiming she is black is from a white supremacist newspaper. It was a smear campaign by the KKK. There isn’t wrong with her being black if she was obviously but she did not identify as such and that is why she was not portrayed that way by Hollywood.

    • Dee Nice says:

      I guess she and Mike Tirico are from the same part of Italy….On that note, there are plenty of Italian people with African blood in them. It is what it is….

    • Kesha says:

      She was BLACK!! even if her daddy was Italian and she carried his last name, her mother was BLACK which means she was BLACK #ThatIsAll

    • Norm Houston says:

      That woman was of African dissent. She might have said she was Italian to avoid all of the Jim Crow era racism.

    • Daralyn Baker says:

      You an clearly that she is bi-racial and she does have African-American genes. I’m glad the his eyes were closed to racism, and open to all nationalities.

    • Lorna says:

      I do not think anyone accused him of racism.

    • Dude, that beautiful woman is obviously a Negress.

  7. Caryn says:

    Wow. I guess your research was brief: “In fact the only thing I found in my admittedly brief search that referenced her ethnicity was a newspaper headline from when he was busted for drugs that says “ARREST EXPOSES JOHNNY CASH’S NEGRO WIFE”.”
    I did research and found that she was Scottish, English and Italian. That newspaper is associated with the KKK. guess what… racism! Surprise!!

    • osakwe23 says:

      Sometimes it boggles the mind when nationality is used as a barometer for race and ethnicity. The people of Southern Italy are part African, even though some would deny it for obvious reasons. And then there was the Moorish influence throughout Europe. Most people of African heritage have distinct features and more melanin than those called “white” or Caucasian. I guess there are distinct features for those from the United States called “Americans,” too.

      • Kimberly Breeze says:

        Sorry but you are mostly totally wrong. The people of Southern Italy are part almost everything but not African as you are using the term. Sicily has been conquered by Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Saracens, Normans, Spaniards, French Bourbons, Northern Italians,Germans and Americans but no substantial black Africans. It is not obvious that Southern Italians are racists either.

      • Marto says:

        If having African ancestry makes you black, we are all black. Race is a social construct, categories are arbitrary and don’t really have that much to do with DNA. This woman identified as white and was regarded as white by most of society other than the white supremacists that claimed she was black to discredit Johnny Cash. Maybe she did have black ancestry but she didn’t identify as such.

    • nate says:

      ha haha . see the reply to your erroneous statement… false equivalency of nationality and race.

    • What difference does it make, except for the sake of history? It’s 2017, why hide the fact that she was Black now? Back then, I can see why they would want to hide it. Many Blacks crossed the color. It was something that happened because many felt that their lives would be better if they said that they were White. It is clear, if we’re to go by these pictures, that the first Mrs. Cash was Black.

  8. A says:

    She wasn’t. This was a smear, her father was forced to publicize her birth certificate and details of her family tree (pedigree) going back years and years to “prove” that she wasn’t.

    • Golden Rule says:

      It is NEVER a smear to considered black or have African ancestry. Contrary it is quite a privilege. Unfortunately due to Americans Bigoted past, many with African blood were forced to “pass”. During the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, many Americans of mixed ancestry “passed” for white to explain their obviously dark skin color. Stevie Wonder can see that she is mixed with black.

      • Marto says:

        Of course not but the racist KKK members that published the article thought it was a smear and their purpose was to make Johnny Cash look bad. Their claims were based on nothing but her appearance. Maybe she did have some black ancestry but there is zero real evidence of that and she claimed to be white.

  9. CashFan says:

    Vivian was actually Italian, Dutch and English in her ancestry, not African American. Chapter 16 in the book, Johnny Cash the Life, by Robert Hilburn, goes into great detail on what actually happened. The movie portrayal of Johnny going home to Vivian after the arrest is actually accurate. The photo you reference was taken at the arraignment and created quite a scandal. This book also gives a less biased account of Johnny’s relationships, although some of the extramarital accounts may be rooted in hearsay.

    • osakwe23 says:

      Same reply as before to others: “Sometimes it boggles the mind when nationality is used as a barometer for race and ethnicity. The people of Southern Italy are part African, even though some would deny it for obvious reasons. And then there was the Moorish influence throughout Europe. Most people of African heritage have distinct features and more melanin than those called ‘white’ or Caucasian. I guess there are distinct features for those from the United States called ‘Americans,’ too.

      • janilee says:

        I would be surprised if one could look at a bald, naked American citizen and identify them as such. Being born and bred in the American South, no one ever identified me as other than white. However, my bloodline is English and Creek Indian. I now live in Italy, but no one has ever suggested I was American until I speak. Apparently, my hairstyle was a giveaway. When I had my hair cut in Italy, many people who knew me started clapping and exclaimed, “Ah, ora Italiano!.”

    • NotAWhiteHistoryFan says:

      Melanin is possible in someone born in all of those places. Africa and America are not the only places with black people. White people are not the aboriginals of the continents. For instance, a dark skinned person from Australia is an Australian too. White invasions are not the start of history for land or mankind.

  10. Jules says:

    Very sad!!! That they didn’t protray the truth. But people of color have made a mark in the acting industry so people can’t say they haven’t because they have. And they have made their mark in other industries as well.

  11. The film would have had a much more powerful and memorable impact on society had they explored his real relationship with the real Vivienne as equally as that with June. Hope I live long enough to see more wisdom in this world.

  12. Joann Wright says:

    If Johnnie Cash loved a Black Woman then why did a white woman have to play his first wife??????

    • Classy says:


    • The answer: Hollow-wood, Amerikkka…

    • Kelly says:

      The white movie industry back then would never allow a black actor to portray an actual real person that was black. Remember Immitation of Life? The executives chose Natalie Woods, a dark haired white woman to play a biracial daughter. instead of selecting a biracial actress. Even in the old westerns, executives would get a white man and put heavy make up on them to portray an American Indian instead of an actual American Indian for the western movie.

    • Dee Nice says:

      You’re really asking that question? I have to laugh at the effects of White Supremacy, and the total brainwashing element that’s attached to it. From your question I can see that you are a prime example of such brainwashing.

    • jgclarke0352 says:

      Bc she was white. She was of English, dutch and Italian descent as per her father. Not all whites are the same pigment, some are different colors than others. Anglo whites are typically fairer than mediterranean whites such as albanians, greeks and in vivians case italians. The courthouse pic, in black and white, was promoted by a racist group.

    • Cheryl says:

      Most Black people in this country don’t even have to ask that question, Joann. Obviously, SOME people did not want the general public to know that his first wife was Black. BTW, Vivian and Johnny met here in San Antonio, Texas, where he was stationed at Brooks Army Post. Vivian was related to local well known musicians and business people . She died in 2005. She is still well remembered here.

    • ellsworth says:

      one of the pilots of the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania during 911
      was African-American.
      however when they made a movie about the hijacking both of of the
      pilots were portrayed by Caucasians .
      Do you think it was a mistake ??
      I don’t

  13. Susan Menking, M.D. says:

    There is an evolutionary and territorial reason why the original race of Homo sapiens was dark-complexioned, and later, when humanity spread north and outside of the equatorial sunbelt complexions became lighter and lighter. The reason is that in areas of the world first inhabited by Man the quantity of sunshine was great and persistent, allowing for the melanocytes (pigment cells) of the skin to multiply and darken significantly, to protect the skin from burning. The dark skin, although not as able to absorb the sun, did however allow for adequate absorption of sun’s rays to allow for activation of vitamin D in the body, with resultant appropriate bone density as long as they were in the area of the world where sunlight was direct and constant. However, when humanity began to migrate into areas where sunlight was less strong and inconstant, the dark skin prevented enough absorption of sun’s rays to continue to adequately activate vitamin D, with resultant development of rachitic bones with low bone density, which resulted in rickets of the pelvic bones in females with deformity resulting in the inability to birth their offspring, and death to both. However, as with evolution in all forms of life, mutations occurred, with those individuals born with less melanocytes than usual, being better able to absorb the sun that was available and thus avoid the development of rickets and pelvic deformity and thus pass on their mutated genes for decreased melanocyte density to their offspring. Thus “race” developed from a dark-complexioned ancestor of all of us alive today, and for some unfathomable reason the mutations which have actually made white skin more vulnerable to actinic damage and melanoma due to loss of pigment have been considered as “superior” to the dark complexioned–go figure…

    • Jill R says:

      Wow that is some amazing information, thank you for sharing!!

    • Marie says:

      It is about time that someone with knowledge of “race” commented. Who decided the “one drop rule”? White supremacist who know nothing about genetics!

    • kenjimoto says:

      Yep. That’s truth right there.

    • diane says:

      What a bunch of hog wash! Melatonin has nothing to do with what part of the world you live in. If this is what you learned in med school, you need to ask for your money back. Humanity IS different races that did NOT evolve from black-skinned people. Our DNA has been tampered with for millenia by other off-world races, ETs I’d you pfefer.

    • Anne Dawes says:

      This comment should be the first in the comments. It is truth, not conjecture.

    • Russell Malahowski says:

      Excellent science. If more of us could only understand that “race” is some phony concept of no practical value. Just as sex is something not easily categorized into “male” and “female”, but is, rather, something along a continuum. We have spent so much effort categorizing each other, that we have forgotten that we are all the progeny of ancestry evolving in the highlands of Ethiopia. We are all African.

  14. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for this information. As an African-American woman, I completely understand the vile treatment of the very existence of Vivian Cash. All stories and the film negated her existence. Racism permeates every bit of our lives in the U.S. and beyond. Just take a look. This is just another sad reminder.

  15. Dina says:

    That’s why it’s so important that those black African Americans Bilalian whatever some are calling them selves should get together and do our own history of films on our lives. And of course I don’t mind playing a part or two or three not lol serious.

  16. L. Esters says:

    Restless souls never rest in the darkness. Thank you for bringing this story to light. I have always liked Johnny Cash, his music and basic upbringing. I applaud him for having such greet taste in beautiful women, both Vivian and June were lovely. Too bad they left this interesting detail out of his story, would have made his movie so much more interesting! Their loss.

  17. This “Irish were really black” stuff is nonsense btw. Not considered as white as the English, yes. Treated badly yes. Indentured yes. Starved out of their own country yes. Not enslaved, not treated worse than black slaves etc etc. Ireland’s real history of oppression is powerful enough – there’s no need to co-opt anyone else’s.

  18. Unfortunately, your article is mistaken. She was Italian, not black. Her Italian features combined with black and white printing cause her to look black in the newspaper. A white supremacy group with something against Cash ran a bunch of stories about her being black, but she was actually Italian. Much of the story is found in an Los Angeles Times piece here:

    • Eve says:

      Google her and tell me she’s not black!!!!!

    • patthale says:

      The gateway pundit is not a reliableor accurate source for news.

    • Golden Rule says:

      Even in her color photos she looks black. Just google her obituary. Heck Michael Jackson said his kids WERE black, they sure do not look it. We can say whatever we like, the proof is in the pudding. Many people of color chose to “pass” for white to avoid the ignorant, hateful and bigoted treatment of a racist US government. It happened more often than any of us will ever know. But your eyes do not deceive you. She looks black, because she is. And the sad part? Many times these kids did not know they were black as there parent, lied to their partner. SO of course the birth certificate, marriage certificate and employment records reflect a lie. BUT that melanin CANNOT lie. This beautiful woman has African ancestry rather she knew it or not.

    • Toya says:

      The photos prove June was biracial and black is apart of her race. It was a scary time for mixed marriages/relationships that’s why you can’t find any definitive answer on her actual race, however you can tell by the way she was treated and denied acknowledgement in regards to her husband mark on history…that she was part black. If you do your history you will notice when mixed black children have children by white men on average they look white and it’s harder to distinguish the black heritage.

  19. marnie2010 says:

    I have relatives who are “passing.” The fair skinned mom took her light skinned daughter, married a white guy and lived as a white family. I have no doubt that my aunt found someone to forge documents that said she and her daughter were of Italian decent. Probably threw in German too, knowing how impressed White folks are over anything German. They completely disassociated themselves from their family. My father said in his time Black/mixed race people passing would claim Jewish or Italian. My father could have You really have to understand that times were different then.

  20. (Corrected link in this post). — Unfortunately, your article is mistaken. She was Italian, not black. Her Italian features combined with black and white printing cause her to look black in the newspaper. A white supremacy group with something against Cash ran a bunch of stories about her being black, but she was actually Italian. Much of the story is found in an Los Angeles Times piece here:

    • Eve says:

      Google her… somebody lied because that’s a black woman!

    • Thank you for real sources!

    • Golden Rule says:

      *Reposting **We all can agree that Italian is not a color? Yes Vivian can be mixed with African blood, even with ancestors from Italy. There are black Italians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, English, Australian people (see where im going here). The times article gives evidence to the hateful, bigoted, disfunctional mind set of the citizens in the US. They went out of their way to cause such a ruckus over her beautiful skin AND features that this poor family was forced to pass for anything other than black. I used to only imagine the type of hate black people endured in those days. Sadly today its easy to understand their plight. With all of our advancement, education and technology Americans are still so gullible. God bless America, our text books, our minds and our ability to think outside the racist box that this country was founded on. Lord knows We sure need it.

  21. She was Italian> Her grandparents immigrated from Italy. Look at her pictures from later in life. This woman was white, black and white photos enhance her Italian coloring,not that it matters. She was beautiful. End of story. Just another example of news articles you cant trust.

    • osakwe23 says:

      Africans come in all colors. What difference does her nationality make. How many different ethnic types are there in the United States. Yet, they are called “Americans.” Other countries don’t have a corner on the market in terms of what color a nationality is. However, whenever you can see the melanin reflected in a person, you know the influence…no matter where they were born.

      • They didn’t claim “African.” They claimed “black.”

      • jgclarke0352 says:

        Not all White people are the same either and come a spectrum of color too. Mediterranean whites are darker complected than say dutch, english, baltic or nordic whites. So some have darker complections such as mediterraneans like albanians, greeks and in vivians case italians. Those of african descent aren’t the only ones with varying pigment.

    • Desiree says:


  22. Deborah Seymour Addo says:

    Sometimes it is good to investigate matters, and not to accept what is being presented to you on the surface! This is truly a surprising revelation that Johnny Cash’s first wife was a black woman! Why is it not a surprise, that fact was not portrayed in the movie, I ask myself?

  23. Dorothy Hamilton says:

    Not even surprised. Brown folks aren’t the ones that created racism nor do we maintain the system of pale supremacy so why in the hell are we included as if we have…

  24. Judy Abraham says:

    I’m not sure Vivian was black, I read an article over thirty years ago that talked about the problems they had when they were married because the public thought she was black. I think her family were Italians. Not that it matters but it does show the racist attitudes of the day and today unfortunately.

  25. Amelia Patterson says:

    Why would they leave out such a intricate part of his life story..To say her color didn’t matter..
    During that time in history it did matter..

    • Debbi Logan says:

      Yes, it did matter. That’s why when an article like this came out in the late sixties or early seventies, The Cash family threatened to sue the writer for $12 Million for slander. She was Italian, Dutch and English with documentation to prove it. We have enough race problems in this country, without some foreigner digging up or manufacturing lies.

    • janilee says:

      You’re right. It did matter at that time. It also mattered at the time of the making of the movie. Since her part in the movie was small and limited in appearance, it was a simple thing that I’m sure was agreed upon as being the best path to the box office, and its returns. Movies are just as inaccurate as reported history, and for the same reasons. Johnny Cash was an icon. His record sales would have dropped significantly the race of his first wife had been revealed. All the money people would have been unhappy.

  26. Hmm says:

    She was Italian as you are full of it. You and your wife need to stick to gardening.

  27. LmerB says:

    It wouldn’t be the first time Hollywood has rewritten history. The worst part about false narratives about real people in scripts is that, for some, movies are the extent of their continuing education. Thanks for sharing this; I didn’t know about it, and I think people should.

  28. Vicki Young says:

    I am NOT a racist! But I can see. Please……stop it! The woman is black. Period.

  29. Penta says:

    If everyone that has dark hair and a little color looks black in b/w pics , why can we say the same for everyone else? I can clearly see that she has black features and he doesn’t. My husband’s family is of Italian/French/Polish decent and they all look fair skinned in any shade of B/W pics from now and then, no matter what special effect or filter is used. I am only referring to the pics I have seen in my house fromy parents and grandparents and also at my in- laws house as my only example.

  30. Tracy Parks says:

    She wasn’t “black”. Vivian Liberto was of mainly Italian decent. Just to put things in a matter of perspective, if she actually had been black, she would not have been legally able to marry Johnny Cash in Texas before 1967. Also Rosanne Cash is her daughter and looks exactly like her. Neither her, her daughter, or anyone in her family has ever claimed to be black. The article that is depicted here was from a paper associated with the KKK in a smear campaign against Cash.
    Now you mention that there are not a lot of people of color in the film, since much of it takes place in the South during segregation, it is not outside the bounds of realism. What do you think segregation means? Why do you think many people fought against it?
    Now does Hollywood “white wash”? Yes. Is this an example? No.

  31. goldmon3 says:

    Well, I will be dammed!

  32. Amy Elizabeth Leibman says:

    You know what is sad? That this blog was written and people are accepting it as truth.

  33. M gray says:

    What happened to his 4 daughters? Did he have children with others.?

  34. Sandy says:

    Italian is a nationality not a race

  35. Bernard Snead says:

    Wow!!! How many people, especially those who love Johnny Cash and follow his music, know that his first wife was a black woman? America is still trying to whitewash its history. It’s like when people who love country music claimed they loved Charlie Pride, loved him until they found that Charlie Pride is a black man. Funny how prejudice works.

  36. Te says:

    Interesting that people would say that black is not a color and that it is the absence of light. In fact, no color is possible without black. Every color of the spectrum is derived from it. The expression “darkest before the dawn,” suggests to met that black yields light. Conversely, you cannot extract any single color from white. Sugar does not grow white on the stalk. Nor does wheat or rice. There is this need to make everything white. Call it what you will, for now I’ll simply say “propaganda.”

  37. James Harden says:

    Let the truth be known

  38. Mia says:

    You do realize that you can be Black and not be African American, right? Italian doesn’t automatically mean “not black/negroe.” So… the “she’s actually Italian!” is pointless… she’s still Black.

  39. stell says:

    My hubby said he had heard Cash’s first wife was Black,but never say a picture of her. Thanks.

  40. Steve Hailey says:

    I wonder if there’s enough known about Vivian to tell her story I think it would make a interesting movie or documentary and shed some light on the truth.

  41. Elaine Baldwin says:

    I would like to see them because

  42. Thelonia L. Brown says:

    I never knew until this post that Johnny’s first wife was a beautiful black woman. Thanks for that important info. I always loved country music;but, being raised in the South, I couldn’t let it be known. I always said that Johnny must have black in him or have been whipped by a black…his music just had too much soul! Turns out, he was married to a black!
    A Tidbit for Tammy…Your Uncle Buck (William Crout) played (guitar) county music beautifully…and he did mean Chuck Berry’s! I am still waiting for him to teach me to pick like that! 😊

  43. Debbi Logan says:

    Oh for the love of Mike. America has enough racial trouble without someone who doesn’t even live here trying to stir things up with lies. You are fortunate that Cash, June, and Vivian are all dead. The last time someone tried to claim Vivian was anything but the Dutch, English, and Italian girl she was, the lawsuit they threatened was over $12 million. Times have changed. You’d probably be sued for triple that.

  44. Martin Brumbaugh says:

    What was the date of the article

  45. Michael Freeman says:

    The following is an excerpt from an LA Times article by Robert Hillburn which ran 10/12/13. It’s an adaptation of him book “Johnny Cash, The Life. ”

    When Cash returned to El Paso for the arraignment in December, he entered a no-contest plea to the charges. The next day, newspapers throughout the country carried photos of Cash walking from the courthouse, Vivian at his side. But there was no hiding the damage. Vivian told friends it was the most embarrassing moment of her life.

    Leaders of the National States’ Rights Party, a white supremacist group in Alabama, seized on the photo, which, when reproduced in grainy newsprint, made Vivian look dark-skinned and possessed of facial features some considered African American. Whether outraged by the apparent miscegenation or eager to get back at him for his protest stance in the song “Ira Hayes” (Native Americans were also a target of white supremacists), the group reprinted the photo in its newspaper the Thunderbolt and undertook an aggressive campaign against Cash.

    The group urged its readers to boycott Cash’s recordings and referred to Cash’s “mongrelized” children.

    Fearing a backlash among fans, especially those in the South, Holiff launched a counteroffensive. He contacted Vivian’s father, Tom Liberto, asking for a copy of Vivian’s marriage certificate —which would state her race as Caucasian — and a history of her bloodlines. Liberto sent him the marriage certificate and a letter in which he detailed Vivian’s Italian, Dutch and English heritage. The material was sent to the Thunderbolt.

  46. Dickey Joe Turner says:

    Good review! Producers & directors have their agenda and the purpose of correction for historical accuracy is often sacrificed.

  47. Susan Durham says:

    They look very happy. She was very beautiful. Wonder how the Carter’s justified this interference?

  48. Lots of interesting points here, but the bottom line is she was of Italian heritage. She was my neighbor in Ventura CA for a few years. I think I would have noticed. All the reports say she was of Italian heritage. Here’s another article about her that describes her life in Ventura:

  49. C says:

    This argument is funny. I know so many African Americans who could pass as Italians.

  50. Nomaranka says:

    Italian??? What a laugh. This woman was clearly passing. I mean was it this easy to pass back in the day? My God.

Comments are closed.