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.

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549 thoughts on “Black is an invisible colour

  1. Belle2264 says:

    To the “genealogist” – the census means little. Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s quadroon slave, is listed as white on the 1830 census. Their presumed son Eston moved to Wisconsin and began living as a white man named Eston Jefferson. My whole family is listed as white for generations, but I did a DNA test and along with Northern European, I have Basque and Iberian DNA, so that may explain my very dark curls. Vivian Liberto obviously had African blood. I think she was beautiful. It does shed light on their divorce, though. It appears that Johnny left her when her race was questioned.

    • NORA says:

      He said in an article in Penthouse she left him because he was strung out on pills. He said had he not been addicted, he believes their marriage would have remained.

    • Micheal says:

      It’s more likely that Vivian was Latino given the ethnicity of the surname “Liberto.” She certainly looks as though she could also have had West African ancestry; but the ancestry could also be North African, Middle Eastern, or Filipino/Austronesian.

      Certainly it’s no surprise that any African-American or “Negro” ancestry was kept under wraps. Under the one-drop rule observed by many states (e.g. Nevada law provided that the offspring of white and black was black; of white and yellow, yellow; of white and red, red; etc.), any African ancestry anywhere in the family tree made you legally “Black.” (Exception: Louisiana, for a time, distinguished between “White,” “Black” and “Colored.”)

      Many states made it a crime for people from different ethnic groups to marry. Even liberal California prohibited “miscegenation” (mixing of the races) until the California Supreme Court held the law violated the California Constitution in 1948. That was the first time a miscegenation law was struck down by a court. It was not until 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anti-miscegenation statutes violated the federal constitution. So, if Vivian had been a legally “Black” or “Colored” woman married to a man who was legally “White,” she and Johnny could have been tried, convicted of miscegenation, and thrown in prison for a few years in as many as 29 states, in the early days of their marriage.

      In Arizona, which had the most expansive anti-miscegenation law — no person of any race identified in Arizona law (White, Black, American Indian, Hindu, Filipino, etc.) could marry anyone outside of their own race; and people of mixed racial heritage (like Vivian Liberto Cash) could not legally marry anyone at all — the marriage of European-American Johnny Cash to Multi-Ethnic American Vivian Liberto would have be void ab initio (and if they had attempted to marry within Arizona itself, they would have been committing a criminal offence). But if Vivian were legally “White” and just looked like she had African-American (or Spanish or whatever) ancestry, they were safe from prosecution.

      On the other side of the inter-racial coin, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (which passed is anti-miscegenation law in 1705 and repealed it in 1843), race was classified solely according to the paternal line of ancestry. That is why the famous Black poet Langston Hughes was legally “White” in Massachusetts – because his father was legally “White,” because his paternal grandfather was actually “White”; and the racial ancestry of his mother and paternal grandmother did not count.

      Otherwise, according to a documentary aired on PBS, and in addition to other factors (such as Johnny’s drug use): When Johnny Cash met June Carter, then married to her second husband, it was love at first sight for both of them. They began touring together in 1961 but remained with their spouses until June and Edwin Nix divorced in 1966. June’s availability for marriage increased the tension in Johnny and Vivian’s marriage until Vivian simply had enough, and they were divorced in 1968. Johnny and June then immediately married.

      • Kerry says:

        I have often been mistaken for being Latino and I can assure you I’m Half black, a quarter white and a quarter German

    • Articulatus Streichem says:

      No one appears to have noticed that Vivian’s last name derives from Greek and Latin meaning freed slave; appears to me that’s some evidence of the history of her family in the U.S.

      • I know who I am! My story says:

        True. Too many people are obsessed with race in 2019, when there are more multi-racial & multi-national, mixed families than ever before. Whether you “look” white and are told you are “not” by your friends or family or whether you “look” black & are told by your friends & family that you are not – its the responsibility of the family to help the child know their background and where they come from. But the most prominent aspect of 2019 is the breakdown of family values in our society. What happens in a family when one child appears to be “black” with curly/afro hair and dark brown eyes and the other sibling appears to be “white” with light brown/blond curly-straight hair and blue/green light coloured eyes when there is absolutely no mistake about their parents being the same? Obsessive! Nowadays, people seem to be given “free” reign to project their own racist, prejudiced ideologies on innocent people who are just born to look like “themselves” and uniquely beautiful. Another point, why is it that people always aspire to have what they weren’t born with? If your hair is flat and straight, you wish you had thick, full, curly hair. If your hair is dark, you want to be blond, if you have small breasts, you want large breasts, if you have a small bottom, you want a large bottom, if you are a tall woman, you think petit women a beautiful, if you’re short, you wish you were tall – regardless of your parentage. Its all to do with perceptions of beautiful. I actually think if your skin is smooth & healthy, your body is fit & healthy, your eyes are bright & sparkly, your character is amiable, charming & generous – then that is beautiful. Someone who is the healthiest, natural version of their particular genetic background – mixed or not. Besides, we’re all mixed – some way or other. We need to get over obsessing about a particular individual’s race. We love who we love. Who is the authority on dictating who anybody should hate? A terrorist!

      • Expose them All says:

        My thoughts exactly , what a shame to have to pretend to be soemthing else to please everyone , photos don’t people know she’s black, she knew she was black , her daughter’s knew she was black and they have black ancestry , (and 2 of them have had nose jobs , look at pictures from teen years to now) , Johnny knew she was black, every single thing written in your post is 100% accurate. Hollyweird will always be just that, it will never be Hollytruth, never . Thank you for Posting!

  2. Janet says:

    Thank you for this. And for not withdrawing it. x

    • Yaba Blech says:

      Yeah…wouldn’t want a one drop obsessive angry Black woman not have a place to get her shit out.

  3. linda doyle says:

    I love the man in black but dam backnin the days wow who would know thank you for share it

  4. Saundra says:

    At least he was a nan and married her. Those crackers know they are black passing as white.
    They want to think they are superior to black people when they are the same color. We need to pray for these ignorant folks to accept reality.

    • Jess Bastow says:

      What the fuck? when you refer to “those crackers” (a racist term) which ones are you referring to exactly?

  5. Tiffiney says:

    I was also curious to see what the real people looked like and when I saw Vivian’s pictures I was just stunned ….. by how gorgeous she was! Then I thought she looked like she had black features. How could the movie leave something like that out when it HAD to be a big part of their relationship, especially at that time. Even if she identified as white and both her parents did to; looking like she did had to draw attention both positive and negative and I wish the movie had done a better job of including that aspect of their relationship. But then again, John and June are the only characters in the movie with any dimensionality. It is too bad the movie industry dumbs everything down for mass consumption.

  6. tri says:

    Dude. I just got here from some random Mic fb post about passing in America in the 1950s etc. Someone commented ‘have you seen Johnny Cash’s 1st wife?’. Now, I’m from Trinidad and Tobago. Johnny Cash is famous enough for me to know the name so I googled and found this incredibly strange story. As a mixed race person, Vivian looks very much mixed to me. But I’ve grown up around mixed people, with a mixed granny, in a mixed family. Growing up like that, sometimes you can tell what ethnicities and percentages someone has from looking at them. Anyway, I think its an element of the story that was deliberately ignored because there seems to have been a legendary love story involved. Still, I’d like to see us mixed women triumph some days instead of just walking the line.

  7. Thelma Pointer says:

    You are a total idiot. You shouldn’t claim as fact that which you do not know. You don’t know anything about Johnny Cash‘s first wife. By your own admission you know only what you see in pictures and your conclusions only reveal your own prejudice.

    Clearly, in your mind black women all look a certain way and anyone else who looks that way must certainly be black. How dare you make a claim on someone you’ve never met and most certainly know nothing about.

    My disgust at what you have written has nothing to do with any belief that had Vivian been a black woman she would have been any less than the woman she was. I have no problem with mixed-race marriages. I could very well be in one myself. Perhaps I am a mixed-raced person. I assure you, you don’t speak for all mixed-race people.

    My disgust comes when I see people act like they know more than they do and make claims as fact things they know nothing of. THAT infuriates me.

    The things in life you know for sure, you write about those. Unless you have firsthand knowledge about something, don’t put yourself forward as an authority on the subject or make claims of fact concerning what you actually only THINK is true. In this situation, you are wrong on SO many levels.

    By the way, I see this is a New Zealand server. Are you from New Zealand? You admit you didn’t know Vivian, so if you are from New Zealand, is it possible that despite being thousands of miles away, you could somehow see the color of her skin from where you live? Curious.

  8. Thelma Pointer says:

    Oh, just read these comments and I see how it is now. You are not posting any comments that disagree with you. Not only are you an idiot but you’re a coward.

    So, I guess I can assume I won’t be seeing my post on your blog anytime soon. You don’t have the guts to post it.

    • I’ve posted every reply, for and against

    • C West says:

      Get real lady the woman is in the least partially black and might I add strikingly jaw dropping beautiful. Being someone myself that is endlessly asked by ppl “what I’m mixed with?” I can understand how looks can be deceiving but there’s no way around this one…. or is there?? Hey! if my 5’2” self states that I am 5’9” does that make it true???? Gonna try it out, I’ll let you know . BTW I’m located in the U.S. so your eyes should be seeing the same thing mine are, unlike those folks in a different hemisphere.
      T.B.C. Sheesh

  9. Kerry says:

    I enjoyed reading this, very much.
    You have described perfectly as to why there is such denial in Vivian’s ethnicity- it makes for a far better Hollywood story if she is white rather than dirtying up the king of country’s reputation and name and tainting it with her blackness. Funny how the public seem to care and Johnny clearly didn’t give a toss – hence why they were married and had kids!.
    If people actually believe that Vivian was white/Italian/french – whatever – you’re deluded! That clearly is a person of black origin. I’m mixed race myself so am a little bit of an expert in recognising another mixed race person. Don’t strip her identity from her just because it’s easier for you to swallow and it makes for a better story – it is what it is! Johnny was clearly not only a man of genius and talent but an open minded man who took people for who they are rather than what they are and what society deemed acceptable. There should be more men like Johnny.
    As for Hollywood and their disgusting, fabrication of what Vivian was – I’m not surprised but I expect better from the public – at least use the eyes and the good sense you were born with!
    Again, amazing reading – thank you and keep at it.

    • YortYak says:

      Johnny Cash thought she was beautiful and said so… she is a very pretty lady. When I first saw her pictures, when I was a kid, I assumed she was a light-skinned black woman. I didn’t hear any different until I read about the whole thing later in life. It didn’t really matter to me when I was a kid, and it doesn’t matter to me now – except that I did have a huge crush on Johnny Cash when I was 3 and 4, and so I’d have been jealous of anyone he was married to!!! 🙂

  10. Domenica says:

    The actress who played her in Walk the Line definitely had lighter features than she did, but it certainly isn’t white-washing, as Vivian was European, she was Italian. It’s quite insulting to her memory to claim that she was a different race. Newsflash; Italians, especially from the south of Italy, tend to have dark skin and dark features and Vivian’s father was from Sicily. I don’t think Vivian or Johnny lied about her heritage. Her last name is Italian. It’s not that hard to do your own research if you’re skeptical about it. She goddamn LOOKS ITALIAN.

    • If you study Sicilian history, then you understand why they have dark features. They were mixed with Africans…..

    • Nicole says:

      Vivian mother’s maiden name was Robinson….her father may have been Sicilian, however her particular “dark features” point to African heritage, not southern Italy, LOL. Vivian was white passing obviously, but definitely had black in her blood!

      • Lisa says:

        Why cause of her looks? There has necer been any proof of this woman being black other than peolle saying she looks black. This is fake until its proven. The person who wrote this, wrote with their own personal agenda. Nothing was said of this being fact. Period..its 2019 there would be no problem of this came out that she was black.

  11. Jess Bastow says:

    But she isn’t black.

    When photographs of them were published after Johnny’s attest on the Mexican border, people mistook her ethnicity. Black and white photos don’t help. She’s actually white Italian, hence the darker features. Johnny started this himself at the time.

  12. Ken Roche says:

    Hollywood likes us to think it’s honest and non-biased, well….sad to say, It ain’t necessarily so. Regardless of the facts, the movie was not a good homage to Cash – just as “I’m Not There’ was not for Dylan. Fame is destructive, and very few are strong enough for it.

  13. Malik Randolph says:

    She is clearly mixed race. She has and possibly her family were most likely passing as white in those day because being white let them live a “easier” life in those days. She could be partially Italian but she clearly has African blood in her.

  14. Malik Randolph says:

    Alot of white people didn’t think Carol Channing was black, but she was(she was passing to make it in Hollywood), it was even pronounced by her. Some people tell the truth about their roots and some don’t, that’s the sad and touchy subject about race in America because this is such a racialized society.

    • Katharine Eichacker says:

      Carol Channing didn’t find out about being part black until she was older. She admitted to it, then. I believe her father was half black.

  15. Its pretty apparent that she has some black genes in her close lineage. It may have been taboo then, but it is no longer a mark of shame to be of mixed ethnicity. This puts a significant twist on this movie, and the unneccesary whitewashing of Hollywood…

  16. Erin says:

    This is such a eel
    Written post. I haven’t had a chance to read the comments about her race based on the papers, but I can attest that there are people on my father’s side who possess more white features then Vivian. (My father is African American.) Based on the stories my father told about growing up in the era he did, I would not blame any “passable” black person to have papers that would give them a life of greater opportunity for themsef and their children. With that said, I agree with you. It is very clear that she is a black person, despite what her papers may say. Thanks for the post!

  17. Rev says:

    News flash……she was Italian.

    Assuming someone’s ethnicity by your perceptions of their external features is racist too.

  18. Maggie says:

    As a mixed person, Vivian looks mixed not white. Her parents putting her down as white at the time probably meant they wanted to give her more opportunities by identifying her as such.

  19. Andrea carlson says:

    So interesting, shame they couldn’t have an actress that resembled her. No matter her ethnic background. I have two mixed children , their father is black and I am German-white. My boys looks spanish, or light skinned black with wavy hair. Beautiful non the less. Definitely ethnic, other than white and I love to celebrate this. Even though I have a blonde hair blue eyes third son with my husband now, we celebrate our differences and appreciate everything that makes us us. Unique. Love yourselves. It’s interesting to see how people felt with race back then, do not let it anger you—

  20. Heidi says:

    I agree with you. I was never so disappointed as to have read “The Help” and then saw them avoid the real story. The maid was dismissed from Skeeter’s home because despite her being a black woman, she produced a child that was a lighter shade. This was automatically assumed to be not the product of her diverse gene pool, but the product of Skeeter’s father. This of course was untrue, and they shipped her off to Chicago. In the movie? Complete story change, like it was too touchy to stick with what the author wrote, so they erased that part of the story and created a different ending. I was so mad!

  21. Carlos says:

    Liberto or liberatus is is a latin word that means freedman, a slave to whom liberty has been granted in some way. In spanish the word liberto is used to refer to slaves that were freed

  22. Darren says:

    So sad the portrayal of cash’s wife in the movie is not a true account 9f the woman she was. Thankyou for setting the facts straight.

  23. YortYak says:

    She’s a very pretty woman, and in this day and age, it really shouldn’t matter. That being said, my husband is Hispanic but on all his documents, all his relatives are “White” – I don’t think they had a separate section for “Hispanic” back in those days, and they sure weren’t going to admit they were a large part Native American, so they were “Spanish” – which is European, which is white. Silly!

  24. Amanda Wall says:

    Why is this a discussion and up for debate? That was her business. Why does it matter? Do people have nothing better to do than to worry about and make such a huge deal about what someone’s race is ?

  25. William Barber says:

    In my humble opinion, the truth to Vivian’s ethnicity gives enhanced meaning to the lyrics of “I Walk The Line.” Bruce Hornsby explored similar territory in his song, “Way It Is,” …

    “Well they passed a law in ’64
    To give those who ain’t got a little more
    But it only goes so far
    Because the law another’s mind
    When all it sees at the hiring time
    Is the line on the color bar”

  26. Sherry says:

    She was lovely. I hope they do a real movie spot lighting Vivian Cash and her girls. The story from their perspective

  27. Gale Gott says:

    I don’t care what anyone says this us a biracial women passing as white who pretended to be italian. She is black. Pictures never lie

    • Lesley lyons says:

      The fact that the kkk went after johnny because ThEY thought she was black tells you how black she really was …. White people know a black person when they see one… Lets not act like it was uncommon for white women to have affairs with black men then produce biracial children then out of fear of being shamed the husband raises the child as his own… I knew vivian was mixed when i first saw her at 13

  28. Kiki says:

    What a wonderful, poignant, well written article!

  29. Mary Stachowiak says:

    I dug around into her genealogy a bit out of curiosity – the commenters who stated that her parents (and maybe grandparents too) are white according to the census etc just didn’t dig far back enough. Also, regarding the census, it does have mistakes at time and people would just tell the census taker their info – so if they say so and so is from a certain place, or that they’re white then that’s what will be put down. Anyhow, Vivian’s mom was Irene Robinson. Irene’s mom was Dora Minnie, and Dora’s dad was Lafayette Robinson, born 1844. In the 1880 census he is listed as “mulatto” and by the 1910 census he is listed as “white,” so I’d assume that somewhere in that time he decided to start passing as white. His mother, Sarah, born about 1830 was also listed as “mulatto.” You can see various photos and family trees of the family on and one of them has Sarah’s mother listed as an unknown black slave and her father looks to be a slave owner by the name of William Shields. Sarah is listed in the 1870 census as “mulatto” and then in 1880 she is listed as “white.” This was a quick look through her genealogy so take it with a grain of salt if you want – but I thought it was interesting. In the photos you there is a photo of her Liberto grandparents who are from Sicily – she does resemble her grandmother, but she also resembles her mom’s side which is where people started passing as white.

    • Umberto Calitri says:

      Cool but no one was “passing.” People didn’t want to identify as Black and should be respected for it just as all the fully White looking “Black” public figures get to be Black. Walter White of the NAACP case in point.

      If this is true then it doesn’t change her right to identify as White and Italian, it makes it even more important that you respect her choices.

  30. Anastasia Glover says:

    Perhaps because most Country music fans are in USA? I remember being really, really upset when I saw the film. In real life Vivian is obviously Black and also Italian. It’s just so obvious, yet she’s been whitewashed over and over again. I personally think JC is a bastard, and so I hated the movie trying to make him and his lover out to be the good guys.

  31. Sherry says:

    Loved Your Article.. Has Anyone Noticed That There Girls Hair Is Curly like most Biracial Children

  32. Ratacatatavioua says:

    As someone who is of Mediterranean heritage, I can tell you first hand that being on the darker end of the so called Caucasian stick in the south is no picnic. I am 46 years old, my background is Greek, Irish and southeastern French. I attended a 99.9 percent all white, rural Kentucky school in the late 70s, early 80s. I was frequently called the N-word, Spic and asked just exactly what was I. I could see the hate and disapproval in the eyes of teachers and other student’s parents towards me. That same hate the adults eyes showed flowed freely from their children’s mouths. It turned me into one hell of a fist fighter, even to this day I am known for my fists and I am female. I have 7 4th degree assault convictions and quite frankly should have many more that I was lucky enough to not be arrested for. My early experience of being bullied over my race gave me one hell of a chip on my shoulder. I constantly had to fight upstream just to be left alone and unoticed. I was never invited to sleepovers or birthday parties. I can still see hate in the eyes of my teachers and other adults. And I still occasionally run into it. I have read that in all the European hemogenous races that the female is genetically wired to be lighter complexioned than their male counterpart. Though we are mostly unaware of this phenomenon at a conscious level, I think at some innate and natural level, whites feel something isn’t “right” when the female is darker than the males in her group. Hence the term, ” The fairer sex.” I was definitely darker than all the males in my group and I fought way more of them than I did females growing up. The girls just ignored me which I could somewhat handle. The white boys wanted to try me and got black eyes and would be laughed at ultimately for being whipped by a girl for their efforts. I always carry a gun and expect trouble from the white rednecks in my area to this very day. I never let my guard down. The irony of it is many people refer to me as white in passing. I tell them think again and that they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Mediterranean people have North African blood in varying degrees but that blood is there nonetheless. This is the African blood that you are seeing in Vivian. That blood gives you strength, beauty, depth and even intelligence. Never forget that Western civilization, science, government and thought rests upon Greek and Roman shoulders which undeniably has North African blood running through them. I know my identity and no inbred, pale skin, missing teeth, sister fucker will never undermind my heritage and identity.

  33. S says:

    Vivian definitely has a multi racial background. The movie should have dealt with that instead of glorifying cheating by June carter and Johnny cash. I think Vivian’s book is the real story. Also grow up… south you are an embarrassment !!! Disgusting to treat people this way.

  34. Rocky says:

    Thank goodness for your truth. There are and always have been many mixed race people who are and have passed as white since time immemorial. Many would be shocked to know who…

  35. Lee says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this read because I loved Johnny Cash music and remember being told he was married to a black woman however I’m with you how it was portrayed as if the first wife was white when she clearly wasn’t. Thank you for a corrected bio of who she was and how she was unjustly portrayed. Love it!

  36. Kathleen Howell says:

    I was amazed when I looked at Vivian’s pictures. She looks like Eartha Kitt. I found pictures of her brother, Raymond ‘Wildman’ Liberto and he too looks mixed to me. So, I dug into her genealogy to see if I could find the lost relative. Her family is well documented as her father’s side arrived from Sicily in 1899. He grandparents seem lighter than Vivian or Raymond. The first generation married Sicilian cousins which may have made their genes more dominant. Thomas Liberto (Vivian and Raymond’s father) looks Italian-not mixed. I have not found a picture of her mother-but her ancestry is marked (on census reports, marriage certificates, and death certificates) as white going back 4 generations. So, this is a real mystery to me. Sicily is not a homogenous society-they have people who are descended from northern Europeans, Greece, North Italy, Northern Africa, and the Middle East so the ‘African’ features could very well be Sicilian. But, Golly, I would like to see Roseanne Cash take a DNA test to see where her people are from.

  37. Michelle says:

    Thank you for not removing the post. I don’t care what anyone says, Vivian Cash could not have passed for white in the coldest of winters. The first time I googled her photos after I saw Walk the Line, I wondered how a country music star as well known as Johnny Cash was able to be married to a Black woman (she looks Black, point, blank and period), I wondered how did he manage to do that in the South in that day and time. I had no idea they received death threats. As you said, most times it’s us Black and Black Mixed race people who can identify other Mixed race individuals. In Vivian’s case, however, she couldn’t even fool White people.

    It is amazing how she’s made to be the villain when in truth June was a brazen, callous homewrecker.

  38. DeeDee says:

    Vivian Librato paternal grandparents were from Sicily. Thumbnail biographies list her as Italian. However per a genealogist, on her mother’s line, her family was from Alabama and South Carolina. Various census from the 1880s alternately lists the same ancestors as mulatto or white. So yes, Vivian Liberto Cash was of mixed ethnicities as are so many of us.

  39. Lyn says:

    Interesting article, but Vivian Liberto was of Italian ancestry. She resembles some French and Italian actresses like Leslie Caron and Sophia Loren. She’s a beautiful woman. Italy is near North Africa, and who is to say that Mediterranean people are not all elements of many cultures. The KKK did threaten the Cash family because of the fake news of the article you referred to. You’ve based your article on the fake and bigoted article, instead if authentic records.

  40. R C says:

    Thanks for this article! As someone of mixed racial background myself, I was very intrigued when I looked up pictures of Vivian. I know many folks argue that she was Italian and, therefore, white. I actually lived in Italy for a few years and visited areas where there was a lot of racial mixing between Italians and Africans. Sicily in particular was one such area. This was historical information provided by an Italian tour guide when I visited the area. I saw many people who were very much Italian and very much black.

  41. S Robinson says:

    I agree with you. My father’s side of the family is mixed with black. His siblings were like a rainbow, some looked more black than others. I myself am 19% various African DNA. I saw the same thing when first seeing a photo of Vivian Cash. Simply Italian-American my butt! I understand because my father’s family did the same thing – try to pass as white. In those days if you could do it, you did!

  42. Sam says:

    She was Italian not native American, genius. 😒😂

  43. Sue M says:

    She wasn’t black, according to her. She was Italian.

  44. Marielena says:

    Get over it. Italian DNA often isn’t a string of perfectly white genes. The races around the
    Mediterranean have mixed for hundreds of years where do you think the dark eyes Sophia Loren pouts and sultry skin comes from.

    The Moors (black people) regularly invaded and settled down especially in Sicily and Spain. My sister looks very like her our DNA shows English African Spanish Italian Irish and Scaninavian genes.

    The point the author is raising is about the reaction of the press to her appearance and its misrepresentation in the film.

    Isn’t it about time people stopped worrying about being identified as black or white and made an effort to just be good people. I can tell you from experience that no one skin colour nationality or ethnicity has a monopoly on good or evil.

    The way in which this woman was perceived would have made a good story but that is Hollywood for you and like many figures in true stories she is largely ignored and written in as a ghost character not to detract from the plot and the lead characters. There are plenty more historical and fictional characters in film who have had their skin colour ignored/ roles underplayed.

    I looked at this woman and saw features of my teenage sister and myself when we were young we are Afro-Caribbean and White we identify as British she identified as Italian … In the end love sees no colour in people without hate.

  45. Shonda Smith says:

    Something told me to google Vivian after I watched the movie. I was shocked and they lied in the movie.

  46. BigRiver says:

    Hey, I’m just researching all of this, this is an absolute great topic to talk about. Johnny Cash seemed like a great man, but the drugs and fame definitely leaned him towards selfishness and greed, Poor Vivian seemed like a great person, did well for her community, Mother 4 daughters! My mother was a single parent for a period in my life and let me tell you it wasn’t easy. Vivian seemed the best for John, She definitely loved that man and like all of us men, we want the best for us and it made me kind of upset with Johnny Cash and his “Message” it’s almost like he ran away from Vivian because she was too good for him honestly, Again my mother sealed with a junkie and the person not on drugs usually gets blamed and targeted as “a crazy white lady that yells and screams” like Vivian was depicted as, in all honesty she was a sweet bi-racial young American woman whilst June was pretty much spoiled from the day she was born, Vivian was definitely a catch Johnny boy let slip.

  47. Truth Telling says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with all of this post and the fact that in every picture you can see the truth but back then it was not only frown upon but it was still illegal in the south but to hide from the truth of who you are is more dissociation and despicable than anything someone can say and do to you. You should be proud of whom you are! It’s truly saddening and to not correct it after all these years is even more saddening! Just be honest and keep it real.

  48. Nancy Renfro says:

    She’s Italian

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