Part II, Chapter 6: Sadie and Bessie - Our Mama's People
Nanny Logan is born in Yak, Virginia to James Miliam—a white man who also happens to be the "meanest-looking man" in the town—and Martha Logan, a black freewoman (2.6.2).
The story is that a man named James Logan left home for the War of 1812 and returned to find that his wife had two daughters with a slave. To everyone's surprise, he raised the daughters as his own.
Those two girls are named Patricia and Eliza. Eliza has a relationship with a white man and their first daughter is named Martha.
Although Martha is "one-quarter N****" and free-born, she is not legally recognized by society or even allowed to marry (2.6.8). As a result, Martha and James never tie the knot, but remain committed for their whole lives.
Mr. Miliam makes it clear that no one should mess with Martha—most black women at the time were constantly harassed or worse (2.6.12).
He's also a jack-of-all-trades: a farmer, amateur dentist, and herbal doctor. Martha isn't too shabby herself, starting her own business selling pasteurized dairy products.
They have two daughters: Eliza and Nanny. Although Eliza gets married young, Nanny is dead-set on going to college.
Martha moves to Raleigh with Nanny after she decides to go to St. Augustine's. She would still come home to visit James all the time, however.
Martha passes away in 1908 at sixty-six years of age. James is devastated.
One time, a guest at his house insults Harry (Sadie and Bessie's brother) at dinner. James flips out and tells him to get out of this house before he finds "himself dead" (2.6.25).
James dies just two years after Martha passes, and the sisters believe that it was mostly due to grief. He leaves his money to Nanny and is buried beside Martha.