One of my first encounters with an early pioneering family in the black upper class was meeting members of the aristocratic Syphax family from Virginia. . . . the history of [this] family can be traced back to Maria Custis, the mulatto child of First Lady Martha Washington's grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. "Custis fathered Maria with Ariana Carter, one of his female house slaves," explained Syphax, a well-to-do, retired real estate broker who lives in Virginia, "and when Maria asked her father, who was also still her owner, for permission to marry Charles Syphax, a black slave who worked for her father, he released both from slavery, gave her a wedding in the mansion, and offered her and her new husband fifteen acres of the Arlington estate...."