100 years after a vicious hate crime, she's telling her great-grandmother's story.

Mary Ellen Noone can't look at a bottle of nail polish without seeing red.

Her great-grandmother, Pinky Powell, was born just before the turn of the 20th century. Petite but strong, she often told her great-grandkids about picking 100 pounds of cotton before lunchtime.  

And years after her days in the fields, Powell saw Mary Ellen painting her nails and said:


"You know, there was a time we couldn't wear no fingernail polish."

As a child around 1910, Powell lived on plantation in Alabama and did domestic chores for the white woman of the house. The woman tossed away some of her old perfume and nail polish, so Powell took it home. On Sunday, she sprayed the perfume, painted her nails, and got dressed up for church.

But on Monday, the owner of the general store spotted her nails at the check out.

"What are you doing with your nails painted up like a white woman?" he asked.

Without hesitation, he reached for a pair of pliers and pulled Powell's nails from their beds one by one.

She was a child. A child who wanted a sliver of humanity in a black body. But for this white man, even that was too much. It was an act of violence that left Powell forever scarred in every sense of the word.

Even now, just seeing a jar of red nail polish takes Mary Ellen back to that moment.

It's an inherited trauma she just can't shake.

"I still have that anger inside of me that someone would have that control over one person, just because they wanted to feel like a woman."

Hear the full story of Pinky Powell and the lasting impact her story had on her great-grandaughter, Mary Ellen Noone:

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