The fourth Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference celebrates the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Forthcoming Media, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Live Events, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2017-02-19 20:09Z by Steven

The fourth Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference celebrates the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia

Critical Mixed Race Studies Association
2016-12-08

Laura Kina
Telephone: 773-325-4048; E-Mail: cmrsmixedrace@gmail.com

LOS ANGELES, CA – The fourth Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, “Explorations in Trans (gender, gressions, migrations, racial) Fifty Years After Loving v. Virginia,” will bring together academics, activists, and artists from across the US and abroad to explore the latest developments in critical mixed race studies. The Conference will be held at The University of Southern California from February 24-26, 2017 at the USC Ronald Tutor Campus Center, 3607 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089 and is hosted by the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture.

The conference will include over 50 panels, roundtables, and caucus sessions organized by the Critical Mixed Race Studies Association as well as feature film screenings and live performances organized by the non-profit Mixed Roots Stories. The conference is pleased to run concurrently with the Hapa Japan Festival February 22- 26, 2017.

The year 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, which declared interracial marriage legal. With a focus on the root word “Trans” this conference explores interracial encounters such as transpacific Asian migration, transnational migration from Latin America, transracial adoption, transracial/ethnic identity, the intersections of trans (gendered) and mixed race identity, and mixed race transgressions of race, citizenship, and nation…

Read the entire press release here. View the program guide here.

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Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the Question of Race: An Ongoing Debate

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2017-02-19 20:04Z by Steven

Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the Question of Race: An Ongoing Debate

Journal of American Studies
Volume 37, Number 1 (April, 2003)
pages 99-118
DOI: 10.1017/S0021875803007023

Peter Nicolaisen (1936-2013), Professor of English Emeritus
University of Flensburg, Germany

Not many private relationships in history have received as much press attention in recent years as that between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. First alleged in 1802 by the journalist James Callender, who based his account on stories that had been current in Virginia for some years, the affair has since then been debated both in the scholarly community and by the general public to an unparalleled degree. The results of the DNA tests on male descendants of the Jefferson and Hemings families that were published in 1998 have added fuel to the debate. Meanwhile, its focus has shifted. The majority of those who have publicly expressed an opinion on the case, including the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation which owns and administers Monticello, now seem to agree that a sexual relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings did exist, and that it resulted in a number of children. The questions addressed today primarily concern the implications of the affair. What does the liaison between Jefferson and Sally Hemings mean for our understanding of the man Thomas Jefferson, and how does it affect the accomplishments he has generally been credited with? Given the little we know about her, how do we view Sally Hemings’s role in the relationship, and how do we come to understand her as an individual living out her life in bondage? What, if any, are the consequences the affair has for an evaluation of interracial relationships as they existed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries?…

Read the entire article here.

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Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Europe, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs on 2017-02-19 19:45Z by Steven

Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century

Liverpool University Press
2017-03-01
216 Pages
210 x 147 mm
29 B&W illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 9781781383117

Theodor Michael

Translated by:

Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies
University of Liverpool

This is the first English translation of an important document in the history of the black presence in Germany and Europe: the autobiography of Theodor Michael. Theodor Michael is the last surviving member of the first generation of ‘Afro-Germans’: Born in Germany in 1925 to a Cameroonian father and a German mother, he grew up in Berlin in the last days of the Weimar Republic. As a child and teenager he worked in circuses and films and experienced the tightening knot of racial discrimination under the Nazis in the years before the Second World War. He survived the war as a forced labourer, founding a family and making a career as a journalist and actor in post-war West Germany. Since the 1980s he has become an important spokesman for the black German consciousness movement, acting as a human link between the first black German community of the inter-war period, the pan-Africanism of the 1950s and 1960s, and new generations of Germans of African descent.

Theodor Michael’s life story is a classic account of coming to consciousness of a man who understands himself as both black and German; accordingly, it illuminates key aspects of modern German social history as well as of the post-war history of the African diaspora. The text has been translated by Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies at the University of Liverpool and an internationally acknowledged expert in black German studies. It is accompanied by a translator’s preface, explanatory notes, a chronology of historical events and a guide to further reading, so that the book will be accessible and useful both for general readers and for undergraduate students.

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Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Posted in Books, Canada, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2017-02-19 17:38Z by Steven

Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
October 2017
295 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-77112-240-5

Michelle La Flamme, Professor of English
University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada

Canada’s history is bicultural, Indigenous, and multilingual, and these characteristics have given risen to a number of strategies used by our writers to code racially mixed characters. This book examines contemporary Canadian literature and drama in order to tease out some of those strategies and the social and cultural factors that inform them.

Racially hybrid characters in literature have served a matrix of needs. They are used as shorthand for interracial desire, signifiers of taboo love, images of impurity, symbols of degeneration, and examples of beauty and genetic perfection. Their fates have been used to suggest the futility of marrying across racial lines, or the revelation of their “one drop” signals a climactic downfall. Other narratives suggest mixed-race bodies are foundational to colonization and signify contact between colonial and Indigenous bodies.

Author Michelle LaFlamme approaches racial hybridity with a cross-generic and cross-racial approach, unusual in the field of hybridity studies, by analyzing characters with different racial mixes in autobiographies, fiction, and drama. Her analysis privileges literary texts and the voices of artists rather than sociological explanations of the mixed-race experience. The book suggests that the hyper-visualization of mixed-race bodies in mono-racial contexts creates a scopophilic interest in how those bodies look and perform race.

La Flamme’s term “soma text” draws attention to the constructed, performative aspects of this form of embodiment. The writers she examines witness that living in a racially hybrid and ambiguous body is a complex engagement that involves reading and decoding the body in sophisticated ways, involving both the multiracial body and the racialized gaze of the onlooker.

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I am a mixed-race person who remembers stumbling across the word “mulatto” in my history textbook, clinging to the first historical representation of myself despite the fact that it was rooted in the rape of slave women by their masters.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-02-19 04:32Z by Steven

I am a mixed-race person who remembers stumbling across the word “mulatto” in my history textbook, clinging to the first historical representation of myself despite the fact that it was rooted in the rape of slave women by their masters. Throughout the Obama presidency, I wondered about his first encounter with that word. I wondered how he might have coped with that feeling of being an unnamed outsider among white folks. I wondered how he might have negotiated his simultaneous proximity to whiteness and blackness as someone who did experience racism.

Brianna Suslovic, “Mixed Like Obama,” Philadelphia Printworks, January 30, 2017. https://www.philadelphiaprintworks.com/blogs/news/mixed-like-obama.

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Miscegenation and passing provide the primal scenes of American racial anxiety.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-02-19 04:04Z by Steven

Miscegenation and passing provide the primal scenes of American racial anxiety. In Boy, Snow, Bird they become more than themes: miscegenation and passing also drive the novel’s fundamental imagination and its modes of narration. The novel is replete with sly passing metaphors. One character describes another as “seventy percent all right and thirty percent pain in the neck” as if the deep logic of hypodescent—the discriminatory assignment of racialized identities based on a pseudoscientific calculus of “blood percentages”—has been displaced onto a casual personality assessment. Passing appears in other forms as well: Bird, the sister who does not pass racially, nonetheless possesses a gift for vocal mimicry that allows her to pass sonically; a woman named Boy desperately tries to perform motherhood; and extraordinary violence, such as pulling the eyes out of captured animals for no apparent reason, or simply punching your child in the kidneys as you walk by, passes as quotidian practice.

Anne Anlin Cheng, “Passing Beauty,” Public Books, July 1, 2014. http://www.publicbooks.org/passing-beauty/.

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A president’s past yields a modern parable

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2017-02-19 03:56Z by Steven

A president’s past yields a modern parable

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
2017-01-24

Jenn Smith


A tree is planted and dedicated to the descendants of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, at Monticello’s Mulberry Row. Mulberry Row was the center of activity of Jefferson’s 5,000-acre agricultural enterprise. According to the Monticello website, it was populated by more than 20 dwellings, workshops, and storehouses between 1770 and the sale of Monticello in 1831.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY JANE FELDMAN

Students learn about black history in Thomas Jefferson’s family

PITTSFIELD — History can play a crucial role in our futures, if we listen to it.

In 2002, photographer, Jane Feldman, who shares her time between the Berkshires and New York City, and Shannon Lanier, the sixth great-grandson of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, worked together to publish through Random House, “Jefferson’s Children: The Story of One American Family.”

The book details, in family album and portrait style, Lanier’s trip across the country to retrace the footsteps of his maternal ancestor, Madison Hemings, the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Hemings was Jefferson’s African-American slave.

With increasing discussions and divides developing across the nation regarding race and rights, Lanier and Feldman have decided to revive a series of tours and talks — originally conducted after the book’s release — about the book and its themes of identity, family and the varying perspectives of American history and culture.

“We believe that one of the things that will help us all navigate through this complicated time in our history is the ability to understand where we’ve come from and where we are going as individuals and as a nation,” Feldman said…

…The co-authors also noted how people aren’t always as they seem; for example how many light-skinned members of the Jefferson-Hemings lineage would go on to “pass” in society, that is, take advantage of the social statuses that came with looking like a white person, including freedom from slavery.

But the side effect of passing, is some future generations grew unaware of their black heritage, some even becoming racist, without knowing their own black blood lines…

Read the entire article here.

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Jefferson’s Children: The Story of One American Family

Posted in Arts, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2017-02-19 03:45Z by Steven

Jefferson’s Children: The Story of One American Family

Random House
December 2002
160 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0195031720
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-375-82168-4

Shannon Lanier and Jane Feldman

Personal testimonies from descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings pose important questions about equality, freedom, and family.

On October 31, 1998, the Associated Press broke the news that there was finally scientific proof for what many people already knew was true, but others would not believe: Thomas Jefferson had a relationship with his slave Sally Hemings after the death of his wife. This DNA link was proven through the Eston Hemings line.

Jefferson’s Children is the story of the Jefferson and Hemings families, and their efforts to be recognized and united as proud descendants of this great American genius. Some discovered their heritage through written family records, and others have based their beliefs on oral histories. Regardless of their sources, many descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings want the world to know that skin color isn’t what makes a family.

Thomas Jefferson wrote about equality. He believed in freedom. Yet, he owned slaves. This contradiction in character raises many questions among historians and descendants as they unravel the “truth” about this complex man. Did he indeed father children with his slave, Sally Hemings? How would he view the issues of racism among his ancestors today?

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Passing Beauty

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-02-19 02:22Z by Steven

Passing Beauty

Public Books
2014-07-01

Anne Anlin Cheng, Professor of English; Professor of African American Studies
Princeton University

How do you break a spell? How do you get over the grief of racial, gendered, and childhood injuries? Helen Oyeyemi’s novel Boy, Snow, Bird is not a black-and-white parable but a black-and-blue story. A bruising tale about miscegenation, passing, and beauty, this novel brings to life the idealization and wounding that haunt the American racial psyche, and suggests that the price we pay for this history is nothing less than our own reflection.

Imagine a collision (or a collusion) between Anne Sexton’s Transformations, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Elizabeth Taylor’s striking and stricken face in the 1957 film Raintree County. The tortured hybrid that would result might resemble Helen Oyeyemi’s new novel Boy, Snow, Bird. What brings these three unlikely predecessors to mind is not simply Oyeyemi’s haunting fusion of passing narratives and fairy tales but also the way this Nigerian-born British novelist harnesses the sonic, the textual, and the cinematic to produce an uncanny world in which the quotidian tips effortlessly into the surreal and vice versa.

In Oyeyemi’s version, Snow is the beloved, glowing, blonde girl-child of a jewelry maker named Arturo Whitman, and Bird is her dark-skinned half sister, whose birth exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans who have been passing as white. The wicked queen is the young bride and new mother named Boy who marries into the Whitman family without knowing their secret and who herself is the victim of a horrendously abusive childhood. The narrative voice shifts between Boy, whose first-person narration opens and closes the book, and her biological daughter Bird, who offers us her point of view in the middle section of the book and who in a sense speaks for her missing sibling, as Snow’s voice comes to us through a series of letters between the half sisters recorded by Bird…

Read the entire review here.

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@X: Making America White 200 Years Ago

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2017-02-19 02:06Z by Steven

@X: Making America White 200 Years Ago

Public Books
2017-02-17

Brandon R. Byrd, Assistant Professor of History
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

In the latest edition of our anniversaries series, Brandon Byrd examines resistance to the American Colonization Society’s attempts to remove free blacks from the US.

In January 1817, more than three thousand African Americans gathered in Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Philadelphia, PA. Skilled artisans, domestic workers, and underpaid manual laborers filled the pews. So did black elites including Richard Allen, the founder and first bishop of the AME Church; Absalom Jones, Allen’s friend and cofounder of the Free African Society, the leading black mutual aid society in Philadelphia; and James Forten, a wealthy sailmaker and outspoken abolitionist. As historian Benjamin Quarles noted, there was only one cause that could bring together a gathering of that size and diversity. Weeks earlier, some of the most influential white men in the United States had formed the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization whose official title—the Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America—made clearer its goal of removing free blacks from the United States. Now, as the ACS began its work, black Philadelphians gathered to respond as one to the proposition that their futures lay not in what was for many their country of birth but in Africa.

Standing behind a platform at the front of the church, Forten brought the meeting to order. The well-to-do businessman, born free in Philadelphia, first called for all in favor of colonization to respond with an “aye.” Nobody said a word. He then asked for those who opposed colonization to respond with a “no.” The response was thunderous. Unambiguous. Unanimous. In fact, Forten later wrote that it seemed as if the outcry “would bring down the walls of the building.”1

One year later, the ACS gathered in the chamber of the US House of Representatives for its first annual meeting. Participating members included Francis Scott Key, the slaveholding author of what became known as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a prominent Washington, DC–based attorney who later demanded in court that his fellow white men not “abandon your country; to permit it to be taken from you by the Abolitionist, according to whose taste it is to associate and amalgamate with the Negro.”2 Henry Clay was there too. The US congressman who would bring about the Missouri Compromise was also a Kentucky slaveowner who believed that “amalgamation”—interracial socializing or sex—was “impossible” because the “God of nature by the difference of color & of physical constitution, has decreed against it.”3 He was, put simply, a man who admired the racial thought of Thomas Jefferson, the exalted Founding Father whose antislavery views coexisted with his slaveholding and his “suspicion . . . that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” He, too, wanted them removed from his country.4

Read the entire article here.

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