George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2019-09-17 17:18Z by Steven

George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time

The New York Review of Books
2018-01-19

Danzy Senna


Jacob Lawrence: Harlem Street Scene, 1942
Private Collection/Christie’s Images/Bridgeman Images/The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The first time I read George Schuyler’s 1931 novel, Black No More, it confused and unsettled me. Black No More is based on a fantastical, speculative premise: What if there were a machine that could turn black people permanently white? What if such a machine were invented in and introduced to 1920s America, a time of both increasing racial pride and persistent racial violence? What would the social and political implications be of such a race-reversal machine? What would it reveal about society? What lies and hypocrisies about blackness and whiteness and American identity would be revealed by the chaos that would ensue?

I was in college at the time I first read the book, and not quite ready for its cynical, almost misanthropic vision of race and society.

I had just reached that stage of racial identity that psychologist William Cross, in his 1971 “Negro-to-Black Conversion Experience,” called “immersion.” The immersion stage (number three of five) is when you eat, drink, and excrete blackness. It’s when you bite off the head of anybody who questions whether you, no matter how high your yellow, are anything less than Afrika Bambaataa.

What unsettled me about Black No More wasn’t just what I knew of Schuyler’s vaguely messed-up politics (which became a whole lot less vague and a whole lot more messed up in the decades following the novel’s publication). It was also that Schuyler was so merciless—about everyone. At the exact moment I was finding power and purpose in my black identity, he was telling me race didn’t exist…

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Passing in Twenty-First Century Literature: Complicating Color in the African-American Fin-de-Siècle Novel

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-08-31 19:51Z by Steven

Racial Passing in Twenty-First Century Literature: Complicating Color in the African-American Fin-de-Siècle Novel

Indiana University of Pennsylvania
December 2014

Pamela S. Richardson, Chief of Staff & Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives
Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida

A Dissertation Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation focuses on how racial passing can be a critical strategy for defining and validating a nuanced conceptualization of blackness in twenty-first century African-American Literature. Specifically in the works of Sapphire, Danzy Senna, and Colson Whitehead, the historical moment of passing yet endures into the future. Scholars have thoroughly analyzed racial passing in African American literature according to a standard definition of narratives written primarily in the early twentieth-century. These texts are steeped in sentimentality and tragedy about the abandonment of the black body and social identity. However, the popularity of post-racial discourse at the turn of the twenty-first century marks a shift in racial passing as a millennial concept, creating a space for the expansion of what constitutes a passing narrative. These millennial narratives address and parallel the changing social-political American racial climate. This research is an attempt to trace the shifts of the racial passing construct that allow for questions of representation, resistance, agency, and power relative to race and race relations in an ever increasingly, but arguably, post-racial society. Furthermore, passing narratives at the turn of the century critique the importance of maintaining fixed racial identities in order to empower the individual through redefining, reconnecting, and reclaiming one’s blackness.

Read the introduction here.

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Racial Reassignment Surgery and the Dissolution of the Color Line: Afrofuturist Satire in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Jess Row’s Your Face in Mine

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-08-30 23:55Z by Steven

Racial Reassignment Surgery and the Dissolution of the Color Line: Afrofuturist Satire in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Jess Row’s Your Face in Mine

Third Stone: devoted to Afrofuturism and other modes of the Black Fantastic
Volume 1, Issue 1 (2019)
Article 17
12 pages

Christopher A. Varlack, Lecturer
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Racial passing, during the antebellum period, was a way in which African-American peoples sought to escape the throes of slavery and the physical and psychological abuse associated with the plantation tradition. In time, racial passing became a way of obtaining the social, economic, and political opportunities denied people of color in the discriminatory and racially-biased United States. This study, however, examines a specific form of racial passing–that of racial reassignment surgery–as explored in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Jess Row’s Your Face in Mine as a way to test the theory that assimilation and miscegenation would one day resolve the color line that had left generations of African-American peoples disenfranchised and dispossessed. At the same time, this study examines the Afrofuturist sensibilities in these two key works of the Harlem Renaissance era and present day to understand how such authors not only counter the troubling histories of their time but also propose counter-futures that would otherwise have been buried beneath the cultural oppression of Jim Crow and other more modern forms of racism.

Read the entire article here.

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A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the Politics of Performance during the New Negro Renaissance.

Posted in Biography, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Statements, United States, Women on 2019-08-28 00:26Z by Steven

A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the Politics of Performance during the New Negro Renaissance.

NEH banner
National Endowment for the Humanities
400 7th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20506
Grant number: HB-263199-19
2019-08-14

Grantee: Laurie Avant Woodard, Assistant Professor of History
CUNY Research Foundation, City College (New York, New York)

Grant Period: 2019-09-01 through 2020-08-31
$60,000 USD (approved), $60,000 USD (awarded)

Research and writing a biography of Fredi Washington (1903-1994), a civil rights activist and a performing artist active in the Harlem Renaissance.

Focusing upon the life and career of performing artist and civil rights activist Fredi Washington, this project places an African American female performing artist at the center of the narrative of the New Negro Renaissance; illuminates the vital influence of performing artists on the movement; and demonstrates the ways in which Washington and the New Negro Renaissance are central components of the long civil rights narrative and our understanding of the African American quest for civil and human rights. The manuscript will consist of six chapters and a prologue and epilogue.

For more information, click here.

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Archives of Conjure: Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Religion on 2019-08-12 01:28Z by Steven

Archives of Conjure: Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures

Columbia University Press
March 2020
272 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780231194334
Hardcover ISBN: 9780231194327
E-book ISBN: 9780231550765

Solimar Otero, Professor of Folklore
Indiana University, Bloomington

Archives of Conjure

In Afrolatinx religious practices such as Cuban Espiritismo, Puerto Rican Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé, the dead tell stories. Communicating with and through mediums’ bodies, they give advice, make requests, and propose future rituals, creating a living archive that is coproduced by the dead. In this book, Solimar Otero explores how Afrolatinx spirits guide collaborative spiritual-scholarly activist work through rituals and the creation of material culture. By examining spirit mediumship through a Caribbean cross-cultural poetics, she shows how divinities and ancestors serve as active agents in shaping the experiences of gender, sexuality, and race.

Otero argues that what she calls archives of conjure are produced through residual transcriptions or reverberations of the stories of the dead whose archives are stitched, beaded, smoked, and washed into official and unofficial repositories. She investigates how sites like the ocean, rivers, and institutional archives create connected contexts for unlocking the spatial activation of residual transcriptions. Drawing on over ten years of archival research and fieldwork in Cuba, Otero centers the storytelling practices of Afrolatinx women and LGBTQ spiritual practitioners alongside Caribbean literature and performance. Archives of Conjure offers vital new perspectives on ephemerality, temporality, and material culture, unraveling undertheorized questions about how spirits shape communities of practice, ethnography, literature, and history and revealing the deeply connected nature of art, scholarship, and worship.

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Black Judas: William Hannibal Thomas and “The American Negro”

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, United States on 2019-08-12 01:24Z by Steven

Black Judas: William Hannibal Thomas and “The American Negro”

University of Georgia Press
2019-11-15
416 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9-780-8203-5626-6

John David Smith, Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

The classic biography of the infamous black Negrophobe William Hannibal Thomas, with a new preface by the author

William Hannibal Thomas (1843-1935) served with distinction in the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War (in which he lost an arm) and was a preacher, teacher, lawyer, state legislator, and journalist following Appomattox. In many publications up through the 1890s, Thomas espoused a critical though optimistic black nationalist ideology. After his mid-twenties, however, Thomas began exhibiting a self-destructive personality, one that kept him in constant trouble with authorities and always on the run. His book The American Negro (1901) was his final self-destructive act.

Attacking African Americans in gross and insulting language in this utterly pessimistic book, Thomas blamed them for the contemporary “Negro problem” and argued that the race required radical redemption based on improved “character,” not changed “color.” Vague in his recommendations, Thomas implied that blacks should model themselves after certain mulattoes, most notably William Hannibal Thomas.

Black Judas is a biography of Thomas, a publishing history of The American Negro, and an analysis of that book’s significance to American racial thought. The book is based on fifteen years of research, including research in postamputation trauma and psychoanalytic theory on self-hatred, to assess Thomas’s metamorphosis from a constructive race critic to a black Negrophobe. John David Smith argues that his radical shift resulted from key emotional and physical traumas that mirrored Thomas’s life history of exposure to white racism and intense physical pain.

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Passing, in Moments

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-07-29 00:07Z by Steven

Passing, in Moments

Topic Magazine
Issue No. 25, Journeys
July 2019

Mat Johnson

The uneasy existence of being black and passing for white.

When I was 12, my Aunt Margaret told me, “You got straight hair, you got pale skin. If people don’t know you’re colored, don’t tell them.”

Aunt Margaret was black, but if you said “black” and not “colored,” she would go off on you. I was black too—still am—but I look white. Or I look whitish; it depends on the viewer. My father’s white and my mother is black, but high yellow and racially ambiguous. Though my mom insisted I was black too, I found a strong argument against that every time I looked in the mirror. And I grew up cut off from my extended black family, which just added to that feeling of disconnection. Sometimes I’d tell other kids I was black, and until they saw my mom, they wouldn’t believe me.

One time I told Aunt Margaret, “Nobody at school knows I’m black—”

“Colored.”

“Nobody at school knows I’m colored.”

She looked at me like I’d lost my mind. That’s when she said it, holding one of my flaccid brown curls in her hand like it was a piece of gold. “You got straight hair, you got pale skin. If people don’t know you’re colored, don’t tell them!”

At 12 years old, I thought Aunt Margaret was confused. I thought her response was antiquated, ridiculously old-fashioned, like how she insisted on using the word “colored” instead of “black.” I thought it was cute. I thought it was funny.

At 19, radical as all undergraduates should be, I thought that, despite how much I loved Aunt Margaret, that she was a color-struck sellout for telling me to live my life as a white man. That, in essence, she was encouraging me to abandon my roots, to reject the black community, in exchange for complete access to white privilege.

At 49, I think she told me what she told me because she loved me. Because she’d been black in America for 80-some years and she didn’t want me to have to endure the way she did. That she wanted the safety of whiteness for me. That she wanted me to thrive, but also to have the full force of America’s wind at my back, instead of getting hit with it head-on.

That Aunt Margaret was expressing what generations of black mothers sometimes told white-appearing children, particularly boys: escape from blackness for your survival.

(And, also, she was color-struck.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Race-Politics and Homi Bhabha’s Third Space Theory in Charles Chesnutt’s “The Wife of His Youth” and “The Sheriff’s Children”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2019-07-28 23:30Z by Steven

Mixed Race-Politics and Homi Bhabha’s Third Space Theory in Charles Chesnutt’s “The Wife of His Youth” and “The Sheriff’s Children”

The Oswald Review: An International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Criticism in the Discipline of English
Volume 20, Issue 1 (2018)
Article 6 (pages 37-50)

Gabrielle Sanford
Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia

Tru Leverette, a Mixed race professor of African American and Mixed race literature, explains that people of mixed ancestry have a difficult and confusing racial path: “I, like many other persons born to parents of different races, sometimes think of myself as moving in the space that unites the two, as traveling from one shore to another . . . and other times as sailing the river that forms the meridian between two shores” (“Traveling” 79). And while there has been progress in how America regards biracial people today, Mixed race people are often marginalized in society, literature, and politics through underrepresentation and a lack of acknowledgment of their culture and characteristics. There is very little space for Mixed race people to have their own identities because they are neither seen as a separate race nor accepted into the races that form their racial identity. They are only seen as a combination of two or more races that needs to fit into a predetermined racial mold. This blindness sidelines biracial and multiracial groups and leaves them without legal status.

Charles Chesnutt, a post-Reconstruction Mixed race author, presents Mixed race issues in his short stories “The Wife of His Youth” (1899) and “The Sheriff’s Children” (1889). Chesnutt’s characters, however, do not want representation for their Mixed race to be the final goal in the changing social structure of America, but rather want to be a part of White society and leave behind their Black heritage. This is seen in “The Wife of His Youth” when Ryder seeks to leave his Blackness in his past and embrace an upward climb to White status by being a part of the Blue Vein Society. The same is seen in “The Sheriff’s Children” when Tom grieves over the unfairness of his life due to being Mixed race. Notwithstanding the feelings of these characters, though, Chesnutt encourages a third space for Mixed race representation and a social acceptance of hybridity; he also, to be sure, recognizes that this third space has the potential to marginalize Blacks and biracial people even further…

Read the entire article here.

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Trying To Recognize People Like Me

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2019-07-25 01:01Z by Steven

Trying To Recognize People Like Me

The Margins
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
2017-06-16

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan


(from left to right) T Kira Madden, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Violet Kupersmith

Writers Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Violet Kupersmith, and T Kira Madden speak to each other about mixed-race identities in life and literature

February 28 isn’t too cold. I hurry through sharp sunlight to a café in Lincoln Center. It is the official launch day of my novel, Harmless Like You, in the USA. I feel woozy and anxious. I’ve been avoiding bookshops, because I’m too scared to know if it’s in stock. I’m meeting two dear friends who are also writers. T Kira Madden is the Editor in Chief of No Tokens Journal, with her memoir forthcoming. Violet Kupersmith’s collection of stories The Frangipani Hotel was published by Speigel & Grau, and her novel is forthcoming. They are both dear friends of mine, and it has been too long since I’ve seen their faces. The other thing we have in common is that we are mixed-race. Specifically, we have one Asian parent and one white parent. I’ve been told that equals accessible exotic. I want to ask Violet and Kira how they deal with this and how it affects them as writers.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: I never know what to call myself. At readings, people laugh at me when I get introduced as British-Japanese-Chinese-American, like it’s a punchline. I think, hey it’s not a joke. But I laugh too because I’m nervous. In Japan, I called myself hafu which is the accepted word there. I know lots of Americans say hapa—but I’m nervous about my right to take something from Hawaiian Islander culture. I grew up saying halfie, which I worry is too cute—but it is at least mine. So these days, I go back to halfie.

Violet Kupersmith: I’m half-Vietnamese and half-white. My mother’s family came to America on a boat in the seventies. My father’s side is all mixed European potato genes. I remember being really excited when the term “hapa” first started getting circulated, because it was finally a real label I could apply to myself after growing up having to just check the “other” box on all my paperwork. But I still feel a little squirmy referring to myself as hapa out loud because, like you said, it’s from Hawaiian Islander culture.

T Kira Madden: I am Hawaiian so I’m used to “hapa! hapa haole!”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Biracial Identity Development in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

Posted in Books, Chapter, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2019-07-25 00:40Z by Steven

Biracial Identity Development in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

A chapter in Body Horror and Shapeshifting: A Multidisciplinary Exploration
Brill
2014-01-04
pages: 145–152
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-84888-306-2
DOI: 10.1163/9781848883062_016

Jin-Yu Lin

Biracial individuals frequently go through a search for identity, a struggle to choose an identity and finally to accept their inherent multiplicity. They identify with more than one racial group, and their sense of self remains constant across racial contexts. In childhood, they often find their appearance different from other children. As they age, biracial individuals grow more aware of their racial heritage, and run the risk of falling into the borderlines of identities. Drawing upon models from Kerwin and Ponterotto and Poston, as well as Root’s theory of the development of identity in biracial individuals, this chapter attempts to demonstrate how the protagonist in Caucasia develops her identity when facing racial differences. This chapter explicates the protagonist’s self-consciousness about her invisibility when experiencing an identity crisis while passing for Jewish. Her search for identity, her realisation, and eventually the embracing of her both- and identity is included. Finally, the chapter concludes with a discussion of how the significance, diversity, and complexity of the experiences of biracial individuals may challenge the social construct of race. Based on a more flexible post-ethnic perspective, race is viewed as being more performative than biological.

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