Why Didn’t Movies about Passing Cast Black Actors?

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-09-23 22:16Z by Steven

Why Didn’t Movies about Passing Cast Black Actors?

JSTOR Daily: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match
2021-02-03

Matthew Wills


Fredi Washington and Louise Beavers in a scene from Imitation of Life via New York Public Library

“Social problem” films were all the rage after World War II. So how could movies about racism be so conservative?

After World War II, Hollywood tried something new: realism, tackling social problems like mental illness, drug addiction, anti-Semitism, and racism. But as media-studies scholar Karen M. Bowdre argues, films “about” race and racism “often focused on the concept of passing, a Black character claiming his or her White heritage while denying any African ancestry.”

Passing movies also tended to cast white actors in the roles of mixed-race characters who passed as white. But that wasn’t the case with the original version of Imitation of Life, made in 1934. Fredi Washington made history by being the first Black actress to play a character (“Peola”) who passes as white. Even more unusually, two Black children were cast to play the part of Peola at ages three and seven.

The Production Code Administration (PCA), the industry’s self-censorship office, was roiled by director John Stahl’s casting choices. The PCA’s “voluminous” file on the film is filled with references to miscegenation, which isn’t a topic of the movie, but presumably would be raised by white viewers who would want to know why Washington looked so “white.”…

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A Novelist Dissects the Claustrophobic Evil of Jim Crow

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-09-23 04:01Z by Steven

A Novelist Dissects the Claustrophobic Evil of Jim Crow

The New York Times
2017-10-06

Ayana Mathis


Melinda Beck

Eleanor Henderson, The Twelve-Mile Straight, A Novel (New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2017)

Every couple of decades the nation revisits, publicly and painfully, its oldest violence. The wounds of race — still open, still weeping over the course of 400 years — preoccupy our literature for a time. This is a good thing, given that the wages of silence are most certainly death. At its best, historical fiction isn’t a stump speech or a school lesson, but it sure does illuminate the past, give soul and body to our history so we can sojourn with it a while, in privacy and contemplation. As a useful byproduct, it gives us a fighting chance at recognizing the past’s reverberations in our present. And reverberate it does.

When plunging into the bloody abyss of the American racial past, as Eleanor Henderson does in her second novel, “The Twelve-Mile Straight,” the stakes are high. The novel is set in 1930 in Cotton County, Ga. In its opening pages a black man, Genus Jackson, is lynched for raping a young white woman named Elma Jesup: “Genus dropped, his neck snapping like a chicken’s, his body falling limp.”

We suspect that Genus is innocent, and indeed, he is. We hope his luridly described murder by lynching proves more than a mere point of departure for Henderson’s sprawling Southern Gothic family drama. Genus was a field hand on the farm that Elma Jesup sharecrops alongside her father, Juke, and a mute black girl, 14-year-old Nan Smith. The girls live like sisters and, at least when they are home on the farm, the racial lines that divide them are blurred by affection and proximity…

Read the entire review here.

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Retrospection: Agassiz’s Expeditions in Brazil

Posted in Articles, Biography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2021-09-23 02:12Z by Steven

Retrospection: Agassiz’s Expeditions in Brazil

The Harvard Crimson
2016-04-21

Michelle Y. Raji


Louis Rodolphe Agassiz

But for Agassiz, the trip to Brazil was about more than science. Not only was evolution—a process not immediately observable to the human eye—deeply antithetical to Agassiz’s staunch empiricism, evolution was profoundly at odds with his perceived world order.

Three decades after the then-obscure scientist Charles Darwin quietly sketched his now-famous finches aboard the HMS Beagle in the Galapagos, influential Harvard professor Louis Rodolphe Agassiz set out with much greater fanfare on a lesser-known expedition. In 1865, Agassiz and his wife, accompanied by a small group of Harvard scientists and students, set sail from New York to Rio de Janeiro on The Colorado.

In a lecture en route to Brazil, Agassiz challenged Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution on the grounds that the theory relied too much on argument and too little on fact. Agassiz posited that evolution was not plausible according to the geologic record. The trip to Brazil was an attempt to disprove Darwin once and for all. Agassiz saw in the unique biodiversity of Brazil a perfect laboratory to test his counter-theories of phylogenetic embryology and glacial catastrophe in the tropics.

But for Agassiz, the trip to Brazil was about more than science. Not only was evolution—a process not immediately observable to the human eye—deeply antithetical to Agassiz’s staunch empiricism, evolution was profoundly at odds with his perceived world order. Though only moderately religious, Agassiz believed in the existence of a creator in all his work. Fortunately for Agassiz, this belief fit well with comparative zoology, which at the time focused heavily on hierarchal classification…

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‘Passing’ Trailer: Tessa Thompson & Ruth Negga Star In Netflix Movie It Landed At Sundance

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2021-09-23 01:54Z by Steven

‘Passing’ Trailer: Tessa Thompson & Ruth Negga Star In Netflix Movie It Landed At Sundance

Deadline Hollywood
2021-09-21

Patrick Hipes, Executive Managing Editor

Netflix made a splash at this year’s Sundance Film Festival when it acquired Rebecca Hall’s Passing, the drama starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. Hall, making her directorial debut, adapted the film from the 1929 novel by Nella Larson. Now the streamer is prepping for the film’s New York Film Festival slot October 3, after which it will get a theatrical release followed by a debut on the service November 10.

The pic, shot it black and white, tells the story of two Black women, Irene Redfield (Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Negga), who can “pass” as white but choose to live on opposite sides of the color line during the height of the Harlem Renaissance in late 1920s New York. After a chance encounter, Irene reluctantly allows Clare into her home, where she ingratiates herself to Irene’s husband (André Holland) and family, and soon her larger social circle as well. Irene soon finds her once-steady existence upended by Clare, and the the story becomes one about obsession, repression and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities…

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The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2021-09-22 02:07Z by Steven

The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

The Guardian
2021-08-05

Yohann Koshy, Assistant Opinion Editor


Prof Paul Gilroy near his home in north London. Photograph: Eddie Otchere/The Guardian

One of Britain’s most influential scholars has spent a lifetime trying to convince people to take race and racism seriously. Are we finally ready to listen?

In 2000, the race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust published a report about the “future of multi-ethnic Britain”. Launched by the Labour home secretary Jack Straw, it proposed ways to counter racial discrimination and rethink British identity. The report was nuanced and scholarly, the result of two years’ deliberation. It was honest about Britain’s racial inequalities and the legacy of empire, but also offered hope. It made the case for formally declaring the UK a multicultural society.

The newspapers tore it to pieces. The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page article: “Straw wants to rewrite our history: ‘British’ is a racist word, says report.” The Sun and the Daily Mail joined in. The line was clear – a clique of leftwing academics, in cahoots with the government, wanted to make ordinary people feel ashamed of their country. In the Telegraph, Boris Johnson, then editor of the Spectator magazine, wrote that the report represented “a war over culture, which our side could lose”. Spooked by the intensity of the reaction, Straw distanced himself from any further debate about Britishness, recommending in his speech at the report’s launch that the left swallow some patriotic tonic.

The Parekh report, as it was known – its chair was the political theorist Lord Bhikhu Parekh – was not a radical document. It was studiously considerate. Contrary to the Telegraph front page, it didn’t claim “British” was a racist word. It said that “Britishness, as much as Englishness, has … largely unspoken, racial connotations”. This was the sentence that launched a thousand tirades, but where did this idea come from? Follow the footnote in the offending paragraph and you arrive at the work of an academic called Paul Gilroy

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Jews of color, once sidelined, now being recruited by Jewish agencies

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, United States on 2021-09-22 01:46Z by Steven

Jews of color, once sidelined, now being recruited by Jewish agencies

The Jewish News of Northern California
2021-08-05

Rachele Kanigel, Professor of Journalism
San Francisco State University


Paula Pretlow (right) with her daughter Alison in Jerusalem.

During her 13 years as a lay leader in the Jewish community, Paula Pretlow couldn’t help but notice the obvious: When decisions were being made, she usually was the only Jew of color in the room.

As a retired executive of an investment management firm, Pretlow was a “catch” for Jewish organizations. She was well versed in the language of finance, and she had impressive professional experience and connections.

Shortly after she joined Temple Isaiah in Lafayette in 2007, her rabbi suggested she serve on its board of directors. Later, when she moved to San Francisco and joined Congregation Emanu-El, she was asked to join that board. And then a major national philanthropic organization, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, invited her to become a trustee.

Other leaders in the Jewish community sought her counsel. She was a macher, a person of influence. But as a Black woman, she rarely saw other Jews of color in similar positions of power.

That’s begun to change in the past year.

In the 14 months since the brutal murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer transfixed and transformed the nation, Pretlow has seen local and national Jewish organizations not only reach out to Jews of color but start to grapple with the racism that has festered for years in corners of the community…

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Why Did Two People So Poorly Matched Stay Together So Long?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-09-21 14:12Z by Steven

Why Did Two People So Poorly Matched Stay Together So Long?

The New York Times
2021-09-06

Eleanor Henderson


Christopher Sorrentino’s parents, Gilbert and Vicki, circa 1972. Sorrentino examines their confounding marriage in his memoir, “Now Beacon, Now Sea.” via Christopher Sorrentino

Christopher Sorrentino, Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son’s Memoir (Catapult, 2021)

As I was reading Christopher Sorrentino’sNow Beacon, Now Sea,” I heard Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel García Márquez, on the radio, talking about his new memoir, “A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes.” Garcia’s book is a loving chronicle of the last days of his larger-than-life father and loyal mother. Sorrentino’s book, too, is about his novelist father and his parents’ deaths. Both have the subtitle “A Son’s Memoir.” But “Now Beacon, Now Sea” is no tender tribute. Listening to Garcia speak, I realized that Sorrentino was working in a decidedly different genre: His “son’s memoir” is more autopsy than eulogy.

Sorrentino’s father, Gilbert, was an avant-gardist more prolific than famous, who died in an under-resourced hospital in Brooklyn as his son was en route; his wife, Vicki, who is the real subject of this book and a truly fascinating one, died under even grimmer circumstances. Her decaying body, discovered by her son in her Bay Ridge apartment, is the striking opening image of the book. An autopsy was never ordered…

Read the entire review here.

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‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-09-21 00:50Z by Steven

‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

The New York Times
2021-09-20

Jennifer Schuessler


Chanell Stone for The New York Times

Betty Reid Soskin has fought to ensure that American history includes the stories that get overlooked. As she turns 100, few stories have been more remarkable than hers.

The Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park, which sprawls across the former shipyards in Richmond, Calif., on the northeast edge of San Francisco Bay, tells the enormous story of the largest wartime mobilization in American history and the sweeping social changes it sparked.

Visitors can climb aboard an enormous Victory ship, one of more than 700 vessels produced in Richmond — and, in the gift shop, pick up swag emblazoned with the iconic image of the red-kerchiefed Rosie herself, arm flexed up with “We Can Do It!” bravado.

But for many, the park is synonymous with another woman: Betty.

Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 on Sept. 22, is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. Over the past decade and a half, she has become both an icon of the service and an unlikely celebrity, drawing overflow crowds to talks and a steady stream of media interviewers eager for the eloquent words of an indomitable 5 feet 3 inch great-grandmother once described by a colleague as “sort of like Bette Davis, Angela Davis and Yoda all rolled into one.”…

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A Love Letter to Indigenous Blackness

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2021-09-21 00:36Z by Steven

A Love Letter to Indigenous Blackness

NACLA: Report on the Americas
Volume 53, Issue 3, November 2021 (Published online 2021-09-13)
pages 248-254

Paul Joseph López Oro, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies
Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts


A Garifuna ritual gathering to honor the ancestors at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, New York, June 2017. (Paul Joseph López Oro)

Garifuna women in New York City working to preserve life, culture, and history across borders and generations are part of a powerful lineage of resistance to anti-Blackness.

Mirtha Colón. Janel Martinez. Aida Lambert. Tania Molina. Carla Garcia. Tola Guerrero. Karen Blanco. Miriam Miranda. Ofelia Bernandez. Olga Nuñez. Luz Solis. Siria Alvarez. Isha Sumner. Sulma Arzu-Brown. Dilma Suazo-Gordon. Isidra Sabio. These are just some names of Garifuna women whose hemispheric political labor highlights a transgenerational and transnational tradition of preserving Garifuna life. Garifuna women are the very foundation of conjuring, mobilizing, and safeguarding Garifuna ancestral memory, rituals, language, and oral histories—all embodied histories of knowledge production—across generations and national boundaries. Some of these Garifuna women live in New York City, and some of them live in Central America’s Caribbean coasts. Some have never been to Central America, but their family’s nostalgia remains with them.

Garifuna life is matrifocal. Garifuna women are not simply the head of the household, but they are also at the center of organizing and governing every family structure, which extends beyond biological kinship. This is not a uniquely Garifuna experience. Throughout the African diaspora in the Americas, Black women are often the head of the household. Especially if we consider non-heteronormative notions of family and kinship, Black women have been at the forefront of preserving and protecting Black life over centuries, as anthropologists Christen A. Smith and Keisha-Khan Y. Perry have documented. However, a matrifocal or matrilineal society does not dismantle misogynoir, patriarchy, racial capitalism, and anti-Blackness. I write this matrilineal love letter to honor, celebrate, and center Garifuna women’s political, intellectual, spiritual, cultural, and knowledge producing labor that often goes unseen, uncited, or undervalued in a world that remains heteropatriarchal and anti-Black…

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Pauli Murray Should Be a Household Name. A New Film Shows Why.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Gay & Lesbian, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2021-09-20 16:49Z by Steven

Pauli Murray Should Be a Household Name. A New Film Shows Why.

The New York Times
2021-09-15

Melena Ryzik


A scene from “My Name Is Pauli Murray.” The documentarian Betsy West, who made the film with Julie Cohen, said, “We just thought, why didn’t anybody teach us about this person?” Amazon Studios

The lawyer, activist and minister made prescient arguments on gender, race and equality that influenced Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

When the lawyer, activist, author and educator Pauli Murray died in 1985 at the age of 75, no obituary or commemoration could contain all of her pathbreaking accomplishments. A radical and brilliant legal strategist, Murray was named a deputy attorney general in California — the first Black person in that office — in 1946, just a year after passing the bar there. Murray was an organizer of sit-ins and participated in bus protests as far back as the 1940s, and co-founded the National Organization for Women. Murray was also the first Black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. In 2012, she was sainted.

Murray has been saluted in legal, academic and gender-studies circles, and in the L.G.B.T.Q. community. But her overarching impact on American life in the 20th and now 21st centuries has not been broadly acknowledged: the thinking and writing that paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education; the consideration of intersectionality (she helped popularize the term “Jane Crow”); the enviable social circle, as she was a buddy of Langston Hughes and a pen pal of Eleanor Roosevelt, and worked on her first memoir alongside James Baldwin at the MacDowell Colony in the first year it allowed Black artists.

Murray was devoted to feminism and the rights of women even as, it turned out, she privately battled lifelong gender identity issues. She should be a household name on par with Gloria Steinem or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both of whom cited her work often. Instead Murray is an insider’s civil rights icon.

Now a documentary, “My Name Is Pauli Murray,” aims to introduce Murray to the masses. Made by the same Academy Award-nominated filmmakers behind the surprise hit “RBG,” it uses Murray’s own voice and words as narration, drawn from interviews, oral histories and the prolific writing — books, poems and a collection of argumentative, impassioned and romantic letters — that Murray meticulously filed away with an eye toward her legacy. And the film arrives at a moment when the tenacious activism of people of color, especially women, is being re-contextualized and newly acknowledged, at the same time that many of the battles they fought are still raging…

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