A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the New Negro Renaissance

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-11-27 05:39Z by Steven

A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the New Negro Renaissance

Oxford University Press
2023-10-02
320 Pages
25 black and white illustrations
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780197626214

Laurie A. Woodard, Assistant Professor of History
City College of New York, New York, New York

  • First biography of dancer, actor, and activist Fredi Washington
  • Highlights the role of the performing arts in the history of the New Negro Renaissance, which has tended to be focused on literary arts
  • Focuses on an African American who could have but chose not to “pass

The first biography of performing artist, writer, and civil and human rights activist Fredi Washington.

Following Fredi Washington’s debut in her first dramatic role in 1926, Alfred Spengler of the New York North Side News reported that she was “astonishingly pretty for a real Negro girl.” Throughout her career, Washington was vulnerable to discrimination because her near-white skin and hazel eyes, coupled with her self-identification as Negro, cast her as too physically white to play black and too culturally black to play white. The multifaceted Washington was of course a great deal more than her looks; she was a performing artist, a writer, and a civil and human rights activist. Embracing the genres of dance, theater, and film, she used her talent, creativity, and determination to sustain a thirty-year career in the arts and in labor and political activism during the New Negro Renaissance and beyond.

Although Fredi Washington has been largely forgotten, A Real Negro Girl shows that, at the zenith of her career, she was a household name in the black community, well known in mainstream America, and a darling of the European press. Most famous for her role in the film “Imitation of Life,” she was a part of a cohort that included Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Delving into her professional and personal experiences in Harlem, nationally, and internationally, this book illuminates Washington’s significance to the New Negro Renaissance and reveals the vital influence of black performing artists and of black women on the movement. Over the years, Washington expanded her social and political consciousness and anti-racism activism, encompassing journalism, labor organizing, protests, and support of progressive politics. As a founder and executive director of the Negro Actors Guild of America, she sought to protect black artists from professional exploitation and physical abuse.

Incorporating close readings of images and films, interviews, and fan mail, as well as writings by and about Washington, A Real Negro Girl highlights Fredi Washington as an influential actor in the African American quest for civil and human rights.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Setting the Stage: The Roots of the New Negro Renaissance
  • Chapter 2: Dancing All Day: Reading Blackface and Black Bodies
  • Chapter 3: Boxers, Blacks, and a Real Negro Girl: White Expectations and Imagined Conceptions of Authentic Blackness
  • Chapter 4: Race, Place, and Miscegenation: Fredi Washington in Imitation of Life
  • Chapter 5: Beyond the Footlights: New Negro Performing Artists and More Tangible Forms of Activism
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index
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The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2022-11-27 03:08Z by Steven

The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family

Liveright (an imprint of W. W. Norton)
2022-11-08
432 pages
6.3 x 9.4 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-324-09084-7

Kerri K. Greenidge, Mellon Assistant Professor
Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

A stunning counternarrative of the legendary abolitionist Grimke sisters that finally reclaims the forgotten Black members of their family.

Sarah and Angelina Grimke—the Grimke sisters—are revered figures in American history, famous for rejecting their privileged lives on a plantation in South Carolina to become firebrand activists in the North. Their antislavery pamphlets, among the most influential of the antebellum era, are still read today. Yet retellings of their epic story have long obscured their Black relatives. In The Grimkes, award-winning historian Kerri Greenidge presents a parallel narrative, indeed a long-overdue corrective, shifting the focus from the white abolitionist sisters to the Black Grimkes and deepening our understanding of the long struggle for racial and gender equality.

That the Grimke sisters had Black relatives in the first place was a consequence of slavery’s most horrific reality. Sarah and Angelina’s older brother, Henry, was notoriously violent and sadistic, and one of the women he owned, Nancy Weston, bore him three sons: Archibald, Francis, and John. While Greenidge follows the brothers’ trials and exploits in the North, where Archibald and Francis became prominent members of the post–Civil War Black elite, her narrative centers on the Black women of the family, from Weston to Francis’s wife, the brilliant intellectual and reformer Charlotte Forten, to Archibald’s daughter, Angelina Weld Grimke, who channeled the family’s past into pathbreaking modernist literature during the Harlem Renaissance.

In a grand saga that spans the eighteenth century to the twentieth and stretches from Charleston to Philadelphia, Boston, and beyond, Greenidge reclaims the Black Grimkes as complex, often conflicted individuals shadowed by their origins. Most strikingly, she indicts the white Grimke sisters for their racial paternalism. They could envision the end of slavery, but they could not imagine Black equality: when their Black nephews did not adhere to the image of the kneeling and eternally grateful slave, they were cruel and relentlessly judgmental—an emblem of the limits of progressive white racial politics.

A landmark biography of the most important multiracial American family of the nineteenth century, The Grimkes suggests that just as the Hemingses and Jeffersons personified the racial myths of the founding generation, the Grimkes embodied the legacy—both traumatic and generative—of those myths, which reverberate to this day.

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‘Just a little more free’

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2022-11-26 21:23Z by Steven

‘Just a little more free’

Harvard Law Today
2022-11-22

Jeff Neal, Senior Director of Communications and Media Relations
Harvard Law School

Credit: Lorin Granger

At the inaugural Belinda Sutton Distinguished Lecture, Johns Hopkins Professor Martha Jones chronicles her journey into her family’s ties to slavery and to Harvard

At the inaugural Belinda Sutton Distinguished Lecture, Johns Hopkins University Professor Martha S. Jones recounted her family’s historic and ongoing connections both to the institution of slavery and to several academic institutions, including Harvard. Jones, whose work examines how Black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy, leads her university’s Hard Histories at Hopkins Project, which works to uncover the role that racism and discrimination have played at the Baltimore-based institution.

The event at which Jones spoke honors Belinda Sutton, a woman who had been enslaved by Isaac Royall Jr., whose 1781 bequest to Harvard College funded a professorship that helped to establish Harvard Law in 1817. The annual lecture and conference series was established earlier this year at Harvard Law School and is organized by Guy-Uriel E. Charles, the Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Professor of Law and faculty director of the Charles Hamilton Institute for Race and Justice…

Read the entire article here.

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Florence Nightingale’s Rival Gets the Last Laugh

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America on 2022-10-21 19:57Z by Steven

Florence Nightingale’s Rival Gets the Last Laugh

The New York Times
2022-09-07

Linda Villarosa

Mary Seacole’s work on the Crimean front made her a legend in her own time. Credit…Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Florence Nightingale’s Rival Gets the Last Laugh

IN SEARCH OF MARY SEACOLE: The Making of a Black Cultural Icon and Humanitarian, by Helen Rappaport

In the 1970s, a group of Jamaican nurses traveled to England to visit the newly relocated grave site of a swashbuckling nurse who had been born in a small town 80 miles west of Kingston, and had worked as a healer and humanitarian during the Crimean War. At the pinnacle of her fame, “Mother Seacole,” as she was known, was compared to Florence Nightingale, widely considered the founder of modern nursing. But the nurses found her grave in disrepair, “its white marble headstone ‘dimmed with mildew and dirt.’” To honor their heroine, the group — along with the British Commonwealth Nurses War Memorial Fund — created an exact replica, replete with blue and gold lettering, palm trees carved in stone and a flag invoking her service to the crown.

Thus began the renaissance of Mary Seacole. In 1984, a small feminist press republished her best-selling 1857 memoir, “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands.” In 2004, Seacole was voted the “Greatest Black Briton” in an online poll. In 2016, a statue was erected in her honor on the grounds of St. Thomas’s Hospital. An experimental play, “Marys Seacole” — written by the Pulitzer winner Jackie Sibblies Drury — ran in New York and this year opened in London. Gugu Mbatha-Raw will star in an upcoming big-screen biopic…

Read the entire review here.

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In Search of Mary Seacole: The Making of a Black Cultural Icon and Humanitarian

Posted in Biography, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom, Women on 2022-10-21 18:13Z by Steven

In Search of Mary Seacole: The Making of a Black Cultural Icon and Humanitarian

Pegasus Books
2022-09-06
416 Pages
6 x 9 in
Hardcover ISBN: 9781639362745

Helen Rappaport

From New York Times bestselling author Helen Rappaport comes a superb and revealing biography of Mary Seacole that is testament to her remarkable achievements and corrective to the myths that have grown around her.

Raised in Jamaica, Mary Seacole first came to England in the 1850s after working in Panama. She wanted to volunteer as a nurse and aide during the Crimean War. When her services were rejected, she financed her own expedition to Balaclava, where her reputation for her nursing—and for her compassion—became almost legendary. Popularly known as ‘Mother Seacole’, she was the most famous Black celebrity of her generation—an extraordinary achievement in Victorian Britain.

She regularly mixed with illustrious royal and military patrons and they, along with grateful war veterans, helped her recover financially when she faced bankruptcy. However, after her death in 1881, she was largely forgotten.

More recently, her profile has been revived and her reputation lionized, with a statue of her standing outside St Thomas’s Hospital in London and her portrait—rediscovered by the author—now on display in the National Portrait Gallery. In Search of Mary Seacole is the fruit of almost twenty years of research and reveals the truth about Seacole’s personal life, her “rivalry” with Florence Nightingale, and other misconceptions.

Vivid and moving, In Search of Mary Seacole shows that reality is often more remarkable and more dramatic than the legend.

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Growing up with a Jewish mom and a famous dad he never knew — the jazz musician Roy Ayers

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2022-09-04 02:48Z by Steven

Growing up with a Jewish mom and a famous dad he never knew — the jazz musician Roy Ayers

Forward
2022-08-15

TaRessa Stovall

Author Nabil Ayers, left; his father, jazz musician Roy Ayers, right. Courtesy of Nabil Ayers (author photo and book cover); and Scott Dudelson/Getty Images (Roy Ayers photo)

Nabil Ayers’ memoir reflects on family, identity and his journey to connect with a Black father who was ‘really just DNA’

Nabil Ayers carries the surname of a famous father he barely knows, except in the ubiquitous music of Roy Ayers – most famously in the 1976 jazz-soul-funk album by that name featuring the hit “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” For the younger Ayers, it pops up to surprise him when he least expects it.

Flashback to 1970, when Louise Braufman, a white Jewish former ballerina working as a waitress in New York took one look at the rising African American jazz composer and vibraphonist and thought she’d have a baby with him.

After a few casual dates, she asked Roy Ayers and he agreed, cautioning her that his career was his priority, and he wasn’t available for a serious relationship or any form of parenting.

Nabil Ayers was born of that union and grew up with a strong sense of self, despite his father’s absence. His new memoir, “My Life in the Sunshine: Searching for My Father and Discovering My Family,” explores his unconventional but richly diverse childhood, his own rise in the music industry and the search to connect with his father, which led to discovering paternal Black half-siblings and an enslaved ancestor…

Read the entire article here.

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The Portable Anna Julia Cooper

Posted in Anthologies, Autobiography, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2022-08-25 01:04Z by Steven

The Portable Anna Julia Cooper

Penguin Classics (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2022-08-09
592 pages
5-1/16 x 7-3/4
Paperback ISBN: 9780143135067
Ebook ISBN: 9780525506713
Audiobook ISBN: 9780593457993

Anna Julia Cooper (1858-1964)

Edited by:

Shirley Moody-Turner, Associate Professor of English and African American Studies
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

A collection of essential writings from the iconic foremother of Black women’s intellectual history, feminism, and activism, who helped pave the way for modern social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name

The Portable Anna Julia Cooper brings together, for the first time, Anna Julia Cooper’s major collection of essays, A Voice from the South, along with several previously unpublished poems, plays, journalism and selected correspondences, including over thirty previously unpublished letters between Anna Julia Cooper and W. E. B. Du Bois. The Portable Anna Julia Cooper will introduce a new generation of readers to an educator, public intellectual, and community activist whose prescient insights and eloquent prose underlie some of the most important developments in modern American intellectual thought and African American social and political activism.

Recognized as the iconic foremother of Black women’s intellectual history and activism, Cooper (1858-1964) penned one of the most forceful and enduring statements of Black feminist thought to come of out of the nineteenth century. Attention to her work has grown exponentially over the years–her words have been memorialized in the US passport and, in 2009, she was commemorated with a US postal stamp. Cooper’s writings on the centrality of Black girls and women to our larger national discourse has proved especially prescient in this moment of Black Lives Matter, Say Her Name, and the recent protests that have shaken the nation.

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The Groundbreaking Talent of Anne Wiggins Brown

Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2022-07-17 21:08Z by Steven

The Groundbreaking Talent of Anne Wiggins Brown

Amistad Research Center
New Orleans, Louisiana
2018-06-04

On September 30, 1935, soprano Anne Wiggins Brown stepped onto the stage at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. It was the much anticipated world premiere of George Gershwin’s new “folk opera,” and a big moment for the young vocalist. Far from just a lucky break, this was a major opportunity that Brown had carved out for herself, the culmination of years of work. For the past two years, she had spent many long days completing her classes as a graduate student at the Juilliard School (she had been the first African American student admitted there after auditioning at age 15), and then traveling down to meet with Gershwin and work on new material for his show. In a bold moment, the twenty-one year old had written the composer a letter after reading news of his new project. Once he heard her sing, Gershwin not only included her in his production, but in his writing process, eventually developing her character into a co-lead and a career-defining role for Brown. And thus the story of DuBose Heyward’s Porgy became known to the world as Porgy and Bess

Read the entire article here.

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The Proud Portrait of Richard T. Greener

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, United States on 2022-06-19 23:27Z by Steven

The Proud Portrait of Richard T. Greener

The Crimson
2020-09-17

Sophia S. Liang, Staff Writer

A new portrait of Richard T. Greener was unveiled at a ceremony in Annenberg Hall in 2016. By Thomas W. Franck

Greener’s rosy recollection of Harvard reflects a series of contradictions that characterized his life, both during and after college. Greener was a light-skinned Black man straddling racial divides in a segregated world. He received life-changing opportunities at a university where he struggled with loneliness and lacked faculty support. And despite his tremendous contributions in activism and public service, he remains relatively unknown to historians today.

In an 1881 speech at the Harvard Club of New York, Richard T. Greener, Class of 1870, lavished his alma mater with praise: “[Harvard] answered the rising spirit of independence and liberty by abolishing all distinctions founded upon color, blood, and rank,” he told an applauding audience. “There has been but one test for all. Ability, character, and merit — these are the sole passports to her favor.”

Such sentimental remarks may come as something of a surprise coming from the first Black graduate of Harvard College. The University, after all, had not been a friendly place to most who came before him and many who came after — nor, at times, to Greener. Indeed, the Harvard Club of Washington, D.C. would reject his own application four years later for no reason other than his race.

Greener’s rosy recollection of Harvard reflects a series of contradictions that characterized his life, both during and after college. Greener was a light-skinned Black man straddling racial divides in a segregated world. He received life-changing opportunities at a university where he struggled with loneliness and lacked faculty support. And despite his tremendous contributions in activism and public service, he remains relatively unknown to historians today…

Read the entire article here.

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My Life in the Sunshine: Searching for My Father and Discovering My Family

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2022-06-19 22:34Z by Steven

My Life in the Sunshine: Searching for My Father and Discovering My Family

Viking (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2022-06-07
320 Pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9780593295960

Nabil Ayers

A memoir about one man’s journey to connect with his musician father, ultimately redefining what family really means

Throughout his adult life, whether he was opening a Seattle record store in the ’90s or touring the world as the only non-white band member in alternative rock bands, Nabil Ayers felt the shadow and legacy of his father’s musical genius, and his race, everywhere.

In 1971, a white, Jewish, former ballerina, chose to have a child with the famous Black jazz musician Roy Ayers, fully expecting and agreeing that he would not be involved in the child’s life. In this highly original memoir, their son, Nabil Ayers, recounts a life spent living with the aftermath of that decision, and his journey to build an identity of his own despite and in spite of his father’s absence.

Growing up, Nabil only meets his father a handful of times. But Roy’s influence is strong, showing itself in Nabil’s instinctual love of music, and later, in the music industry—Nabil’s chosen career path. By turns hopeful–wanting to connect with the man who passed down his genetic predisposition for musical talent—and frustrated with Roy’s continued emotional distance, Nabil struggles with how much DNA can define a family… and a person.

Unable to fully connect with Roy, Nabil ultimately discovers the existence of several half-siblings as well as a paternal ancestor who was enslaved. Following these connections, Nabil meets and befriends the descendant of the plantation owner, which, strangely, paves the way for him to make meaningful connections with extended family he never knew existed.

Despite his father’s absence, Nabil, through sheer will and a drive to understand his roots, redefines what family truly is.

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