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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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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Chapter 8 – “Theresa” and the Early Transatlantic Mixed-Race Heroine

Posted in Books, Chapter, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2022-10-03 18:51Z by Steven

Chapter 8 – “Theresa” and the Early Transatlantic Mixed-Race Heroine

Chapter in: African American Literature in Transition, 1800–1830
Cambridge University Press
March 2021
DOI: 10.1017/9781108632003.014
pages 202-226

Brigitte Fielder, Associate Professor of U.S. Literature
University of Wisconsin, Madison

This chapter examines the publication of “Theresa” in Freedom’s Journal, a short story about women’s wartime heroism into the broader history of the Haitian Revolution. “Theresa” paints an image of mixed-race womanhood that was not insignificant for both this American venue and for a larger transatlantic context. Like the anonymously written British epistolary novel, The Woman of Colour, A Tale (1808), “Theresa” shows mixed-race women who are aligned with Black racial uplift rather than white assimilation. Moreover, both of these texts present images of mixed-race heroines who differ significantly from those of the “tragic mulatta” genre that would gain popularity during the antebellum period. Instead, “Theresa” frames its mixed-race heroines as models not only of racial solidarity but also of radical abolitionist action. In this, “Theresa” anticipates postbellum mixed-race heroines, through foregoing mixed-race women’s heterosexual union with Black men with their political action alongside them. The chapter offers an analysis of early nineteenth-century texts such as Laura Sansay’s Secret History; or, the Horrors of St. Domingo (1808) and Zelica the Creole (1820), which make the safety of white women the priority of their mixed-race characters.

Read or purchase the chapter here.

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Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Nella Larsen

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-09-07 22:37Z by Steven

Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Nella Larsen

Modern Language Association
2016-09-01
2010 pages
6 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781603292191
Paperback ISBN: 9781603292207

Edited by:

Jacquelyn Y. McLendon, Professor Emerita of English & Africana Studies; Director Emerita of Black Studies
College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia

Nella Larsen’s novels Quicksand and Passing, published at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, fell out of print and were thus little known for many years. Now widely available and taught, Quicksand and Passing challenge conventional “tragic mulatta” and “passing” narratives. In part 1, “Materials,” of Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Nella Larsen, the editor surveys the canon of Larsen’s writing, evaluates editions of her works, recommends secondary readings, and compiles a list of useful multimedia resources for teaching.

The essays in part 2, “Approaches,” aim to help students better understand attitudes toward women and race during the Harlem Renaissance, the novels’ relations to other artistic movements, and legal debates over racial identities in the early twentieth century. In so doing, contributors demonstrate how new and seasoned instructors alike might use Larsen’s novels to explore a wide range of topics—including Larsen’s short stories and letters, the relation between her writings and her biography, and the novels’ discussion of gender and sexuality.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • PART ONE: MATERIALS / Jacquelyn Y. McLendon
  • PART TWO: APPROACHES
    • Introduction / Jacquelyn Y. McLendon
    • Historical and Cultural Contexts
      • Nella Larsen’s Passing and the Literary and Legal Context of the Passing Narrative / Martha J. Cutter
      • Nella Larsen’s Modernism / Caresse John
      • Helga Crane in West Egg: Reading Quicksand and The Great Gatsby as a Case Study in Canonicity / Shealeen Meaney
      • “A Whole World of Experience and Struggle”: Teaching Literature as Cultural and Intellectual Women’s History / Lyde Sizer
      • Nightlife and Racial Learning in Quicksand / Clark Barwick
    • Fiction and the Arts
      • Sounding and Being: A Resource for Teaching Musical References and Symbolism in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand / Gayle Murchison
      • Nella Larsen and the Racial Mountain: Teaching Black Musical Aesthetics in Passing and Quicksand / Lori Harrison-Kahan
      • Nella Larsen and the Civilization of Images: Teaching Primitivism and Expressionism in Quicksand / Cristina Giorcelli
    • Identity
      • “Anything Might Happen”: Freedom and American Identity in Nella Larsen’s Passing / Beryl Satter
      • Teaching Passing as a Lesbian Text / Suzanne Raitt
      • Approaching Gender in Quicksand / Beth Widmaier Capo
      • From “My Old Man” to Race Men in Quicksand / Riché Richardson
    • In the Classroom: Methods, Courses, Settings
      • The Matter of Beginnings: Teaching the Opening Paragraphs in Quicksand and Passing / Steven B. Shively
      • Versions of Passing / John K. Young
      • The Uses of Biography / George B. Hutchinson
      • “In Some . . . Determined Way a Little Flaunting”: Teaching with Nella Larsen’s Letters / M. Giulia Fabi and Jacquelyn Y. McLendon
      • Teaching Quicksand in Denmark / Martyn Bone
      • Teaching Nella Larsen’s Passing at an Urban Community College / Zivah Perel Katz
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Survey Participants
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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Psychological Lens Reveals Racial Repression at Heart of ‘Passing’

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-09-06 02:35Z by Steven

Psychological Lens Reveals Racial Repression at Heart of ‘Passing’

University of Kansas
2022-08-31

Rick Hellman
KU News Service

LAWRENCE – While many literary critics have found Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella “Passing” to be frustratingly opaque, and others have concentrated on its themes of same-sex attraction and class consciousness, an essay by a University of Kansas professor of English finds that racial repression is the focus of the novel by analyzing it from a Freudian perspective.

Doreen Fowler said she believed that the shift to a psychological reading explains why the two main characters — Irene, who lives as a Black woman, and Clare, who passes for white — are doubled.

In an article titled “Racial Repression and Doubling in Nella Larsen’s Passing” in the latest edition of The South Atlantic Review, Fowler wrote that the main character, Irene Redfield, “works to erase signs of her black identity — but those signs of blackness return to haunt her in the form of her double, Clare. While many scholars have recognized that Irene is ambivalent about her African American iden­tity and that Clare and Irene are doubled, my original contribution is to link the two. In my reading, Clare is Irene’s uncanny double because she figures the return of Irene’s rejected desire to fully integrate with the black race.”…

Read the entire press release here.

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Afro-Brazilian Jewish Women: Female centaurs transgressing the borderlands

Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Women on 2022-09-06 02:04Z by Steven

Afro-Brazilian Jewish Women: Female centaurs transgressing the borderlands

San Diego State University
Spring 2008
148 pages

Abby Suzanne Gondek

A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Women’s Studies

Once I began my research in the synagogue in Salvador, Brazil, I met men and women of color who considered themselves Jewish, even when the rabbi and other congregants did not. I was especially interested in the stories of the Jewish women of color I met. Their passion for Judaism, desire to raise their children Jewish, and their insistence on claiming both identities – Black and Jewish – in the face of rejection from “white” Jewish communities and non-Jewish Afro-Brazilian communities, as well as their families, spoke to me deeply and I felt compelled to shift the focus of my thesis. I began to ask the question Aurora Levins Morales poses in “The Historian as Curandera,” “‘If women are assumed to be the most important people in the story, how will that change the questions we ask?’”

Because Brazil has consistently made efforts to make Jews into symbols of otherness and at the same time rhetorically valued the “mulatto” identity as a symbol of brasilidade (“Brazilianness”), Jews are seen as foreign parasites, light-skinned Blacks are portrayed as symbols of “authentic” Brazilian identity, dark-skinned Blacks are invisible, and Jews and Blacks are irreparably separated from each other. In addition, the rhetorical valuation of the “mulata” and the devaluation of the Jew, places the Black Jewish women I interviewed, who fit into the “ mulata” category because they are lighter-skinned black women, in between what is symbolically valued and devalued in Brazil, literally in the border between “us” and “them.”

Moacyr Scliar’s use of the centaur to describe Brazilian Jews’ position in the borderlands and Gloria Anzaldua’s use of the image of women “caught in the crossfire” are both transformed by the inclusion of Misty Anderson’s exploration of the transgressive meanings of the woman centaur. The Afro-Brazilian Jewish women I interviewed are spiritual, religious, sexual, and racial transgressors. They are “caught in the crossfire” between multiple communities and identities, but they assert their agency to break the barriers that surround them, to live how they want to live.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Meghan Markle, colorism and the archetype of the ‘tragic mulatto’

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2022-09-04 02:15Z by Steven

Meghan Markle, colorism and the archetype of the ‘tragic mulatto’

The Washington Post
2022-09-04

Karen Attiah, Columnist

Meghan Markle in New York on Sept. 23. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Aug. 31 marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Also killed were her Egyptian lover, Dodi Al Fayed, and their driver, who was trying to evade a horde of photo-seeking paparazzi chasing them.

Diana was White female innocence personified — “Shy Di,” who had the sympathy of many women who faced unhappy marriages inflamed by adultery and unwelcoming in-laws. As the years went on, Diana’s story became about her attempts to use both her glamour and relatability to break out of the confining box of the British royal family.

It’s probably not a coincidence, then, that Meghan Markle chose last month to launch “Archetypes,” a podcast that aims to explore the stereotypes and boxes that societies put women in.

Which led me to think about the meaning of Markle’s saga with the royal family.

In a conversation on “Archetypes” with biracial singer Mariah Carey, Markle discussed how she was made more aware of the shifting goal posts of race. “I think for us, it’s so different because we’re light-skinned,” she said. “You’re not treated as a Black woman. You’re not treated as a White woman. You sort of fit in between.”…

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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A Fable of Agency

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2022-05-21 21:45Z by Steven

A Fable of Agency

The New York Review of Books
2022-05-26

Brenda Wineapple

Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

Lumpkin’s Jail; engraving from A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary, 1895

The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail by Kristen Green. Seal, 332 pp., $30.00

Kristen Green’s The Devil’s Half Acre recounts the story of a fugitive slave jail, and the enslaved woman, Mary Lumpkin, who came to own it.

In The Allure of the Archives (1989), a gem of a book, the French historian Arlette Farge talks about unearthing, insofar as it’s possible, a past that’s not quite past—particularly in relation to the lives of women, whose histories have often been hidden, forgotten, or written over, women spoken about but whom we seldom hear speaking. Combing through the judicial archives at the Préfecture of Paris, Farge reads the sullen or angry answers that ordinary eighteenth-century Parisian women, some of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable, give to the police who have arrested them. And she knows that to understand what they say, or don’t say, we need to care and not to care: to distance ourselves with empathy while we set aside expectations and assumptions. Deciphering what’s left in the archives, Farge writes, “entails a roaming voyage through the words of others, and a search for a language that can rescue their relevance.”

Piecing together stories about women who managed the uncertainties and privations of their situations is even more difficult when the women in question have been enslaved and thus forbidden even the basic rights that an eighteenth-century Parisian laundress enjoyed. That is Kristen Green’s task in her impassioned The Devil’s Half Acre, which she calls “the untold story of how one woman liberated the South’s most notorious slave jail.”

Green is a journalist and also the author of Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County (2015), a personal account of how that Virginia county defied Brown v. Board of Education and shut down its schools for almost five years rather than integrate them. In The Devil’s Half Acre, she recovers the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman of mixed race born in 1832 who, likely by 1840, was held in bondage at Lumpkin’s Jail, a chamber of horrors located between Franklin and Broad Streets in Shockoe Bottom, the central slave-trading quarter in Richmond, Virginia

Read the entire review here.

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