Mary Seacole, a Nurse and Heroine

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Videos, Women on 2019-05-22 00:46Z by Steven

Mary Seacole, a Nurse and Heroine

The History Guy: History Deserves to Be Remembered
2017-05-10

Lance Geiger, Historian
O’Fallon, Illinois

The History Guy celebrates National Nurses week with the forgotten history of Mary Seacole, who was a British nurse during the Crimean War.

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Interracial Relationships and the “Brown Baby Question”: Black GIs, White British Women, and Their Mixed-Race Offspring in World War II

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Work, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2019-05-20 19:32Z by Steven

Interracial Relationships and the “Brown Baby Question”: Black GIs, White British Women, and Their Mixed-Race Offspring in World War IIInterracial Relationships and the “Brown Baby Question”: Black GIs, White British Women, and Their Mixed-Race Offspring in World War II

Journal of the History of Sexuality
Volume 26, Number 3, September 2017
pages 424-453

Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Sergeant Lomax, an African American soldier, arrived back in Ohio at the end of the Second World War; he had been stationed in England for much of his time away. He had a confession to make to his wife, Betty. In February 1949 she recounted their exchange to the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black American newspaper: “He said: ‘I’ve been gone a long time . . . about three years . . . that’s a long time for a fellow to be away from his wife. In the meantime I met a girl. She was nice, she was friendly, and Betty, I was very lonesome, so . . . what I’m trying to say is that there’s to be a child. Betty, you don’t have to answer right away, but would you agree to take this child?’”1 The boy had been born in December 1945 and was given the same name as his father: Leon Lomax. He was put into a children’s home in Britain by his single mother. With great difficulty, Leon senior eventually managed to have his son flown out to the United States, arriving in January 1949. The Pittsburgh Courier called his arrival “the story of the year! . . . The first ‘Brown Baby’ adopted by an American couple to reach America.”2 “Brown babies” was the name that the African American press of the time gave to mixed-race children born to black American soldiers and British and European women (the vast majority of whom were white) during or soon after the Second World War.3 One African American paper, the Chicago Defender, sometimes also referred to them as “tan-yank babies.”4 To the Pittsburgh Courier “the entire ‘Brown Baby’ question is one of the most controversial subjects in this country today. It is a question that involves two great nations—the United States of America and Great Britain.”5 The nature of this “controversial subject”—the “‘Brown Baby’ question”—is the focus of this article.

The British “brown babies” were the result of relationships formed between British women and African American troops stationed in Britain from 1942 in preparation for an invasion of France. From the beginning there was concern in official circles about the consequences of the presence of black GIs. Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, for example, was anxious that “the procreation of half-caste children” would create “a difficult social problem.”6 He and others in the War Cabinet would have preferred that no black GIs be sent at all. However, black troops did indeed arrive, following the Pentagon’s policy that the percentage of black American troops in every theater of war should reflect their percentage in the United States as a whole, namely, 10 percent of the population.7 By the end of the war, of the nearly three million US soldiers who had passed through Britain, up to three hundred thousand were African American.8

Unlike the British government, British civilians largely reacted positively to the presence of black GIs. A report from the Home Intelligence Unit (an organization set up in 1940 to monitor morale) noted the numerous references to “the extremely pleasing manners of the coloured troops.”9 Many may have agreed with the response of a West Country farmer when asked about the GIs: “I love the Americans, but I don’t like these white ones they’ve brought with them.”10 Historian Graham Smith suggests that one of the reasons the black GIs were seen as better mannered was that while the white GIs constantly complained about Britain’s lack of modern conveniences—no refrigerators, no central heating, few cars—most of the black GIs were not used to such luxuries at home and thus did not have reason to find fault.11 However, British attitudes were frequently condescending and informed by negative stereotypes. For example, the June 1943 Home Intelligence report “British Public Feeling about America,” which drew together some of the remarks people had made over the past year and a half, noted (without…

Read or purchase the article here.

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The ‘Brown Babies’ who were left behind

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Social Work, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2019-05-20 16:37Z by Steven

The ‘Brown Babies’ who were left behind

BBC News
2019-05-17

Charlie Jones

children in a children's home
Many of the babies were put in children’s homes, such as Holnicote House in Somerset
Leslie York

When Babs Gibson-Ward was born in 1944, her mother’s navy officer husband did not question whether he was her father.

“He honestly believed I was his child, I think because my complexion at that time was very fair. It took six months for it to change,” she said.

She was one of 2,000 mixed race babies born to white British women and black American GIs during World War Two.

The children were dubbed “Brown Babies” by the media and many had troubled childhoods.

When Mrs Gibson-Ward’s skin darkened, her mother’s lie was revealed – her real father was a black US Airforce engineer…

…”Many British people had never seen a black person before. They were charming and less arrogant than the white officers.

“They met women at dance halls or pubs, on evenings which were designated ‘blacks only’,” Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History at Anglia Ruskin University, said.

But relationships were forbidden and their children were often kept secret. Most had never shared their stories until Prof Bland found 45 of them for her book, titled Britain’s Brown Babies

Read the entire article here.

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A Conversation With Adele Logan Alexander

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Passing, United States, Women on 2019-05-20 15:30Z by Steven

A Conversation With Adele Logan Alexander

Yale University Press
Fall/Winter 2019
page 18


Photo by Jossyan Musumeci.

What was your inspiration for writing this book [Princess of the Hither Isles: A Black Suffragist’s Story from the Jim Crow South]?

Since I was named for her, Adella Hunt Logan has intrigued and inspired me for decades, but she was always a mystery presence in my life. I only learned as an adult that she’d been a fierce suffrage advocate. Admirable, I thought, since my mother, my aunts, and I were also African American feminists.

How do you perceive Adella’s racial heritage?

Adella was a black woman who looked white, but I don’t believe that she felt ambiguous or hesitant about her identity as an African American. Virtually all of Adella’s male progenitors were white. Sometimes those relationships were coercive, but not always. Her maternal grandmother, whom I portray as the most important influence on her early life, was black, white, and Cherokee.

How did Adella’s racial ambiguity impact her life in the Jim Crow South?

She deliberately or inadvertently “passed” as white on many occasions, primarily to obtain medical care or to attend all-white, segregated suffrage conventions. Mostly her goal in “passing” was to learn and to bring back what she learned to her own African American community.

What sources did you use to reconstruct Adella’s story?

Years ago, I wrote about some of the rare free women of color in the Old South. At that time, I accessed myriad traditional sources—maps; school, church, and census records; letters; previous scholarship, and the like—but for this book, I’ve also tapped into the passions, lore, traditions, and memorabilia that I inherited, especially through oral history.

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Sugarwork: The Gastropoetics of Afro-Asia After the Plantation

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2019-05-19 00:18Z by Steven

Sugarwork: The Gastropoetics of Afro-Asia After the Plantation

Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas
Volume 5: Issue 1-2 (2019-04-11) Special Issue: Expressions of Asian Caribbeanness edited by Andil Gosine, Sean Metzger, and Patricia Mohammed
DOI: 10.1163/23523085-00501003

Tao Leigh Goffe, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies; Assistant Professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Cover Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas

The politics and the poetics of sugar and its production have long connected African and Asian diasporas as the material legacy of the Caribbean plantation. This article considers the repurposing of sugar as art and the aesthetic of artists of Afro-Chinese descent, Andrea Chung and Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons. Part of a diasporic tradition of employing sugar as a medium that I call sugarwork, their artwork evokes the colonial entanglements of nutrition and labour on the plantation, centered in the belly. The womb makes, and the stomach unmakes. This practice, employing the materiality of foodstuffs, is part of a gastropoetics, wherein centering the sensorium opens alternative forms of knowledge production to the European colonial archive. As the descendants of enslaved Africans and indentured Chinese, Campos-Pons and Chung metabolize sugar in ways that grapple with the futurity of the plantation to form a new intertwined genealogy of black and Chinese womanhood.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Thousands of mixed-race British babies were born in World War II – and adoption by their black American fathers was blocked

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Work, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2019-05-18 23:41Z by Steven

Thousands of mixed-race British babies were born in World War II – and adoption by their black American fathers was blocked

The Conversation
2019-05-16

Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge


Outside Holnicote House children’s home, Somerset. ©Lesley York

Around 2.2% of the population of England and Wales is now mixed race and 3.3% are from black ethnic groups. During World War II, over 70 years ago, these figures were far lower. And so unsurprisingly, life was difficult for the 2,000 or so mixed race babies who were born in World War II to black American GIs and white British women.

They grew up in predominately white localities and experienced significant racism. I have interviewed 45 of these children (now in their seventies), hailing from all over England. Their story of institutional racism rivals the horrors of the appalling story of the Windrush generation.

Of the 3m US servicemen that passed through Britain in the period 1942-45, approximately 8% were African-American. The GIs were part of a segregated army and they brought their segregation polices with them, designating towns near to American bases “black” or “white” and segregating pubs and dances along colour lines, with dances held for black GIs one evening and whites the next.

Inevitably, relationships formed between the black GIs and local women and some resulted in what the African-American press referred to as “brown babies”. All these children were born illegitimate because the American white commanding officers refused black GIs permission to marry, the rationale being that back in the US, 30 of the then 48 states had anti-miscegenation laws.

The children grew up in predominately white areas – the sites where the GIs had been largely based: south and south-west England, south Wales, East Anglia and Lancashire, where they had little or no black or mixed race role models. Most suffered racism, the stigma of illegitimacy and a confused identity…

Read the entire article here.

Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2019-05-18 23:29Z by Steven

Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means

The New Yorker
2019-05-13

John Jeremiah Sullivan


Giddens plays and records what she describes as “black non-black music,” reviving a forgotten history. Photograph by Paola Kudacki for The New Yorker

The roots musician is inspired by the evolving legacy of the black string band.

To grasp the significance of what the twenty-first-century folksinger Rhiannon Giddens has been attempting, it is necessary to know about another North Carolina musician, Frank Johnson, who was born almost two hundred years before she was. He was the most important African-American musician of the nineteenth century, but he has been almost entirely forgotten. Never mind a Wikipedia page—he does not even earn a footnote in sourcebooks on early black music. And yet, after excavating the records of his career—from old newspapers, diaries, travelogues, memoirs, letters—and after reckoning with the scope of his influence, one struggles to come up with a plausible rival.

There are several possible reasons for Johnson’s astonishing obscurity. One may be that, on the few occasions when late-twentieth-century scholars mentioned him, he was almost always misidentified as a white man, despite the fact that he had dark-brown skin and was born enslaved. It may have been impossible, and forgivably so, for academics to believe that a black man could have achieved the level of fame and success in the antebellum slave-holding South that Johnson had. There was also a doppelgänger for scholars to contend with: in the North, there lived, around the same time, a musician named Francis Johnson, often called Frank, who is remembered as the first black musician to have his original compositions published. Some historians, encountering mentions of the Southern Frank, undoubtedly assumed that they were merely catching the Northern one on some unrecorded tour and turned away.

There is also the racial history of the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, where Johnson enjoyed his greatest fame. In 1898, a racial massacre in Wilmington, and a subsequent exodus of its black citizens, not only knocked loose the foundations of a rising black middle class but also came close to obliterating the deep cultural memory of what had been among the most important black towns in the country for more than a century. The people who might have remembered Johnson best, not just as a musician but as a man, were themselves violently unremembered.

A final explanation for Johnson’s absence from the historical record may be the most significant. It involves not his reputation but that of the music he played, with which he became literally synonymous—more than one generation of Southerners would refer to popular dance music simply as “old Frank Johnson music.” And yet, in the course of the twentieth century, the cluster of styles in which Johnson specialized––namely, string band, square dance, hoedown––came to be associated with the folk music of the white South and even, by a bizarre warping of American cultural memory, with white racial purity. In the nineteen-twenties, the auto magnate Henry Ford started proselytizing (successfully) for a square-dancing revival precisely because the music that accompanied it was not black. Had he known the deeper history of square dancing, he might have fainted…

…Giddens’s father, David, who is white, taught music and then worked in computer software for most of his career. “As a teacher, he got all of the hardened kids,” she said, meaning behaviorally challenged students. He met Rhiannon’s mother, Deborah Jamieson, when they were both students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Theirs was a rare interracial marriage in a city where, cultural diversity aside, the Klan murdered five civil-rights activists in 1979. Rhiannon’s parents divorced when she was a baby, around the time that her mother came out as a lesbian…

…Giddens talks about her “black granny” and her “white granny.” At one point, her black grandfather and her white grandmother were both working at the Lorillard Tobacco factory in Greensboro. Once, when her white granny needed help with her taxes, she went to Giddens’s black grandfather to get it. But Giddens dismissed the idea that her life was defined by a two-sidedness. “It’s the South, isn’t it?” she said. “The point is that they are different—but the same.”…

…The prospect of gaining a wider, and blacker, audience is, one imagines, always an option for Giddens, who could, if she really wanted to, cut a pop record and presumably ascend to a higher sales bracket. But she has been unwilling to compromise her quest, which is, in part, to remind people that the music she plays is black music. In 2017, she received a MacArthur “genius” grant, a validation that has reinforced her tendency to stick to her instincts. “You do what you’re given,” she told me on the phone recently. “I’m not gonna force something or fake something to try to get more black people at my shows. I’m not gonna do some big hip-hop crossover.” She paused, and remembered that she is about to do a hip-hop crossover, with her nephew Justin, a.k.a. Demeanor, a rapper who also plays the banjo. “Well,” she said, laughing, “not unless I can find a way to make it authentic.” She told me that she does not really like hip-hop. This threw me into the comical position of trying to sell her on the genre. “The stuff I like is the protest music,” she said. “I like Queen Latifah. But the over-all doesn’t speak to me. I’m not an urban black person. I’m a country black person.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Britain’s ‘brown babies’: The stories of children born to black GIs and white women in the Second World War

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Work, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2019-05-18 19:39Z by Steven

Britain’s ‘brown babies’: The stories of children born to black GIs and white women in the Second World War

Manchester University Press
May 2019
288 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-5261-3326-7
eBook ISBN: 978-1-5261-3327-4

Lucy Bland, Professor of Social and Cultural History
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Britain’s ‘brown babies’

  • Provides a fascinating but little-known story of the 2,000 illegitimate children born to black GIs and British women in World War II – one consequence of the war missing from the history books
  • Gives personalised accounts from mixed-race people born in a (then) very white Britain before the 1948 arrival of the Windrush, charting the racism, stigma and acute sense of difference
  • Illuminates the difficulties facing mixed-race, illegitimate children in what was then, in the 1940s and early ’50s, a very white Britain
  • Makes an important contribution to the history of British mixed-race people
  • 50 black and white illustrations

This book recounts a little-known history of the estimated 2,000 babies born to black GIs and white British women in the second world war. The African-American press named these children ‘brown babies‘; the British called them ‘half-castes‘. Black GIs, in this segregated army, were forbidden to marry their white girl-friends. Nearly half of the children were given up to children’s homes but few were adopted, thought ‘too hard to place’. There has been minimal study of these children and the difficulties they faced, such as racism in a (then) very white Britain, lack of family or a clear identity. The book will present the stories of over fifty of these children, their stories contextualised in terms of government policy and attitudes of the time. Accessibly written, with stories both heart-breaking and uplifting, the book is illustrated throughout with photographs.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. British women meet black GIs
  • 2. Keeping the ‘brown babies’
  • 3. ‘Brown babies’ relinquished: experiences of children’s homes
  • 4. Adoption, fostering and attempts to send the babies to the US
  • 5. Secrets and lies: searching for mothers and fathers
  • 6. After the war and beyond
  • Appendix: the case study ‘brown babies’
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Red Bone Woman, A Novel

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, Women on 2019-05-13 22:31Z by Steven

Red Bone Woman, A Novel

John Day Company
1950
314 pages

Carlyle Tillery (1904-1988)

The Stark Novel Of A Swamp Girl And A Lonely White Man — Carries The Wallop Of Faulkner And The Skills Of Caldwell

Literary Guidepost

Corsicana Daily Sun
Corsicana, Texas
page 18, column 2
Thursday, 1950-04-06

W. G. Rogers

Red Bone Woman, by Carlyle Tillery (John Day; $3.)

Son George packs up and goes off to a city job: daughter Molly is already married to Bill; wife Rose has died. That leaves Mr. Randall all by himself on the big Randall place in Louisiana, with a lot of his land exhausted, too much stock for one fellow to tend to and too many acres to plant.

A man can go from lonesome to shiftless to worse, or he can figure, as Mr. Randall does, that he isn’t finished just because he’s abandoned, and that if the first family he raised has left him, there’s time to raise a second.

For he isn’t so old, and he gets to thinking about the barefoot Red Bone girl down the road a piece. She is Temple Hamper, who stands day after day fishing in the creek near where he hoes. White women would rather live in the city, he has discovered; anyway, he isn’t young enough nor well enough off for a white woman. So though he knows how some folks in his neighborhood feel about the Red Bones, or Spanish white as they call themselves, he ups and asks Temple how she’d like to live in the big house with him.

She would, she says. After they settle down to the daily chores in the fields together, after he becomes used to her ways about his home, ho decides, though it seems unnecessary to her, to marry her. That’s pretty hard for George to take, and Molly won’t take it at all. These Red Bones, with skin darker than whites’ and lighter than negroes’, are almost illiterate. Temple, and Randall, too, are not educated enough to philosophize about race relations: they just solve them, for after all, they are intelligent. A determined couple, they make a happy life for themselves, a life so happy it is worth fighting for when a white-sheeted gang threatens it.

They are a rare couple, too, simple and honest, trying doggedly to master their personal and social problems. Sharing in their delights and appalled at their tragedy, the reader will remember them with a lasting affection. Tillery is a name to add to the large list of distinguished southern writers.

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Kiss Me Someone

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Women on 2019-05-04 01:11Z by Steven

Kiss Me Someone

Tin House Books
2017-09-12
288 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-941040-75-1
eBook ISBN: 978-1-941040-76-8

Karen Shepard

From the author of The Celestials, a collection of stories that will appeal to readers of Lucia Berlin, Mary Gaitskill, and Mia Alvar.

Bold and unapologetic, Karen Shepard’s Kiss Me Someone is inhabited by women who walk the line between various states: adolescence and adulthood, stability and uncertainty, selfishness and compassion. They navigate the obstacles that come with mixed-race identity and instabilities in social class, and they use their liminal positions to leverage power. They employ rage and tenderness and logic and sex, but for all of their rationality they’re drawn to self-destructive behavior. Shepard’s stories explore what we do to lessen our burdens of sadness and isolation; her characters, fiercely true to themselves, are caught between their desire to move beyond their isolation and a fear that it’s exactly where they belong.

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