Who’s Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

Posted in Africa, Books, Europe, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery on 2022-01-24 02:03Z by Steven

Who’s Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

Harvard University Press
2022-03-22
320 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
21 photos, 1 table
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674244269

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alfonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor; Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Andrew S. Curran, William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities
Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut

The first translation and publication of sixteen submissions to the notorious eighteenth-century Bordeaux essay contest on the cause of “black” skin—an indispensable chronicle of the rise of scientifically based, anti-Black racism.

In 1739 Bordeaux’s Royal Academy of Sciences announced a contest for the best essay on the sources of “blackness.” What is the physical cause of blackness and African hair, and what is the cause of Black degeneration, the contest announcement asked. Sixteen essays, written in French and Latin, were ultimately dispatched from all over Europe. The authors ranged from naturalists to physicians, theologians to amateur savants. Documented on each page are European ideas about who is Black and why.

Looming behind these essays is the fact that some four million Africans had been kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic by the time the contest was announced. The essays themselves represent a broad range of opinions. Some affirm that Africans had fallen from God’s grace; others that blackness had resulted from a brutal climate; still others emphasized the anatomical specificity of Africans. All the submissions nonetheless circulate around a common theme: the search for a scientific understanding of the new concept of race. More important, they provide an indispensable record of the Enlightenment-era thinking that normalized the sale and enslavement of Black human beings.

These never previously published documents survived the centuries tucked away in Bordeaux’s municipal library. Translated into English and accompanied by a detailed introduction and headnotes written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Andrew Curran, each essay included in this volume lays bare the origins of anti-Black racism and colorism in the West.

Table of Contents

  • Preface: Who’s Black and Why?
  • Note on the Translations
  • I
    • Introduction: The 1741 Contest on the “Degeneration” of Black Skin and Hair
    • 1. Blackness through the Power of God
    • 2. Blackness through the Soul of the Father
    • 3. Blackness through the Maternal Imagination
    • 4. Blackness as a Moral Defect
    • 5. Blackness as a Result of the Torrid Zone
    • 6. Blackness as a Result of Divine Providence
    • 7. Blackness as a Result of Heat and Humidity
    • 8. Blackness as a Reversible Accident
    • 9. Blackness as a Result of Hot Air and Darkened Blood
    • 10. Blackness as a Result of a Darkened Humor
    • 11. Blackness as a Result of Blood Flow
    • 12. Blackness as an Extension of Optical Theory
    • 13. Blackness as a Result of an Original Sickness
    • 14. Blackness Degenerated
    • 15. Blackness Classified
    • 16. Blackness Dissected
  • II
    • Introduction: The 1772 Contest on “Preserving” Negroes
    • 1. A Slave Ship Surgeon on the Crossing
    • 2. A Parisian Humanitarian on the Slave Trade
    • 3. Louis Alphonse, Bordeaux Apothecary, on the Crossing
  • Select Chronology of the Representation of Africans and Race
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Credits
  • Index
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Racial Passing off the Record: A Journey in Reconnection and Navigating Shifting Identities

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-01-20 21:06Z by Steven

Racial Passing off the Record: A Journey in Reconnection and Navigating Shifting Identities

Genealogy
Volume 6, Issue 1 (March 2022)
Published online 2022-01-18
8 pages
DOI: 10.3390/genealogy6010008

Gabby C. Womack, Reference/Access Services Associate, McQuade Library
Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts

Anyone of African descent or with African ancestry who engages in a genealogy project soon learns that the U.S. Census is a helpful yet frustrating tool. In 2016, equipped with my history degree and an online ancestry search engine, I searched for my great-grandfather Leroy in census records after I saw a picture of him as a young man at work in Philadelphia. This image would have been unremarkable had it not been for the fact that my African American ancestor was so light skinned that he seemed to blend in with his co-workers at Kramer’s Fruit and Vegetables. I thought there had to be a story behind this. Classified as, “Mu”, for mulatto in most of his records, Leroy became “Black” on the census in 1930. My first thought was to question whether this categorization changed for other folks like him. My research led me to my master’s thesis “From ‘Mulatto’ to ‘Negro’: How Fears of ‘Passing’ Changed the 1930 United States Census”. Through this research, I also became closer to my father’s family. This piece will take you through this journey of discovery and my frustrations along the way.

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Unsung hero: As a pioneering attorney and judge, Elreta Alexander-Ralston left indelible mark on civil rights, criminal justice reform

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2022-01-20 19:21Z by Steven

Unsung hero: As a pioneering attorney and judge, Elreta Alexander-Ralston left indelible mark on civil rights, criminal justice reform

The News & Record
Greensboro, North Carolina
2021-12-19

Nancy McLaughlin

Historian and UNCG professor Virginia Summey’s biography of Elreta Melton Alexander-Ralston goes back to the history-making judge’s childhood, including her years at Dudley High School and N.C. A&T.
News & Record archives

GREENSBORO — Former attorney and District Court Judge Elreta Alexander-Ralston was known for the sheer force of her personality and style.

Outspoken. Flamboyant. Fierce. Unforgettable. Bold. She had an air of authority about her that left no doubt who was in charge.

And oh the stories, said historian and UNCG fellow Virginia Summey, the author of a new biography of the history-making judge.

“I can’t imagine I will have as much fun on another book,” Summey said.

Summey was watching an oral-history interview with Alexander-Ralston when she heard the judge say she hired legendary attorney F. Lee Bailey to defend her over a judicial complaint.

“She would say something in her oral history and I could say, that could not be true,” Summey said. “But it was.”

With Bailey, it was the drama of her driving to Massachusetts and showing up at his front door, Summey said.

“I called him right before he died and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, Elreta…,” Summey said, of the story he would go on to tell about her hiring him.

The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism within the Courts” is available through pre-order from the University of Georgia Press and includes her years at Dudley High School and N.C. A&T. Alexander-Ralston built her legal reputation as Elreta Alexander.

Alexander-Ralston died in 1998 and is remembered for an unusual career pioneering legal reform among an impressive list of firsts, including the first Black woman in the nation to sit on the bench who was elected by voters…

Read the entire article here.

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The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2022-01-20 02:29Z by Steven

The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Seal Press (an imprint of Basic Books)
2022-04-12
352 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781541675636
eBook ISBN-13: 9781541675629
Audiobook ISBN-13: 9781549193354

Kristen Green

The inspiring true story of an enslaved woman who liberated an infamous slave jail and transformed it into one of the nation’s first HBCUs

In The Devil’s Half Acre, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Green draws on years of research to tell the extraordinary and little-known story of young Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who blazed a path of liberation for thousands. She was forced to have the children of a brutal slave trader and live on the premises of his slave jail, known as the “Devil’s Half Acre.” When she inherited the jail after the death of her slaveholder, she transformed it into “God’s Half Acre,” a school where Black men could fulfill their dreams. It still exists today as Virginia Union University, one of America’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

A sweeping narrative of a life in the margins of the American slave trade, The Devil’s Half Acre brings Mary Lumpkin into the light. This is the story of the resilience of a woman on the path to freedom, her historic contributions, and her enduring legacy.

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An American Color: Race and Identity in New Orleans and the Atlantic World

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2022-01-20 02:28Z by Steven

An American Color: Race and Identity in New Orleans and the Atlantic World

University of Georgia Press
2022-01-15
272 pages
Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in
Hardcover ISBN: 9-780-8203-6076-8
Paperback ISBN: 9-780-8203-6078-2

Andrew N. Wegmann, Associate Professor of History
Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi

For decades, scholars have conceived of the coastal city of New Orleans as a remarkable outlier, an exception to nearly every “rule” of accepted U.S. historiography. American only by adoption, New Orleans, in most studies, serves as a frontier town of the circum-Caribbean-a vestige of North America’s European colonial era along the southern coast of a foreign, northern, insular United States. Beneath that, too, many have argued, a complex algorithm of racial mixtures was at work well into the nineteenth century, a complexity of racial understanding and treatment that almost every scholar to date has claimed simply did not exist within the more “American” states further north and outside the bounds of the Caribbean’s bizarre socioracial influence.

The reality, as An American Color explains, is that on the surface, New Orleans did have a racial and social system that confounded the more prudent and established black-white binary at work in the social rhetoric of the British-descended states further north. But this was not unique, especially within the United States. As Andrew N. Wegmann argues, New Orleans is representative of a place with different words for the same practices found throughout the North American continent and the Atlantic world. From New Orleans to Charleston and Richmond, the social construction of race remained constant and Atlantic in nature, predicated on a complex, socially infused, multitier system of prescribed racial value that challenged and sometimes abandoned preordained definitions of “black” and “white” for an assortment of fluid but meaningful designations in between. New Orleans is thus an entry point for the study of color in an Atlantic United States.

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Black Indians and Freedmen: The African Methodist Episcopal Church and Indigenous Americans, 1816-1916

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, United States on 2022-01-20 02:27Z by Steven

Black Indians and Freedmen: The African Methodist Episcopal Church and Indigenous Americans, 1816-1916

University of Illinois Press
December 2021
256 pages
6 black & white photographs, 2 maps, 3 tables
6 x 9 in.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-04421-2
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-08625-0

Christina Dickerson-Cousin, Assistant Professor of History
Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut

The union of Native Americans and a black church institution

Often seen as ethnically monolithic, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in fact successfully pursued evangelism among diverse communities of indigenous peoples and Black Indians. Christina Dickerson-Cousin tells the little-known story of the AME Church’s work in Indian Territory, where African Methodists engaged with people from the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles) and Black Indians with various ethnic backgrounds. These converts proved receptive to the historically black church due to its traditions of self-government and resistance to white hegemony, and its strong support of their interests. The ministers, guided by the vision of a racially and ethnically inclusive Methodist institution, believed their denomination the best option for the marginalized people. Dickerson-Cousin also argues that the religious opportunities opened up by the AME Church throughout the West provided another impetus for black migration.

Insightful and richly detailed, Black Indians and Freedmen illuminates how faith and empathy encouraged the unique interactions between two peoples.

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The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism within the Courts

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Law, Monographs, United States, Women on 2022-01-19 03:08Z by Steven

The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism within the Courts

University of Georgia Press
2022-05-01
224 pages
Illustrations: 11 b&w
Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in
Hardcover ISBN: 9-780-8203-6192-5
Paperback ISBN: 9-780-8203-6193-2

Virginia L. Summey, Historian, Author, and Faculty Fellow
Lloyd International Honors College, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

This book explores the life and contributions of groundbreaking attorney, Elreta Melton Alexander Ralston (1919-98). In 1945 Alexander became the first African American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School. In 1947 she was the first African American woman to practice law in the state of North Carolina, and in 1968 she became the first African American woman to become an elected district court judge. Despite her accomplishments, Alexander is little known to scholars outside of her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. Her life and career deserve recognition, however, not just because of her impressive lists of “firsts,” but also owing to her accomplishments during the civil rights movement in the U.S. South.

While Alexander did not actively participate in civil rights marches and demonstrations, she used her professional achievements and middle-class status to advocate for individuals who lacked a voice in the southern legal system. Virginia L. Summey argues that Alexander was integral to the civil rights movement in North Carolina as she, and women like her, worked to change discriminatory laws while opening professional doors for other minority women. Using her professional status, Alexander combatted segregation by demonstrating that Black women were worthy and capable of achieving careers alongside white men, thereby creating environments in which other African Americans could succeed. Her legal expertise and ability to reach across racial boundaries made her an important figure in Greensboro history.

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Passing for Racial Democracy

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-01-19 03:00Z by Steven

Passing for Racial Democracy

The Baffler
2021-12-06

Stephanie Reist

Detail from A Redenção de Cam (Redemption of Ham), Modesto Brocos, 1895. | Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

The complexities of the color line in the U.S. and Brazil

A CENTRAL POINT OF TENSION between Irene Redfield (played by Tessa Thompson) and her husband Dr. Brian Redfield (André Holland) in Rebecca Hall’s Passing, based on the Nella Larsen novel of the same name, is whether their family should remain in the United States. While Irene can pass for white out of convenience, the same is not true of her darker sons and her husband, who routinely informs his children about lynchings and white violence. Irene disapproves of this talk, despite her work for the Negro Welfare League. In one pivotal scene, she drives her tired husband home after a long day of visiting patients, and the couple discuss going to South America, specifically mentioning Brazil. The issue returns when the couple fights over the consuming role that Clare (Ruth Negga)—who has chosen to pass as white to the point of marrying a bigoted white husband and having a daughter with him—exerts in their lives and marriage.

In Larsen’s novel, Brian’s longing for Brazil, which becomes conflated with what Irene perceives as his desire for the effervescent, delightfully dangerous Clare, is even more pronounced: Brazil is the one that got away, Brian’s lost hope for a society where he and other black members of the talented tenth could be judged by their merits, not lynched because they failed to stay in their place. Irene even implicitly sanctions an affair between her husband and Clare to assuage her guilt for denying her family the chance to be truly “happy, or free, or safe”—a state she laments as impossible when speaking to Clare about her choice not to pass…

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Arise Africa, Roar China: Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-01-19 02:15Z by Steven

Arise Africa, Roar China: Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century

University of North Carolina Press
December 2021
408 pages
49 halftones, notes, bibl., index
6.125 x 9.25
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6460-6
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6461-3

Yunxiang Gao, Professor of history
Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This book explores the close relationships between three of the most famous twentieth-century African Americans, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes, and their little-known Chinese allies during World War II and the Cold War—journalist, musician, and Christian activist Liu Liangmo, and Sino-Caribbean dancer-choreographer Sylvia Si-lan Chen. Charting a new path in the study of Sino-American relations, Gao Yunxiang foregrounds African Americans, combining the study of Black internationalism and the experiences of Chinese Americans with a transpacific narrative and an understanding of the global remaking of China’s modern popular culture and politics. Gao reveals earlier and more widespread interactions between Chinese and African American leftists than accounts of the familiar alliance between the Black radicals and the Maoist Chinese would have us believe. The book’s multilingual approach draws from massive yet rarely used archival streams in China and in Chinatowns and elsewhere in the United States. These materials allow Gao to retell the well-known stories of Du Bois, Robeson, and Hughes alongside the sagas of Liu and Chen in a work that will transform and redefine Afro-Asia studies.

Table of Contents

  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Africa, Arise! Face the Rising Sun! W. E. B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois
  • 2. Arise! Ye Who Refuse to Be Bond Slaves! Paul Robeson, “the Black King of Songs”
  • 3. Transpacific Mass Singing, Journalism, and Christian Activism: Liu Liangmo
  • 4. Choreographing Ethnicity, War, and Revolution around the Globe: Sylvia Si-lan Chen Leyda
  • 5. Roar, China! Langston Hughes, Poet Laureate of the Negro Race
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Black Americans on the Way to Sainthood: Henriette Delille

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States, Women on 2022-01-18 02:32Z by Steven

Black Americans on the Way to Sainthood: Henriette Delille

St. Charles Borromeo Church
Brooklyn, New York
2021-02-13

Josephine Dongbang

Henriette Delille, (1812-1862), founder of Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“For the love of Jesus Christ, she had become the humble and devout servant of the slaves.”

Henriette Delille was born in 1812 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a loving Catholic family. While Henriette was born a free woman, she was descended from an enslaved African woman and white slave owner. Thus, following the tradition of the females in her family, she was groomed to form a monogamous relationship with wealthy white men under the plaçage system. She was trained in French literature, music, and dance, and expected to attend balls to meet men who would enter into such civil unions. Most of these agreements often ended up with the men later marrying white women in “official” marriages and/or abandoning their promises of support for the women and their mixed-race children. As a devout Catholic, Henriette opposed such system, believing it went against the Catholic sacrament of marriage…

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