What is Racial Passing?

Posted in Economics, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2019-03-03 03:59Z by Steven

What is Racial Passing?

Digital Studios: Origin of Everything
PBS Digital Studios
Public Broadcasting Service
Season 2, Episode 13 (First Aired: 2019-02-27)

Danielle Bainbridge, Host, Writer, and Postdoctoral Fellow
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

What motivates someone to disguise their race, gender, religion, etc.? Today Danielle explores the complicated history of passing in the United States.

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New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man ed. by Noelle Morrissette (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-02-26 02:18Z by Steven

New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man ed. by Noelle Morrissette (review)

African American Review
Volume 51, Number 4, Winter 2018
pages 344-346
DOI: 10.1353/afa.2018.0049

Masami Sugimori, Associate Professor of American Literature
Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida

Ed. Noelle Morrissette. New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2017. 272 pp. $59.95.

More than a century after its initial publication in 1912, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson continues to generate commentary. The narrator’s racial passing, along with the novel’s twist of genre through “passing” for an autobiography, has led much scholarship to address the issues of race and narrative. At the same time, with the advent and development of new critical and theoretical approaches, more and more topics (pertaining to the literary climate around Johnson’s composition, the novel’s intertextuality with other works both within and outside of the era, and the sociocultural contexts of the early twentieth-century U. S., to name just a few) have arisen and enriched our inquiry. Meanwhile, the novel itself has gone through numerous editions—including, but not limited to, those published by Alfred A. Knopf (1927), New American Library (1948), Vintage (1989), Penguin Books (1990), Library of America (2004), and recently, by W. W. Norton as a Critical Edition (2015)—which attest to its increasingly canonical status in American literature. New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man—the first critical anthology devoted entirely to the novel—is a timely addition to this evolution of Johnson scholarship and readership, featuring both established and innovative strategies for analysis and interpretation.

Editor Noelle Morrissette’s Introduction defines New Perspectives as a product of the ongoing critical history of The Autobiography, on the one hand, and as an embodiment of the “futurity” that explicitly or implicitly informs the novel, on the other. While offering “new perspectives” in their respective ways, the essays in this collection attend productively to the accumulated scholarship that Morrissette surveys in terms of topical trends: Johnson’s authorial achievements and the novel’s documentary values (1960s and ’70s); its intertextuality with African American narratives (late 1970s and early ’80s); modernity, modernism, and racial identity (1990s); and transnationalism, performativity, music, and sound (since 2000). These essays also share an emphasis on the visions of the future Johnson embedded in the novel—not only as an extension of his careful assessment of the contemporary U. S., but also in his resistance to the nation’s racial regime, which denied blacks a legitimate history or a sense of teleological progression in time. Thus, Morrissette designs her anthology to conduct “a reassessment of the author’s writing and legacy and the racial futurity he called for, to which we continue to respond” (15).

These guiding principles also account for the section organization of New Perspectives, with its ten chapters and an Afterword assigned to four parts according to topical focuses. The three essays in part one, “Cultures of Reading, Cultures of Writing: Canons and Authenticity,” examine Johnson’s complex relationship with “cultural” parameters surrounding his composition: white mentor Brander Matthews’s theory of modern American fiction (Lawrence J. Oliver); the early twentieth-century African American literary scene (Michael Nowlin); and the novel’s “reliably unreliable” white readers (Jeff Karem 67). Each of these relationships consists of transactional negotiation rather than one-way influence. Through careful analysis of Johnson’s œuvre and correspondence, for example, Nowlin reveals that the author’s acute sense of African American literary destitution underlies the way he framed The Autobiography—both in its anonymous publication in 1912 and in the 1927 republication marketed as “a classic in Negro literature” (49)—which went in tandem with his strenuous promotion of other black writers to establish a legitimate and well-recognized African American literary tradition.

Part two, “Relational Tropes: Transnationalism, Futurity, and the Ex-Colored Man,” features three essays on the transnational and transhistorical potential of, and exploration in, The Autobiography. Diana Paulin compares the novel with Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood, and Daphne Lamothe does so with Teju Cole’s Open City, to reveal the “futurity” that Johnson’s work posits in the form, respectively, of…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Quiet as its Kept: Passing Subjects, Contested Identities

Posted in Forthcoming Media, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2019-02-24 03:38Z by Steven

Quiet as its Kept: Passing Subjects, Contested Identities

Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, New York
Friday, 2019-04-05 through Sunday, 2019-04-07

Passing Beyond Passing

The phrase “passing for white” first appears in advertisements for the return of runaway slaves. Abolitionist fiction later adopts the phenomenon of racial passing (together with the figure of the “white slave”) as a major literary theme. The term continued to enjoy currency in literature in the postbellum era and during the Harlem Renaissance. Today, “passing” has various manifestations and applications. Not limited to race, the term may indicate subversions of gender, sexuality, religion, ability and class, among other identity coordinates.

This conference responds to renewed interest in passing that derives from the popularity of genetic genealogy tests, sensational cases of racial fraud (i.e., Rachel Dolezal), the idea of “realness” appropriated from ball culture, racial ambiguity in a surveillance state, public fascination with celebrities like Meghan Markle, and the construction (and manipulation) of online identities (i.e., catfishing and blackfishing). Interdisciplinary perspectives on passing, miscegenation, authenticity, sexuality, kinship, and racial ambiguity in the arts, law, memory, popular culture, and the racial state are invited. Themes may include betrayal, secrecy, dissimulation, subjectivity, masquerade, visibility/invisibility, surveillance, fraud, and belonging.

At Vassar College, interest in this topic has reemerged since the publication of Karin Tanabe’s novel The Gilded Years (2016), about Anita Hemmings’ experience as the first black woman known to attend the College. In 1900, poet, novelist, lyricist Paul Laurence Dunbar modeled one of his musical characters (Parthenia Jenkins in Uncle Eph’s Christmas) after Anita Hemmings. By placing a character with Hemmings’ stature in a farce, Dunbar lampoons class / caste based distinctions. More importantly, he associates Hemmings – a racial performer celebrated for her respectability – with less-respected, equally assertive performers of race. Hemmings’s story is currently being adapted into a film, A White Lie, starring Zendaya and produced by Reese Witherspoon and Zendaya. This conference provides an opportunity to reflect on Hemmings’ experience – and those of other black women – who integrated women’s colleges.

This conference is also an occasion to rethink identity categories that have long been naturalized or taken for granted. From critical race theorists, sociologists, and social psychologists like Cheryl I. Harris, George Lipsitz, and Claude Steele to labor historians and feminist scholars such as David Roediger and Ruth Frankenberg, many intellectuals have examined whiteness as a social formation to which disparate ethnic groups (i.e., Jewish, Italian, and Irish) have assimilated. This conference (and concomitant art show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center) can facilitate careful rethinking of assumptions about identity formations and affiliations. All are welcome.

For more information, click here.

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The Arresting Eye: Race and the Anxiety of Detection

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Passing on 2019-02-23 02:57Z by Steven

The Arresting Eye: Race and the Anxiety of Detection

University of Virginia Press
May 2015
224 pages
6×9 inches
Cloth ISBN: 9780813937014
Paper ISBN: 9780813937021
Ebook ISBN: 9780813937038

Jinny Huh, Associate Professor of English
University of Vermont

In her reading of detective fiction and passing narratives from the end of the nineteenth century forward, Jinny Huh investigates anxieties about race and detection. Adopting an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, she examines the racial formations of African Americans and Asian Americans not only in detective fiction (from Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan to the works of Pauline Hopkins) but also in narratives centered on detection itself (such as Winnifred Eaton’s rhetoric of undetection in her Japanese romances). In explicating the literary depictions of race-detection anxiety, Huh demonstrates how cultural, legal, and scientific discourses across diverse racial groups were also struggling with demands for racial decipherability. Anxieties of detection and undetection, she concludes, are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent on each other’s construction and formation in American history and culture.

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Color Me In, A Novel

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Judaism, Novels, Passing, Religion, United States on 2019-02-21 02:11Z by Steven

Color Me In, A Novel

Delacorte Press (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2019-08-20
384 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525578239
eBook ISBN: 9780525578246
Audiobook ISBN: 9781984889140

Natasha Díaz

Color Me In

Debut YA author Natasha Díaz pulls from her personal experience to inform this powerful coming-of-age novel about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds.

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

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Secrets of famous 1930s ‘blonde bombshell of rhythm’ revealed with help from UW library

Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2019-02-20 21:01Z by Steven

Secrets of famous 1930s ‘blonde bombshell of rhythm’ revealed with help from UW library

UW News
University of Washington
2012-03-27

Molly McElroy

We all have things in our past that we gloss over. Some secrets might just be embarrassing or unflattering. But others may be more serious, and people who conceal these truths may fear that revealing them would undermine their livelihoods.

Such was likely the case with an Emmy-winning female bandleader who rose to fame in the 1930s and led bands until the 1960s. Known as “the blonde bombshell of rhythm,” this sex symbol hailing from Chicago had security to protect her from the men who mobbed her performances.

See why they were so enchanted:

Ina Ray Hutton, who died in 1984 at age 67, also had a secret that could have damaged her stardom. A reporter from KUOW radio, with help from the UW libraries, recently revealed the secret. It turns out that the blonde bombshell had more than hair-dye to hide…

Read the entire article here.

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Passing and the Costs and Benefits of Appropriating Blackness

Posted in Articles, Economics, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2019-02-20 19:37Z by Steven

Passing and the Costs and Benefits of Appropriating Blackness

The Review of Black Political Economy
Volume 45, Issue 2, 2018
pages 1-19
DOI: 10.1177/0034644618789182

Kristen E. Broady, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies
Kentucky State University

Curtis L. Todd, Associate Professor of Social Work
Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Atlanta, Georgia

William A. Darity, Jr., Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

The socioeconomic position of Blacks in America cannot be fully contextualized without considering the marginalization of their racialized social identities as minorities who have historically combated subjugation and oppression with respect to income, employment, homeownership, education, and political representation. It is not difficult to understand why the historical reference to “passing” primarily has been associated with Blacks who were able to—and many who did—claim to be White to secure the social, educational, political, and economic benefits that were reserved for Whites. Therefore, the majority of passing narratives have focused on Black to White passing. This article departs from the tradition in the literature by considering appropriation of various aspects of Black culture and White to Black passing. We evaluate the socioeconomic costs and benefits of being Black and inequalities in citizenship status between Blacks and Whites. Furthermore, we examine the socioeconomic and political capital of Blackness versus Whiteness in an attempt to explore the rationality of passing for Black.

Read the entire article here.

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In This Ingenious Satire, a Father Goes to Extremes to Protect His Son From Racism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-02-15 21:03Z by Steven

In This Ingenious Satire, a Father Goes to Extremes to Protect His Son From Racism

Book Review
The New York Times
2019-02-13

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah


Maurice Carlos Ruffin Clare Welsh

Maurice Carlos Ruffin, We Cast a Shadow, A Novel (New York: One World, 2019)

Good questions breathe life into the world. “We Cast a Shadow,” Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s debut novel, asks some of the most important questions fiction can ask, and it does so with energetic and acrobatic prose, hilarious wordplay and great heart.

“We Cast a Shadow” is the story of a black lawyer in a version of the American South. We are dropped into a future where the country is even more willing than now to follow its worst, most racist inclinations. The unnamed narrator describes how, in the next state over, black people must wear tracking devices.

The novel draws its power from this unnamed man’s love for his family, particularly for his biracial son, Nigel. The narrator loves his son so much it seems he can’t even see him. What he does see is the boy’s figure outlined and defined by all the lurking dangers to his person and his potential. Our narrator is especially worried because of the metastasizing birthmarks that cover his son’s body: differently sized tokens of color that remind the world that Nigel is black, a fate as unfortunate as any in the mind of his father…

Read the entire review here.

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We Cast a Shadow, A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2019-02-15 19:28Z by Steven

We Cast a Shadow, A Novel

One World (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2019-01-29
336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525509066
Ebook ISBN: 9780525509080
Audiobook ISBN: 9780525637363

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

“You can be beautiful, even more beautiful than before.” This is the seductive promise of Dr. Nzinga’s clinic, where anyone can get their lips thinned, their skin bleached, and their nose narrowed. A complete demelanization will liberate you from the confines of being born in a black body—if you can afford it.

In this near-future Southern city plagued by fenced-in ghettos and police violence, more and more residents are turning to this experimental medical procedure. Like any father, our narrator just wants the best for his son, Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is getting bigger by the day. The darker Nigel becomes, the more frightened his father feels. But how far will he go to protect his son? And will he destroy his family in the process?

This electrifying, hallucinatory novel is at once a keen satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. At its center is a father who just wants his son to thrive in a broken world. Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s work evokes the clear vision of Ralph Ellison, the dizzying menace of Franz Kafka, and the crackling prose of Vladimir Nabokov. We Cast a Shadow fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love.

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Finding Edna Ferber’s Showboat

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-02-14 01:23Z by Steven

Finding Edna Ferber’s Showboat

David Cecelski: New writing, collected essays, latest discoveries
2018-03-10

David Cecelski

Souvenir program from the world premier of the first Showboat movie in 1929. Courtesy, Beinecke Library, Yale University
Souvenir program from the world premier of the first Showboat movie in 1929. Courtesy, Beinecke Library, Yale University

I don’t know how the great American novelist, short story writer and playwright Edna Ferber heard about the little river town of Winton, N.C.

But I know she did. In a collection of her research notes that I found at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale when I was in New Haven, Conn. last summer, she scratched the following:

Winton, N.C.—The Croatans, relic of the lost Roanoke Island

settlement. Tar River. White negroes.

Winton is a no-stoplight town in Hertford County, on the Chowan River (not the Tar River), in a rural part of northeastern N.C., between the Albemarle Sound and the Great Dismal Swamp.

I was a surprised to find a reference to Winton in the notes of a New York writer like Edna Ferber.

I was also a little surprised to discover a reference to Winton in an archive like the Beinecke Library, a sleek, modern, glass-walled vault of literary and historical treasures in the heart of Yale’s campus.

So of course I had to wonder: why was Edna Ferber interested in Winton? And what did the Croatan Indians and the “lost Roanoke settlement”—the Lost Colony—have to do with anything? And last but not least, what did she mean by “white negroes”?

In today’s post, I’d like to explore those questions. By the end of considering them, I hope we will understand northeastern N.C.’s history a little better and understand where Edna Ferber found at least some of the inspiration for her most popular and enduring literary work…

Read the entire article here.

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