The complex history of Alexander Twilight, nation’s first African American to earn a bachelor’s degree

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-02-11 00:04Z by Steven

The complex history of Alexander Twilight, nation’s first African American to earn a bachelor’s degree

USA Today
2021-02-08

Marina Affo, Reporter
Delaware News Journal, New Castle, Delaware

Though Twilight is lauded today as an African American scholar, preacher and educator, for much of his life he was marked as white on census records.

Tucked away on Franklin Street at Vermont’s Middlebury College sits a modest, red-bricked building bearing the name of Twilight Hall.

It pays homage to the first student of African descent who graduated from Middlebury in 1823. Alexander Twilight was also the first Black person to obtain a bachelor’s degree across America – a piece of history Middlebury is proud to represent.

At Northern Vermont University, there is Alexander Twilight Theater and in Boston, there is Alexander Twilight Academy, which offers year-round academic programming for middle school students from under-resourced backgrounds to prepare them for high school and college.

Though not widely know, Twilight is celebrated as an accomplished African American man whose achievements paved the way for others like him.

But consider this: Though Twilight is lauded today as an African American scholar, preacher and educator, for much of his life he was marked as white on census records…

Read the entire article here.

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Race and Authenticity: A Film Study on Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-10 17:27Z by Steven

Race and Authenticity: A Film Study on Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life

Drunk Monkeys
2020-05-18

Ilari Pass


Image © Universal Pictures

“It’s a sin to be ashamed of what you are.”
—Annie Johnson, Imitation of Life

Literature helps the reader travel inside the skin of the character—the mystery of another human being—and this understanding unsettles the reader’s received notion about the ‘other,’ a person who might be otherwise judged. The same can be applied to studying a film, allowing us to enhance our appreciation of subject matter that depicts a range of human experience by carefully looking at the artistic systems, such as cinematography, lighting, costume, and acting, that produce a rich and textured work of art. Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodramatic film Imitation of Life, which depicts the lives of four different people living in a world that is beyond their control, is a film that operates at the level of art. The first half of the film deals with a question from a feminism perspective, about what it means to be a woman living in a male-dominated society, and the second half addresses the perspective of how women of color are affected by racism. It is a story about imitating, pretending to be something that isn’t true. However, what is true is what the characters literally see—gender and race—something no one can walk away from…

Read the entire article here.

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Understanding the Legacy of Nella Larsen’s Passing

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-10 16:24Z by Steven

Understanding the Legacy of Nella Larsen’s Passing

The Mary Sue
2021-02-04

Princess Weekes, Assistant Editor

Right now on the Sundance circuit is the Rebecca Hall-directed film Passing, starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. It is an adaptation of the Harlem Renaissance classic Passing by Nella Larsen. Embedded into the text is a rich powerful narrative about the Black American experience and the lengths people go to survive in America.

Nella Larsen was both in 1890s Chicago as the daughter of a mixed-race Afro-Caribbean man and a white Danish immigrant woman. Larsen didn’t grow up with her father and in 1891 the Great Migration hasn’t happened yet, so the Black population was less than 2%. After her mother remarried, they moved to a mostly white neighborhood filled with German and Scandinavian immigrants. As a result, Larsen did not grow up in the usual world of Black Americanness. Or Blackness period…

…While it would be easy to dismiss Passing as a typical “tragical mulatto” story, I have always felt that it was more Larsen reflecting on the ultimate tragedy of those who have passed.

In A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life by Allyson Hobbs, the author explains that this is a narrative of loss. “I started to realize that writing this history of passing is really writing a history of loss,” Hobbs told NPR….

Read the article here.

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The True Story of Jess Krug, the White Professor Who Posed as Black for Years—Until It All Blew Up Last Fall

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-05 01:24Z by Steven

The True Story of Jess Krug, the White Professor Who Posed as Black for Years—Until It All Blew Up Last Fall

The Washingtonian
2021-01-27

Marisa Kashino


Photograph courtesy of YouTube

She fabricated harrowing personal backstories, peddled gross caricatures, and spoke from perspectives she had no right to claim. And nobody stopped her.

“Iam a coward.”

Jessica Krug’s confession started ricocheting across screens one brutally muggy afternoon in late-summer Washington. “For the better part of my adult life,” it began, “every move I’ve made, every relationship I’ve formed, has been rooted in the napalm toxic soil of lies.” Krug, a faculty member at George Washington University, had taken to Medium, the online forum, to reveal a stunning fabrication. Throughout her entire career in academia, the professor of African history—a white woman—had been posing as Black and Latina.

“I have thought about ending these lies many times over many years, but my cowardice was always more powerful than my ethics. I know right from wrong. I know history. I know power. I am a coward,” she wrote. “You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself.”

The statement, posted September 3, 2020, went viral immediately, unleashing a tidal wave of Oh, my Gods across the text chains of Krug’s GW colleagues and other academics. “We were all blindsided,” says GW history-department chair Daniel Schwartz. Distraught emails from Krug’s students—less than a week into a virtual semester already upended by the coronavirus pandemic—began piling up in faculty in-boxes. Meanwhile, an online mob went to work churning up old photos of Krug and tanking the Amazon ratings of her book. By the end of the day, a now-infamous video of Krug calling herself “Jess La Bombalera” and speaking in a D-list imitation Bronx accent was all over the internet….

Read the entire article here.

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‘Passing’ Stars Talk Rebecca Hall’s Directorial Debut and the Complexity of Racial identity

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-02 04:05Z by Steven

‘Passing’ Stars Talk Rebecca Hall’s Directorial Debut and the Complexity of Racial identity

Variety
2021-02-01

Angelique Jackson

Rebecca Hall’s feature directorial debut “Passing” dives into the nuance of racial identity and the complex realities of racial passing, with Variety’s Sundance review touting Hall’s work: “This radically intimate exploration of the desperately fraught concept of ‘passing’ — being Black but pretending to be white — ought to be too ambitious for a first-time filmmaker, but Hall’s touch is unerring, deceptively delicate, quiet and immaculate.”

Intimate is a particularly choice word to describe the project, as the film’s story holds personal significance for all its cast — including stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, both of whom are mixed race — but the project is particularly connected to Hall’s personal story. Hall is the daughter of famed theater director Peter Hall and legendary opera singer Maria Ewing. And though the British actor presents as white, Hall in fact comes from a mixed-race background, with a generational history of passing on her maternal grandfather’s side.

“I don’t think that I really had language for passing. It was such a difficult area of conversation in my family,” Hall recalls, explaining her personal connection to the material in conversation at the Variety Sundance Studio presented by AT&T TV, just hours ahead of the film’s Sundance premiere…

Read the article and watch the video here.

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‘Passing’ Review: Rebecca Hall’s Subtle, Provocative Directorial Debut

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-02 03:38Z by Steven

‘Passing’ Review: Rebecca Hall’s Subtle, Provocative Directorial Debut

Variety
2021-01-31

Jessica Kiang


Eduard Grau

A superbly performed study of racialized longing and feminine dissatisfaction in 1920s New York, lit by searing intelligence and compassion.

t starts in sweltering heat; it ends in freezing weather. And in between, as the temperature gradually drops, Rebecca Hall’sPassing,” based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, calmly brings the diffuse racial landscape of prohibition-era New York City into crystalline, gorgeously shot focus. This radically intimate exploration of the desperately fraught concept of “passing” — being Black but pretending to be white — ought to be too ambitious for a first-time filmmaker, but Hall’s touch is unerring, deceptively delicate, quiet and immaculate, like that final fall of snow.

On a hot summer day, Irene (Tessa Thompson) is downtown on an errand. Her visible discomfort, the way she tries to retract into herself, to hide behind the gauzy brim of a hat that cuts her eyeline in two, is a silent evocation of how uncomfortable she is under the gazes of the white people around her. This time, anyway, she is mostly projecting: No one takes much notice, nothing too alarming happens. But then suddenly, stepping into the full beam of all that projection and sometimes catching the light, there’s Clare (Ruth Negga), a childhood friend visiting from Chicago, now unrecognizably glamorous, with a perfect swoop of blonde hair and arched, lightened brows framing silent-movie-It-Girl eyes…

Read the entire review here.

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Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy [Smith Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-01-05 02:00Z by Steven

Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy [Smith Review]

The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research
Volume 50, (Winter 2020) – Issue 4: Black Girlhood
pages 86-88
DOI: 10.1080/00064246.2020.1811610

Justin Smith, Ph.D. candidate in English and African American
Pennsylvania State University

Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy, by Alisha Gaines. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. $27.95, paperback. 230 pages.

Black for a Day takes on “white-to-Black” racial passing through five readings of first-hand accounts. While it would be simple enough to bring up such examples of passing as nothing more than farces, Alisha Gaines offers a valuable genealogy of this phenomenon, seeking to view these incidents through the lens of (failed) empathy. Gaines introduces the book with a personal anecdote about how she was responsible for makeup in her majority-white school’s version of Finian’s Rainbow, and one of her jobs was to apply blackface to one of the white actors for a scene where the character magically transforms from white-to-Black. Initially, Gaines did not see a problem with doing this, but she came to see this event as revealing “profound, uncomfortable, and often contradictory assumptions about the bodies we inhabit” (3). Consequently, Gaines sets out to “(construct) a genealogy of temporary black individuals operating under the alibi of racial empathy” and borrows her definition of empathy from bell hooks’s definition of “eating the other,” which, “highlight|s| how empathy fails to bring about systemic or institutional racial change” (8).

In the first chapter, “Good Niggerhood,” Gaines examines Ray Sprigle, a journalist who went “undercover” in 1948 in an effort to document an authentic Black experience. Sprigle finds it important to go to the South since he assumes the South is where the real racism is. Gaines spends a good portion of the chapter discussing “Dixie terror”: the assumption that the South—no particular place in the South, but just the imaginary of the generalized South—is where racism resides, and that “only violence and suffering render black bodies worthy of attention” (23). Gaines pushes back on these claims, arguing that racism is not restricted by geography, and that Black life is more than just violence and suffering. Gaines has two main critiques of Sprigle. The first is that he “never learned what it meant to be a black man, and instead, he only learned how to be a ‘good nigger'” (31). The second is that “he confuses black epistemology, experience, and narrative authority with making a few new black friends” (36). She argues that Sprigle does not have any sort of authentic Black experience due to his penchant for being obsequious when in disguise, but he also speaks…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Brit Bennett – Colorism & Racial Passing in “The Vanishing Half” | The Daily Social Distancing Show

Posted in Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-12-14 04:04Z by Steven

Brit Bennett – Colorism & Racial Passing in “The Vanishing Half” | The Daily Social Distancing Show

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
2020-12-03

Brit Bennett talks about exploring the effects of colorism in Black communities and the ability to pass as white in her new novel “The Vanishing Half.”

Watch the interview here.

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Deconstructing Whiteness in “Incognegro”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-12-06 03:11Z by Steven

Deconstructing Whiteness in “Incognegro”

Interminable Rambling
2020-12-03

Matthew Teutsch, Director of the Lillian E. Smith
Piedmont College, Demorest, Georgia

Every semester, I am amazed at the connective tissue that runs through the texts I place on the syllabus and the themes that arise. No matter the class, I construct my courses around themes, all teachers do. However, when a class ends poignantly on a recurring theme, I find it a really serendipitous occasion. This semester, in my Ethnic American Literature course, we explored the ways that we, as individuals, construct our identities based on ourselves and on the ways that others view us, specifically when they place their preconceived notions upon us. We looked at this from the beginning of the semester through the end. We explored it in the ways that Manar navigates her identity in a new land in Mohja Kahf’s “Manar of Hama” to the ways that Long Vanh navigates his Afro-Asian identity in the face of the community and his own family in Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s The Land South of the Clouds.

We concluded the semester with Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro, a graphic novel that breaks down constructs of race and highlights the ways that society, especially those who want to maintain power, constructs one’s identity. Today, I want to look at a couple of moments from Incognegro and discuss how these moments add to the class’s discussions we have had throughout the course of the semester…

Read the entire article here.

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Why We Shouldn’t Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, United States on 2020-11-20 02:25Z by Steven

Why We Shouldn’t Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity

Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum
2020-11-18

Robin Dembroff, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Yale University

Dee Payton, Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

From left: Jessica Krug, Nkechi Amare Diallo (née Rachel Dolezal), Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox

Editors’ Note: This essay is the first installment in a new series, Racial Identity & Racial Fraud.

Unlike gender inequality, racial inequality primarily accumulates across generations. Transracial identification undermines collective reckoning with that injustice.

“Call me Caitlyn.” With this phrase, emblazoned on Vanity Fair’s June 2015 cover, Caitlyn Jenner revealed her transgender identity to the world. But these words were not only a revelation; they also were a demand. Most obviously, they demanded that others call Jenner by a new name. But even more importantly, they demanded that others recognize Jenner as having a certain identity: woman.

Reactions to this demand were predictable. Jenner was warmly embraced and lauded by many for her decision to—as Jenner put it—live as her “authentic self.” Transgender activist and writer Laverne Cox wrote that Jenner’s “courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly . . . [is] beyond beautiful to me.” President Barack Obama, retweeting Jenner’s announcement, praised her “courage to share [her] story.” Hundreds of thousands of others left encouraging comments on Jenner’s social media. Within these reactions, an idea repeatedly surfaced: Jenner’s demand for recognition as a woman is legitimate because Jenner is a woman…

Read the entire article here.

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