The One Drop Rule: How Black Are You?

Posted in Articles, Arts, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-03-01 22:18Z by Steven

The One Drop Rule: How Black Are You?

Crème Magazine

Jessica Thorpe

Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!”  The James Brown classic shed light on the revolution of how descendants of the African Diaspora would begin to self-identify.  Replacing racial identification terms such as “negro” and “colored,” the use of the word “Black” was another step in the direction of breaking the chains of the oppression and injustice that plagued the African American for centuries.

Today, the term “Black” is commonly used to identify African descendants across America and other countries alike.

But what is it to be Black?  How do the descendents of Africa define “Blackness?”  How do we as African Americans visualize a Black person?…

…In recognition of such issues, Yaba Blay, PhD, visiting Assistant Professor of African Studies at Lafayette College, and renowned photographer, Noelle Théard, have collaborated on a multi-tiered media project (1)ne Drop, to open the discussion on the “other” faces of Blackness.  Using the “one drop rule” as a reference, however not affirming or confirming its historical implications, the project will challenge the narrow yet commonplace perceptions of Blackness through a series of essays, personal insights, one-on-one conversations and video interviews with individuals who are not typically embraced as Black within our society.

“This project opens the conversation about the ways in which skin color politics works for people with lighter complexion.  It’s not just about the complexion, but rather the interplay between complexion and physical appearance with racial identity,” explains Yaba Blay, PhD.

A New Orleans native, Blay’s impetus for starting such a venture spun from personal experience.  Growing up in a society with an undertone of racial consciousness, and a high population of Creoles and Mulattoes, Yaba had a heightened sense of racial politics within the Black community and the underlying sensitivities regarding skin color and racial identity…

…“As a professor, I teach my students about the concept of the Diaspora and that there are Black people of African descent all over the globe.  However, I guess there was some sort of separation for me between the theory and the practice.  As I was sitting on the panel, and Rosa [Clemente] was identifying as an African woman, I was thinking ‘but you’re Latina,’ and I was taken aback and fascinated by the concept that somebody who has the option to be something else, chose to identify as Black.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Interracial marriages deserve equal respect

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-03-01 20:48Z by Steven

Interracial marriages deserve equal respect

The Daily Gamecock
University of South Carolina

Lauren Stefan

Intolerance within certain racial groups inhibits progress, increases divorce rates

Figures released in February reveal that the number of interracial marriages in America has increased in recent years. The new percentage is just over 8 percent, a large jump from the previous 3 percent it was in 1980. In fact, 15 percent of new marriages in the year 2010 were interracial. Those involved with the report paint the picture that no major issues remain for interracial couples. While this news of an increase may sound like a cause for celebration, it is ignorant to conclude that these figures prove that race relations have significantly improved…

…Others claim that interracial marriages should be avoided because it is unfair to their future children. This argument is weak and hypocritical because this nation historically expanded as a result of a mixed population, due to white colonizers intermingling with Native Americans and African American slaves…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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True Londoners Are Extinct

Posted in Articles, Arts, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2012-03-01 18:24Z by Steven

True Londoners Are Extinct

The New York Times

Craig Taylor

Photo by Mark Neville. Children come to the Somerford Grove Adventure Playground in Tottenham, shown here, after school or on weekends to learn life skills like cooking. “There’s a real sense of adulthood to what the children are doing there,” Neville said.

Later this year, thousands of Olympians will march into London under flapping flags, and the global TV audience will be treated to a romanticized version of the city, with helicopter shots of Big Ben competing for time against footage of Buckingham Palace guards staring stone-faced into the distance and double-decker buses bouncing unsteadily through too-narrow streets. By the end of the ceremonies, you’ll have seen the city’s bridges so many times that you’ll wish they had all fallen down years ago.

The overall impression these images are meant to give off is that London, for all its recent convulsions, is a city that remains preserved in its past, obsessed with its royals (the queen will celebrate her diamond jubilee in June) and populated by the type of cheeky folks mythologized in those postwar BBC social documentaries and kept alive by the likes of Guy Ritchie’s tired gangster clichés. Not Londoners. Lahndannahs.

But London in 2012, like most other global cities, is in significant flux, much less beholden to sepia-tinged notions of what it used to be and much more a product of its new arrivals. Over the last decade, the foreign-born population reached 2.6 million, just about a third of the city. In addition to longstanding Irish, Indian, Jamaican and Bangladeshi communities, there are now many new immigrants from Nigeria, Slovenia, Ghana, Vietnam and Somalia. I’ve seen Russians fly in on their private jets, and Eastern Europeans breach the city limits in cars filled to the roof with suitcases and potted plants…

Read the entire article here. View the slideshows here.

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Donna Bailey Nurse: Addressing mixed race in literature

Posted in Articles, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2012-03-01 16:32Z by Steven

Donna Bailey Nurse: Addressing mixed race in literature

CBC Books

Donna Bailey Nurse

Throughout February and March, literary journalist, teacher and author Donna Bailey Nurse will be blogging for CBC Books about black Canadian writers and their important works. In her third post, she explores the complex subject of mixed race and how different authors address have addressed it.

I read a lot about race, and I write a lot about race. I also talk a lot about race—too much—as most of my friends, white and black, will tell you. But I can’t help it. The topic rivets me; I’m especially fascinated by contemporary issues of race; by how race plays out in our modern, everyday lives.

However, the historical angle preoccupies me as well: the eras of civil rights and of Jim Crow and slavery. In fact, I am just heading out to buy a copy of Rosemary Sadlier’s biography of Harriet Tubman. Tubman, an escaped slave, led more than 300 African American slaves to freedom. I’ve been thinking about her since I was a child. I still can’t figure out how she found the courage.

Every time I read about slavery I learn something new. Lately I’ve been obsessing over information in a book by Randall Keenan. Most of us know that during slavery many white masters—often married men—fathered children with their female slaves. As a rule, the disparity of power between masters and slaves defines their sexual encounters as rape. But Keenan explains how, on occasion, affectionate, enduring relationships developed. Some white men would send the children from these unions north to be educated; and some left wills that provided for the welfare of their black families. Naturally, their white wives were enraged and humiliated. They often contested these wills and in time legislation was enacted that made it illegal for a white man to leave property to his black mistress. However, just think: There was a historical moment when a handful of white masters were prepared to publicly acknowledge their black children—a fleeting opportunity for redemption…

Read the entire article here.

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Building Multiracial Fortunes: Black Identity, Masculinity, and Authenticity Through the Body of T. Thomas Fortune, 1883-1907

Posted in Biography, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, United States on 2012-03-01 04:23Z by Steven

Building Multiracial Fortunes: Black Identity, Masculinity, and Authenticity Through the Body of T. Thomas Fortune, 1883-1907

San Diego State University
Fall 2011
69 pages

Guy Mount

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

This thesis examines the post-emancipation formation of African American identity, masculinity, and authenticity through the white skinned, multiracial body of T. Thomas Fortune, the premier African American newspaper editor of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. It argues that multiracial African American men like Fortune were central to the collective construction of an authentic black male identity between 1883 and 1907. Often functioning as foil characters in elaborate racial performances which characterized them as less authentic, less masculine, and more subject to racial disloyalty, Fortune and others who visually presented a racially ambiguous body challenged this narrowly drawn and internally imposed paradigm of orthodox black male authenticity while resisting its implications.

Emerging from chattel slavery in Florida and surviving a particularly violent strand of Reconstruction in Marianna County, Fortune relocated to New York City where he harnessed the power of the press to fight white racism and eventually enter the debates over a rapidly crystallizing image of black masculinity. In doing so he attempted to inscribe an alternative political meaning to interracial sexuality, the bodies of white skinned African Americans, and indeed, the very notion of authentic black manhood itself. All of these projects were informed by Fortune’s deeply rooted anxiety regarding his own white skinned body and what it signified within the black community.

Ultimately this formulation and the ongoing struggle over the meaning of blackness, was acted out by Fortune and others at the expense of black women. This process of defining black authenticity and black manhood effectively established a firm patriarchal order within elite African American discourse as it attempted to assert black manhood by controlling the sexualized bodies of black women while silencing their voices in the public sphere. In this way, white skinned African American male bodies can serve as a useful example of the complex problematic of what it means to be a gendered black subject in early Jim Crow America. What emerges, in the end, are complicated, dynamically engaged subjects trying to grasp at an authentic, stable identity that was always shifting, transforming, and at times, vanishing from sight.

The four chapters found here cover topics such as the emerging black nationalist movement, segregated insane asylums, the interracial marriage of Frederick Douglass to Helen Pitts in 1884, and the internal debates over the use of the terms ‘Negro,’ ‘colored,’ or ‘Afro-American’ to self-identify African Americans. Methodologically this thesis draws inspiration from Lacanian psychoanalysis, the linguistic work of Jacques Derrida, and the conception of the body, sexuality, and decentralized power networks as envisioned by Michel Foucault.

Read the entire thesis here.

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The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South

Posted in Books, History, Monographs, United States on 2012-03-01 02:40Z by Steven

The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South

Harper Perennial an imprint HarperCollins
432 pages
5 5/16 x 8
ISBN: 9780060505905; ISBN10: 0060505907

Edward Ball, Lecturer in English
Yale University

From National Book Award winner ccomes The Sweet Hell Inside, the story of the fascinating Harleston family of South Carolina, the progeny of a Southern gentleman and his slave, who cast off their blemished roots and prospered despite racial barriers. Enhanced by recollections from the family’s archivist, eighty-four-year-old Edwina Harleston Whitlock—whose bloodline the author shares. The Sweet Hell Inside features a celebrated portrait artist whose subjects included industrialist Pierre du Pont; a black classical composer in the Lost Generation of 1920s Paris; and an orphanage founder who created the famous Jenkins Orphanage Band, a definitive force in the development of ragtime and jazz.

With evocative and engrossing storytelling, Edward Ball introduces a cast of historical characters rarely seen before: cultured, vain, imperfect, rich, and black—a family of eccentrics who defied social convention and flourished.

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Inventing the Creole Citizen: Race, Sexuality and the Colonial Order in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Media Archive on 2012-03-01 01:21Z by Steven

Inventing the Creole Citizen: Race, Sexuality and the Colonial Order in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Stony Brook University
December 2008
335 pages

Yvonne Eileen Fabella

A Dissertation Presented The Graduate School in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History

Inventing the Creole Citizen examines the battle over racial hierarchy in Saint Domingue (colonial Haiti) prior to the French and Haitian Revolutions. It argues that cultural definitions of citizenship were central to that struggle. White elite colonists, when faced with the social mobility of “free people of color,” deployed purportedly egalitarian French enlightenment tropes of meritocracy, reason, natural law, and civic virtue to create an image of the colonial “citizen” that was bounded by race. The purpose of the “creole citizen” figure was twofold: to defend white privilege within the colony, and to justify greater local legislative power to French officials.

Meanwhile, Saint Domingue’s diverse populations of free and enslaved people of color, as well as non-elite whites, articulated their own definitions of race and citizenship, often exposing the fluidity of those categories in daily life. Throughout the dissertation I argue that colonial residents understood race and citizenship in gendered ways, drawing on popular French critiques of aristocratic gender disorder to contest the civic virtue of other racial groups.

To put these competing voices in conversation with one another, the dissertation is structured around a series of practices through which colonial residents fought over the racial order. Those practices include participation in local print culture, the consumption and display of luxury goods, interracial marriage and sex, and the administration of corporal punishments. French legal structures and cultural traditions were imported directly to the colony, strongly influencing each of these practices. However, I examine how these practices changed—or were perceived to change—in the colonial setting, and how colonial residents used them to negotiate local power relations.

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Free People of Color and the “Stain” of Slavery
    • Manumission and Early Administrative Opposition to the Free People of Color
    • The Social Mobility of the Gens de Couleur of Saint Domingue
    • The Gens de Couleur and the Threat of Slave Resistance
    • Legislating Hierarchy and Enforcing Respect
    • The 1780’s: Rethinking the Role of the Gens de Couleur
    • Holding Fast to White Privilege: Local Resistance
  • Chapter Two: Inventing the Creole Citizen
    • The Political Context: Moreau and the Desire for Legal Autonomy
    • Climate Theory and Creole Degeneration
    • Taste, Immorality and the Creolization of Culture
    • Defining the Creole Citizen
  • Chapter Three: Creolizing the Enlightenment: Print Culture and the Limits of Colonial Citizenship
    • A Tropical Public Sphere
    • Colonial Print Culture
    • The French Affiches
    • The Affiches Américaines and the Imagined Community of Colonial Citizens
    • Printing the Racial Order
    • Contesting the Racial Order
  • Chapter Four: “Rule the Universe With the Power of Your Charms”: Marriage, Sexuality and the Creation of Creole Citizens
    • Official Encouragement of Marriage in the Early Colonial Period
    • Marital Law and Mésalliance in France and Saint Domingue
    • Colonial Mésalliance
    • Concubinage and Miscegenation
    • Regulating Interracial Marriage and Miscegenation
    • Affectionate Colonial Marriage, Populationism and Colonial Citizenship
    • Gens de Couleur, Affectionate Marriage, and Familial Virtue
  • Chapter Five: Legislating Fashion and Negotiating Creole Taste: Discourses and Practices of Luxury Consumption
    • Fashion and Luxury Consumption in Old Regime France
    • Colonial Luxury Consumption and Its Critics
    • Coding Colonial Luxury Consumption
      • I. Creole Slave Consumption: Colonial Meritocracy and Enslaved Savagery
      • II. The Gens de Couleur and Luxury Consumption: Emasculation and Sexual Immorality
      • III. White Creole Fashion: Transparency and Civic Virtue
    • Colonial Women, Fashion and Resistance
  • Chapter Six: Spectacles of Violence: Race, Class and Punishment in the Old Regime and the New World
    • Old Regime Punishments in the New World
    • White Elite Violence, Respectability, and Gendered Colonial Reform
    • Punishing the Insolence of Gens de Couleur
    • The Insolent Mulâtresse
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography


In the years before the outbreak of the French and Haitian Revolutions, two men would criss-cross the Atlantic, traveling between the slave colony of Saint Domingue and the European power that governed it, France. Both men were defined as “creole,” that is, born in the Antilles. One, the white colonial magistrate Moreau de Saint Méry, came from another French colony, Martinique, although he and his family resided in Saint Domingue. The other, Julien Raimond, was a wealthy, educated, planter of color who had been born and lived most of his life in Saint Domingue. During the early years of the revolutions, these two men would debate the boundaries of French citizenship in the colonies; Raimond argued for the extension of citizenship rights to wealthy free men of color, while Moreau wanted to limit those rights to whites. Yet this debate began even earlier, before French revolutionaries created the legal category of “citizen” in 1789, and it took place on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the 1780’s, before the “citizen” became a person invested with civil and political rights in the nation, these men, and people in France and Saint Domingue in general, defined the term more ambiguously. Yet metropolitans and colonists generally agreed that a “citizen” was someone with civic virtue—a person who placed the greater good above his or her own self-interest. However, civic virtue appeared incompatible with the greed and immorality that Europeans typically associated with colonial life. In other words, according to the conventional wisdom in Europe, creoles could not be citizens. Separately, Moreau and Raimond would try to convince France’s Colonial Ministry otherwise, although they made very different arguments. Theirs were just two of the voices contributing to the contested category of “creole citizenship,” if two of the most powerful. This dissertation explains how the residents of Saint Domingue—white, black, and “mixed;” free and enslaved; men and women—fought to define that category in Saint Domingue’s courtrooms, plantations and markets, as well as in print in both the colony and the metropole

…Colonists used this emerging bourgeois gender discourse to articulate ideas about race and citizenship and assert their own vision of the colonial racial order. Administrators and white elites drew heavily on gendered imagery in their attempts to denigrate the gens de couleur, and that imagery was also strongly sexualized. They consistently portrayed the gens de couleur, and particularly “mixed” women, as the most debauched members of colonial society. Such rhetoric resonated with colonial whites for a number of reasons, but especially due to the growing free population of color. By 1789, gens de couleur were almost as numerous as whites. Administrators and colonists understood this group to be problematic because of its seemingly liminal state: in a society in which whiteness was supposed to connote freedom and blackness slavery, free people of color blurred the clear-cut boundaries desired by metropolitan and colonial officials. Over the course of the eighteenth century, women of color shouldered the blame for the growth of this group. Portrayed as both coldly calculating and sexually insatiable, women of color were said to lure white men into inter-racial sexual relationships in order to improve their own economic or legal status.

Administrators and visitors to the colony, as well as colonists complained about the pervasiveness of such relationships, which resulted in ever-growing numbers of “mixed” children. In practice, some women and their children acquired benefits from these sexual relationships. When the mother of such a child was enslaved, both she and her child might gain their freedom as a result of their relationship to the white man. On rare occasions, white men married women of color, ensuring that their children could be legitimate heirs of the man’s property. Otherwise, white men sometimes provided for their sexual partners and children in other ways, giving them gifts of property or providing living allowances, for example. Of course, many more women and children remained enslaved or economically neglected by the men. Furthermore, while some of these arrangements were in fact voluntary or even orchestrated by the women, in other instances white men forced themselves on enslaved and free women of color, whose reputations as seductresses—and their vulnerable legal status—rendered them almost defenseless. Yet in the eyes of administrators and white elites, women of color were to blame for seemingly high rates of interracial sex as well as the occasional marriage between white men and women of color. They lamented that such relationships contributed not only to the dangerous growth but also the social mobility of the free population of color. And as importantly, some white elites claimed, they discouraged white men from marrying white women, thereby preventing the growth of a native white population.

Having framed the “problem” of the gens de couleur as the product of illicit sexual unions between white men and women of color, white colonists and administrators easily drew on gendered, sexualized imagery circulating in France in order to explain the phenomenon. John Garrigus has argued that descriptions of free women of color rendered by white colonists often resembled those of courtiers’ mistresses at Versailles, commonly demonized as over sexualized, domineering, emasculating, and exercising a dangerous degree of influence over powerful men. Coupled with depictions of debauched free men of color, such imagery produced a feminized stereotype of the free people of color, thereby justifying their exclusion from the newly emerging colonial public sphere. Similarly, Doris Garraway has demonstrated that free women of color, particularly the mulâtresse, simultaneously represented white male “sexual hegemony” and the symbolic danger inherent in miscegenation: a blurring of the color line…

Read the entire dissertation here.

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