“They want us to be Creoles. . . . There is no in-between”: Creole Representations in Ernest J. Gaines’s Catherine Carmier and Lyle Saxon’s Children of Strangers

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2017-07-12 21:55Z by Steven

“They want us to be Creoles. . . . There is no in-between”: Creole Representations in Ernest J. Gaines’s Catherine Carmier and Lyle Saxon’s Children of Strangers

Studies in the Literary Imagination
Volume 49, Number 1, Summer 2016
pages 113-127
DOI: 10.1353/sli.2016.0008

Matthew Teutsch, Instructor
Department of English
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Mary Agnes LeFabre, the Creole teacher at Samson Plantation in Ernest J. Gaines’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, “comes from a long line of Creoles back there in New Orleans” that eventually moved after the Civil War to the community called Creole Place (166). Gaines does not provide the specific location of Creole Place in the novel, but one can assume that the community that Gaines describes, one where the “people . . . did everything for themselves” and did not let anyone, no matter how white, enter into the community, has a real-world antecedent (167). Quite possibly, that antecedent could be Frilot Cove, the community Vivian is from in Gaines’s 1993 novel A Lesson Before Dying. Thadious M. Davis observes another possibility for Creole Place’s real life inspiration, the Isle Brevelle Creole community on Cane River near Natchitoches, Louisiana (“Headlands” 7). While Gaines’s Creole community may perchance be drawn from the Isle Brevelle community, we know for a fact that the Creoles that Lyle Saxon writes about in his novel Children of Strangers have their origins in the Creole population along Cane River.

This essay explores Saxon’s novel in relation to Gaines’s first novel, Catherine Carmier. Gaines has not mentioned whether or not he ever read Saxon’s text when working on his own, but that does not change the importance of reading the two novels in conjunction with one another. They appear less than thirty years apart, and both deal with a unique aspect of social structure in Louisiana, the separation of communities into four distinct categories: white, Cajun, Creole, and black. Davis argues that the presence of a Creole community—for our purposes referring to individuals of mixed Spanish, French, Native American, and African ancestry—where individuals of African and African-American descent were free during slavery and had the opportunity for social mobility, provided a possible exemplar for race relations in the United States during the nineteenth century; however, after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the gradual Americanization of the new territory, and specifically New Orleans, Louisiana’s possible example faded into the darkness (Southscapes 186).

Saxon’s depiction of the Isle Brevelle Creole community borders on stereotypical and patronizing. While he tries to provide an accurate portrayal of the community and its inhabitants, he fails to humanize them fully. However, he does provide a much more sympathetic representation than he originally did in his short story “Cane River,” which appeared in 1926. In this story, Saxon depicts Susie stereotypically as “a wild nigger girl” and “an untamed savage” (225). As well, he places himself in the black community by inserting “we” into the narrative. In Children of Strangers, Saxon’s representation of the community becomes more sympathetic and humanizing, but at points he does revert back to pervasive oppressive images, especially in his description of Henry Tyler talking with Paul Guy. Henry Tyler becomes “like an animal trying to tell a man it is thirsty” (Children 169). Though clearly Children of Strangers is a flawed novel, I argue that we should read the two novels together to help us understand the cultural milieu in which both authors wrote, specifically the flattening of racial binaries during the period, and to understand each author’s presentation of the increasing modernity of rural Louisiana during the early-to-mid part of the twentieth century.

In April 1923, Saxon made his first visit to Melrose Plantation on the Cane River. Invited there by Cammie Garrett Henry, whose husband inherited the plantation in 1898, Saxon would make frequent trips to the artist colony that Henry established in order to compose what would eventually become Children of Strangers, a novel that took him close to fourteen years to complete. Known for his newspaper writing and nonfiction works, Saxon attained celebrity status both at Melrose and in New Orleans writing about the Crescent City’s history, the flood of 1927, Jean Lafitte, and local folklore. However, he always wanted to write fiction, and…

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Margo Jefferson with Jackie Kay

Posted in Forthcoming Media, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2017-07-12 21:25Z by Steven

Margo Jefferson with Jackie Kay

Edinburgh International Book Festival
Studio Theatre
13-29 Nicolson St
Edinburgh EH8 9FT, United Kingdom
Sunday, 2017-08-20, 20:45-21:45 BST (Local Time)


Feminism and Civil Rights

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson is the author of a bold, defiant and astonishingly accomplished memoir, Negroland. Powerfully demonstrating that a ‘post-racial’ America is far from being a reality, Jefferson explores the challenge of reconciling feminism (often regarded as a white woman’s terrain) with black power (sometimes seen as a black male issue). Jefferson discusses her compelling life story with Scotland’s Makar, the poet and novelist Jackie Kay.

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What Percentage Indian Do You Have to Be in Order to Be a Member of a Tribe or Nation?

Posted in Articles, Law, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2017-07-12 19:53Z by Steven

What Percentage Indian Do You Have to Be in Order to Be a Member of a Tribe or Nation?

Indian Country Today
2017-07-08

Sonny Skyhawk


Woman dancing at the Kiowa Blackleggings Warrior Society Pow Wow 2015. iStock

50 or 25 percent blood quantum or lineal descent, every tribe has its own criteria for mandatory percentage Indian

Tribal Nations are the only recognized arbiter of belonging to or being a member of a tribe. No other agency or arm of any government has that responsibility, other than the particular tribe to which a person claims to belong. Thus the issue of what percentage Indian is any individual belonging to a tribe?

Every tribe has its own membership criteria; some go on blood quantum, others on descent, but whatever the criteria for “percentage Indian” it is the tribe’s enrollment office that has final say on whether a person may be a member. Anyone can claim Indian heritage, but only the tribe can grant official membership.

The first blood quantum law for legal percentage Indian was passed in 1705 in the colony of Virginia in which laws were introduced to restrict the civil rights of Native people.

In 1924 Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act, which required that every individual be classified as either white or black. Native Americans were erased from Virginia and U.S. history as their birth records were literally changed. The act has been lauded ‘pencil genocide.’

In 1934, due to the federal government’s Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and the associated awarded lands, many tribes were forced to adopt their own sets of blood quantum laws.

Here is a list of some tribes that claim blood quantum / percentage Indian requirements:…

Read the entire article here.

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Disciples of Christ elect first woman of color to lead a mainline denomination

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2017-07-12 03:20Z by Steven

Disciples of Christ elect first woman of color to lead a mainline denomination

The Christian Century
2017-07-10

Celeste Kennel-Shank


Teresa Hord Owens after her election as head of the Disciples of Christ on July 9, 2017. Photo by Mary Ann Carter.

Despite all the talk of mainline decline, Teresa Hord Owens, the first woman of color to serve as top executive of a mainline denomination, is not in survival mode.

“The life that we will find is continuing to be relevant to a society that deeply needs to see hope,” she said.

The Indianapolis-based Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) elected Owens, a descendant of one of Indiana’s oldest free settlements of African Americans, as its general minister and president on Sunday evening. The denomination, which has 600,000 members in the United States and Canada, has been led for 12 years by Sharon Watkins, who at her election in 2005 was the first woman to be top executive of a mainline body…

Read the entire article here.

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Meet South Korea’s first black model Han Hyun-min

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Videos on 2017-07-12 03:03Z by Steven

Meet South Korea’s first black model Han Hyun-min

BBC News
2017-07-11

In South Korea, children of mixed race can be called “mongrels“. But Han Hyun-min didn’t let racism stop him.

Watch the video here.

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