Why You Should Dig Up Your Family’s History — and How to Do It

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2019-02-04 18:09Z by Steven

Why You Should Dig Up Your Family’s History — and How to Do It

The New York Times

Jaya Saxena

Sally Deng

Learning your history is forced reckoning, asking you to consider whose stories you carry with you and which ones you want to carry forward.

My middle name is the name of a Confederate soldier.

Before that it was Scottish, the name of an indentured servant who came here when America wasn’t a country, when he was just one of many who were brought over. The name stayed on the Atlantic coast, passing through my Confederate ancestors, onto my loving grandmother who taught me how to birdwatch, finally landing on me, a mixed-race woman with a Jewish partner living in New York City. Somehow I don’t think that soldier would be too happy about that.

In America, the question of “Where am I from?” usually means, “Where did my family live before they arrived/were forcibly shipped to America?” Recently, there’s been a push to answer that question through DNA tests — Ancestry.com sold 1.5 million kits on Black Friday in 2017 — which claim they can tell us exactly what percentage Norwegian or Nigerian we are. But there are catches. The tests can compromise our privacy, with the possibility that our genetic information would be sold to third parties without our knowledge, and they don’t truly reveal our origins so much as reveal who has similar DNA right now. Also, and perhaps more important: Culture does not come from DNA. It comes from lived experience, traditions and stories passed down, from actual people who shape our perceptions of the world.

This is why I’ve enjoyed learning about my family through good old-fashioned genealogy research. Scrolling through pages of old newspapers or deciphering handwriting on a census is how I found out I’m descended, on my white side, both from Union and Confederate soldiers, from slave-owners and abolitionists, and possibly from witches (I’m still trying to verify that one). And it was in doing this I learned that, on my Indian side, Yeats wrote a very patronizing poem inspired by my third great-uncle.

These are more than facts. They’re the myths that are a part of the story of yourself, whether you like them or not. Learning your history is forced reckoning, asking you to consider whose stories you carry with you and which ones you want to carry forward.

Genealogical research can be daunting, no matter how chipper those Ancestry.com ads seem. And while a DNA test can help, there’s probably more to your story. Here’s how to start…

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Nella Larsen’s Etiquette Lesson: Small Talk, Racial Passing, and the Novel of Manners

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-02-04 15:19Z by Steven

Nella Larsen’s Etiquette Lesson: Small Talk, Racial Passing, and the Novel of Manners

Novel: A Forum on Fiction
Volume 51, Issue 1 (2018-05-01)
pages 1-16
DOI: 10.1215/00295132-4357365

Matthew Krumholtz
Department of English
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Issue Cover

This essay explores how novelists of the Harlem Renaissance deploy small talk to disrupt racial identification. Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) serves as a case study showing that small talk magnifies a strange intimacy between passing narratives and etiquette manuals in the early twentieth century. While critics have tended to view small talk under the rubric of gossip, writers of the Harlem Renaissance call attention to the way that small talk enables racial passing by keeping dialogue on neutral and impersonal grounds. Nella Larsen makes peculiarly pronounced use of small talk, which emerges in her fiction as a self-accenting style of racial embodiment and a bold revision to the American novel of manners and to early twentieth-century etiquette manuals. Drawing on sociolinguistics and microsociology, this essay argues that Larsen unsettles the cultural tendency to equate passing with self-denial, converting small talk to an equivocal medium for passing that, paradoxically, makes audible a protest against racial segregation and social regulation.

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The first question that arises is as to who is a “White” within the meaning of the statute.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-02-04 01:46Z by Steven

The first question that arises is as to who is a “White” within the meaning of the statute. Even those states which have formulated statutory definitions are not in agreement. Georgia with its very extensive definition provision sets out that a “White” includes only those persons who have no ascertainable trace of the prohibited intermixture in their blood line.22 The Arizona statute prohibits anyone with “Caucasian blood” from marrying the other races enumerated.23 Virginia states that a “White” is a person with no admixture except 1/16 or less of American Indian.24 Many other states in their statues treat as “White” anyone with 1/8 or less of any of the other prohibited races;25 Oregon sets it at ¼.26

William E. Foster, “A Study of the Wyoming Miscegenation Statutes,” Wyoming Law Journal, Volume 10, Number 2 (1956). 133-134. https://repository.uwyo.edu/wlj/vol10/iss2/5/.

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A Study of the Wyoming Miscegenation Statutes

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2019-02-04 01:33Z by Steven

A Study of the Wyoming Miscegenation Statutes

Wyoming Law Journal
Volume 10, Number 2 (1956)
pages 131-138

William E. Foster

The first ban on interracial marriage was passed in Maryland in 1661.1 Since that time, forty states have followed with statutory bans on interracial marriages.2 Twenty-nine states still have such prohibitions.3 Six of these states have constitutional bans as well as statutory provisions prohibiting such marriages.4 However, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington have repealed the miscegenation statutes which were once in effect in those states;5 and the Supreme Court of California has held its statute unconstitutional.6 While all twenty-nine states which have miscegenation statutes have provisions barring marriage of a White to a Negro,7 twelve states also have provisions which would bar marriage of Whites to various classifications of Asiatics.8 Three states in their statutes bar marriages of Whites to “Africans,” and have no explicit mention of Negroes;9 this type of statute would technically apply to the Dutch Afrikanders as well as to the Negro.10

…The Wyoming miscegenation law is composed of two sections.18 The first, section 50-108, will be referred to as the prohibition section, and the second, section 50-109, will be referred to as the enforcement section. These statutes are both derived from one Act, chapter 57 of the Wyoming Session Laws of 1913, which was originally introduced as House Bill 153 of that year and was passed February 22, 1913, to take effect immediately upon its passage.19 The present statutes are unchanged from their original form. The Wyoming prohibition section reads: All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mulattoes, Mongolians or Malays hereafter contracted in the state of Wyoming are and shall be illegal and void.20

And the Wyoming enforcement section is:

Whosoever shall knowingly contract marriage in fact contrary to the prohibitions in the preceding section, and whosoever shall knowingly solemnize any such marriage shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon being convicted thereof, shall lie punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than one thousand dollars, or imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years, or both, at the discretion of the court which shall try the cause.21

The Wyoming prohibition provision is characterized by its brevity; evidently the legislature did not see fit to define further any of the classifications set forth. Nor have there been any Wyoming cases dealing with racial intermarriages or interpreting this statute. However, when the Wyoming courts first deal with this problem, they will be faced with the formidable question of interpreting the prohibition provision. The very brevity of the statute gives rise to the largest problem-who comes within the prohibition of the statute?…

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