The Sigh of Triple Consciousness: Blacks Who Blurred the Color Line in Films from the 1930s through the 1950s

The Sigh of Triple Consciousness: Blacks Who Blurred the Color Line in Films from the 1930s through the 1950s

City University of New York (CUNY)
May 2019
50 pages

Audrey Phillips

A master’s thesis submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Liberal Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts

This thesis will identify an over looked subset of racial identity as seen through film narratives from the 1930’s through the 1950’s pre-Civil Rights era. The subcategory of racial identity is the necessity of passing for Black people then identified as Negro. The primary film narratives include Veiled Aristocrats (1932), Lost Boundaries (1949), Pinky (1949) and Imitation of Life (1934). These images will deploy the troupe of passing as a racialized historical image. These films depict the pain and anguish Passers endured while escaping their racial identity. Through these stories we identify, sympathize and understand the needs of Black people known as Passers, who elected a chosen exile in order to live in a world which offered opportunity to the White race. These films will also portray the social betrayal forced upon Black people for the need of survival. These films show the desperation for equality as seen through a new genre of film trail blazers, all of whom understood the need to expose this hidden truth. These films also demonstrate the imperativeness to adjust in all aspects of their lives including physical, mental, emotional and psychological. This constant demand for interchange puts tremendous pressure on the psyche of Passers.

Through the cover of passing one life was denied while another was born, allowing Blacks to inconspicuously wear a mask of survival. This strategy was based on the prejudice of America, which judged people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. The study of passing, which is an identified classification of being Black, is useful in courses about race and identity. Educators dealing with themes of race and identity in their classes would greatly benefit by incorporating these films on racial passing as part of their lessons. They will help students to better understand the connection between race and identity in American society, especially for those living under the yoke of government supported racism.

Read the entire thesis here.

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