Family Storytellers Inspired Professor-Historian

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-11-09 03:37Z by Steven

Family Storytellers Inspired Professor-Historian

Diverse Issues in Higher Education
2018-10-30

LaMont Jones, Senior Staff Writer


Dr. Allyson Hobbs

Dr. Allyson Hobbs comes from a family of storytellers, perhaps chief among them her Aunt Shirley.

It was Shirley Kitching’s fascinating stories shared during holiday and summer visits to Chicago – particularly one about an ancestor who was sent to the West Coast to live her life as a White woman by “passing” – that influenced Hobbs’ decision to become a historian and author.

Now Hobbs, an associate professor of American history and director of African and African-American Studies at Stanford University, spends a lot of time researching historical people, places and phenomena and bringing those stories to life for the public – the same way Kitching and other relatives did for her…

…“You have to understand Chicago to understand African-American history,” Hobbs contends, noting its longtime centrality to Black culture.

And that, along with one of Aunt Shirley’s stories, is what led to research and ultimately an award-winning book about the racial phenomenon of passing – when very light-skinned and European-featured Black Americans secretly pass themselves off as White people. Published in 2014, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life explored the history of passing in the United States from the 1700’s to current times…

Read the entire article here.

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Melissa Harris-Perry in Conversation with Allyson Hobbs

Posted in Interviews, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2018-05-18 15:46Z by Steven

Melissa Harris-Perry in Conversation with Allyson Hobbs

Stanford University
Cubberley Auditorium
Stanford, California
Wednesday, 2018-05-23, 17:00-18:30 PDT (Local Time)

Contact: rmeisels@stanford.edu

Join us for an evening of conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University, founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, Editor-at-Large, Elle.com and Author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, in conversation with Allyson Hobbs, Associate Professor of History and Director of African and African American Studies [and author of A Chosen Exile: History of Racial Passing in American Life].

Sponsored by: Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Humanities Center, African & African American Studies, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, History Department, and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

For more information, click here.

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Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-03-14 16:57Z by Steven

Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow

University of Illinois Press
March 2018
296 pages
6 x 9 in.
11 black & white photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-04158-7
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-08323-5
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-252-05024-4

Edited by:

Mollie Godfrey, Assistant Professor of English
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Vershawn Ashanti Young, Associate Professor of Drama and Speech Communication
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Crossing old boundaries to create new identities

African Americans once passed as whites to escape the pains of racism. Today’s neo-passing has pushed the old idea of passing in extraordinary new directions. A white author uses an Asian pen name; heterosexuals live “out” as gay; and, irony of ironies, whites try to pass as black.

Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young present essays that explore practices, performances, and texts of neo-passing in our supposedly postracial moment. The authors move from the postracial imagery of Angry Black White Boy and the issues of sexual orientation and race in ZZ Packer’s short fiction to the politics of Dave Chappelle’s skits as a black President George W. Bush. Together, the works reveal that the questions raised by neo-passing—questions about performing and contesting identity in relation to social norms—remain as relevant today as in the past.

Gale Wald offers a foreword and Michele Elam an afterword.

Contributors: Derek Adams, Christopher M. Brown, Martha J. Cutter, Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Alisha Gaines, Jennifer Glaser, Allyson Hobbs, Brandon J. Manning, Loran Marsan, Lara Narcisi, Eden Osucha, and Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

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Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile : A History of Racial Passing in American Life

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-12-23 03:56Z by Steven

Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile : A History of Racial Passing in American Life

Transatlantica
2 | 2016 : Ordinary Chronicles of the End of the World

Lawrence Aje
Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Montpellier, Béziers, France

Hobbs, Allyson, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2014, 382 pp. , € 27.00, ISBN 9780674368101

The last two decades have seen a considerable increase of publications on the issue of racial passing in the United States. Some studies have examined racial passing through personal or family stories (O’Toole ; Sharfstein ; Williams). Others have sought to adopt a quantitative and synchronic approach to the phenomenon (Nix & Qian ; Mill & Stein) or to analyze how cases of racial passing were litigated in courts (Kennedy ; Gross). A number of edited volumes have recently focused on the cinematic and literary representations of racial passing in American popular culture, whereas some studies have been keen on expanding the notion by examining instances of ethnic or gender passing (Dawkins ; Gayle ; Ginsberg ; Wald ; Nerad).

Yet, in this flurry of publications, Allyson Hobbs’s A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, is a valuable contribution that distinguishes itself as the first full-length historical monograph to comprehensively tackle and complicate this sensitive and emotionally charged topic. This ambitious study is a revised version of Hobbs’s 2009 dissertation in history which she defended at the University of Chicago.

A Chosen Exile historicizes the practice of racial passing in the United States, by outlining, from the period of slavery to the early 1970s, how fair-skinned Blacks, whom the author designates as “racially ambiguous individuals”, managed to navigate the troubled waters of race undetected. In keeping with the findings of her predecessors, Hobbs confirms that the main reason that motivated racial passing was social advancement. Hobbs however differentiates herself from other scholars who have, according to her, paid far more attention to the benefits derived from passing as White instead of focusing on what she deems is a more fundamental and hitherto neglected aspect of the practice, namely, that by leaving their colored relatives or friends behind, passing translated into a loss of intra-racial sociability and, to some extent, the loss of one’s self. A Chosen Exile is underpinned by two intertwined objectives : a historical examination of the personal motivations behind racial passing and a simultaneous assessment of the consequences of rejecting one’s “black racial identity” (11) ­— an act Hobbs qualifies as being tantamount to a racial exile.

Hobbs dismisses our commonly held assumptions about a lack of archival evidence that would limit our understanding of the phenomenon of racial passing. She manages to piece together a general history of racial passing in the United States by relying on a set of disparate primary and secondary sources such as private letters, family histories, newspaper advertisements, novels, as well as correspondence between authors and their publishers. By mining such a wide array of sources, Hobbs successfully manages to shed light on a practice that was meant to remain hidden…

Read the entire review here.

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Allyson Hobbs’ A Chosen Exile makes summer reading lists

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-07-17 00:15Z by Steven

Allyson Hobbs’ A Chosen Exile makes summer reading lists

Stanford News
Stanford University, Stanford, California
2017-07-14

Alex Shashkevich


Allyson Hobbs

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, written by historian ALLYSON HOBBS, made it to the 2017 summer reading lists of Harvard University Press and The Paris Review.

The 2014 book examines the phenomenon of racial passing, which is an intentional attempt by a person to assume a different racial identity, in the United States from the late 18th century to the present. Hobbs was inspired by a story her aunt told her about a distant cousin who passed as a white woman in the 1940s.

“Necessarily, Hobbs writes, passing involves erasure: gradations gone, subtleties of color and culture reduced to black and white,” wrote Julie Orringer in The Paris Review. “What’s lost in the process: families and friends, a sense of belonging. A Chosen Exile illuminates those losses with acuity, rigor and compassion.”…

Read the entire article here.

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A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, by Allyson Hobbs [Eggers Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-05-29 02:00Z by Steven

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, by Allyson Hobbs

The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research
Volume 47, 2017 – Issue 2: After Madiba: Black Studies in South Africa
Pages 73-76
DOI: 10.1080/00064246.2017.1295355

Fabian Eggers, MA candidate of North American Studies
John F. Kennedy Institute at Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany

Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile: History of Racial Passing in American Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014)

Read or purchase the review here.

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A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life by Allyson Hobbs (review) [King]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-02-24 01:04Z by Steven

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life by Allyson Hobbs (review)

Journal of Southern History
Volume 82, Number 2, May 2016
pages 465-466
DOI: 10.1353/soh.2016.0107

Wilma King, Professor Emerita of History
University of Missouri

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. By Allyson Hobbs. (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp. [xii], 382. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-674-36810-1.)

An insightful introduction prepares readers for five deeply researched chapters and an epilogue constituting what Allyson Hobbs describes as a history of racial passing in American life. Two well-developed themes in the text add to its significance. First, Hobbs argues that the perceived need for racial passing changed over time. Before the Civil War, slaves passed to escape bondage, not blackness. Later, the promises of Reconstruction encouraged blacks to believe treatment equal to that enjoyed by whites was imminent. Instead, political disenfranchisement, social intimidation, and economic deprivation followed. Racial passing was a viable option to escape those circumstances. However, during the 1920s the Harlem Renaissance expanded conceptions of racial identity and offered alternatives to passing. The elimination of some racial barriers after World War II rendered racial passing passé. Second, the author calls attention to both the intended and unintended consequences of blacks passing as whites. On one hand, passing offered opportunities for economic gains, but on the other hand, there were social losses associated with leaving families and friends behind. “Once one circumvented the law, fooled coworkers, deceived neighbors, tricked friends, and sometimes even duped children and spouses,” writes Hobbs, “there were enormous costs to pay” (p. 5).

The author contends “the core issue of passing is not becoming what you pass for, but losing what you pass away from” (p. 18). Passing, a performative, subversive, and tactical exercise, required constant vigilance to protect a newly crafted identity from exposure. Eventually, those who passed, temporarily or permanently, faced questions about gains and losses. A variety of historical and literary sources, supplemented by materials from popular and mixed media, make A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life come to life as readers are introduced to racially ambiguous women and men, including Ellen Craft, Henry Bibb, John H. Rapier, and descendants of Sally Hemings and Sarah Martha Sanders, all of whom were interested in acquiring equal opportunities, suffrage, and citizenship, more so than in actually becoming white…

Read the entire review here.

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Black Like Us

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States, Women on 2016-11-11 01:45Z by Steven

Black Like Us

Original Works Publishing
2016-11-08
102 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1630920944

Rachel Atkins

Foreword by Allyson Hobbs, Ph.D

Family secrets ripple through time when three present-day sisters discover the truth about a young African-American woman passing for white sixty years before. What happens in between is a frank and funny look at the shifting boundaries of tolerance and what identity really means.

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I’m Not the Nanny: Multiracial Families and Colorism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-04 00:56Z by Steven

I’m Not the Nanny: Multiracial Families and Colorism

Book Review
The New York Times
2016-11-03

Allyson Hobbs, Associate Professor of History
Stanford University

SAME FAMILY, DIFFERENT COLORS: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families
By Lori L. Tharps
203 pp. Beacon Press. $25.95.

In Danzy Senna’s 1998 novel “Caucasia,” two sisters — Cole and Birdie — share a bond so intimate that they create a language only they can understand. Engulfed in the racial chaos of Boston in the mid-70s, the sisters nestle themselves away in the cozy world they have created in their attic bedroom. Their lives are forever changed when their mother, a liberal white New Englander, and their father, a black man with radical political leanings, decide to divorce. The sisters are divided: Birdie lives with her mother and essentially passes for white, while Cole, who looks black, moves in with her father and his black girlfriend. In a city as racially divided and explosive as Boston in the 1970s, this separation by skin color strikes the reader as a chillingly rational decision.

Forty years later, America is no longer the bipolar racial regime of black and white that set Birdie and Cole on such different paths. Not only have personal attitudes changed, but the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 — which upended American immigration policy by abolishing the quota system based on national origins — has also transformed the country’s demographic character. The landmark Loving v. Virginia case of 1967 prohibited legal restrictions on interracial marriages. Federal racial classifications now recognize mixed-race identities. But neither Cole nor Birdie would have been widely understood as mixed-race in the 1970s. As Danzy Senna, who is mixed-race, has written of her own experiences during that tumultuous decade: “Mixed wasn’t an option. . . . No halvsies. No in between.”

Lori L. Tharps’s new book, “Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families,” is an urgent and honest unveiling of how generations of American families have lived with these changes. Tharps focuses on “colorism,” which she notes is not an official word, but has been defined by Alice Walker as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Opinion: “White spaces” are everywhere – including ARC

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-09-28 00:03Z by Steven

Opinion: “White spaces” are everywhere – including ARC

The American River Current
Sacramento, California
2016-09-26

Shiavon Chatman

Imagine being alone in a place where there was no one who looked like you or understood your experiences.

Imagine having a conversation with someone who assumed the actions and behaviors of people who looked like you and made predictions about the way you conducted yourself.

Being a person of color in a predominantly “white space” is similar to this.

Author Toni Morrison addresses this very idea of oppression and loneliness that comes with being racially stereotyped in her first novel entitled “The Bluest Eye.”

In her novel, the main character Pecola is “(the) little black girl who want(s) to rise up out of her pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes.”

The idea of “colorblindness” doesn’t exist. No matter how progressive and accepting a person is, they will see color.

Recognizing color, or rather, race and ethnicity, is being consciously aware of the social injustices and stereotypes that people of color experience.

American River College [(ARC)] student Alyssa Senna said “I feel like there’s a stereotype for all people of color and that’s how white people see us.”…

…The stigma of being a person of color in predominantly white spaces has the same level of intensity for mixed people.

“I feel almost like an alien at times,” said ARC student, Sade Butler, “because I’m black, white, and Filipino and I’m of a medium complexion, (so) a lot of people don’t see me as a person of color.”

Mixed people typically experience more privilege, referred to as “passing”, than non-mixed people of color, except in predominantly “white spaces.”…

Read the entire article here.

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