Allyson Hobbs. A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. [Smith-Pryor Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-12-29 02:43Z by Steven

Allyson Hobbs. A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. [Smith-Pryor Review]

The American Historical Review
Volume 120, Issue 5, December 2015
pages 1903-1904
DOI: 10.1093/ahr/120.5.1903

Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor, Associate Professor of History
Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Allyson Hobbs. A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp. 382. $29.95.

In A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, Allyson Hobbs provides a well-written and sweeping overview of the phenomenon of passing from the colonial era through the present. With five chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue Hobbs charts a “longue duree” (27) of passing as white, while tracing its connections to changing meanings of race and racial identity in America. Drawn to the topic through her own family stories of long lost relatives, Hobbs contends too many historians and literary scholars only view passing as an act that leads to the benefits of whiteness. Instead, Hobbs suggests we cannot fully understand passing without “reckoning with loss, alienation, and isolation that accompanied, and often outweighed, its rewards” (6). For, Hobbs argues, “the core issue of passing” is not becoming white but losing a black identity (18). Consequently, she suggests the study of passing allows us to see how people live and experience “race.”

Hobbs’s study relies on the…

Read or purchase the review here.

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On This Day: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-12-29 04:45Z by Steven

On This Day: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander

Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement
University of North Carolina
2012-12-05

Alison Shay

On December 5, 1925—87 years ago today—the jury in the annulment trial Rhinelander v. Rhinelander found in favor of a mixed-race woman sued for marriage annulment by her white husband.

Leonard Kip Rhinelander, a wealthy white society man, pursued and in 1924 married Alice Jones, a working class woman with British parents—one white, the other of mixed ethnicity. Only one month after their marriage, Leonard sued to annul the marriage, claiming that Alice had misrepresented her racial background.

Leonard’s family had objected to the couple’s relationship throughout their courtship, but had failed to break them up. By marrying Alice, Leonard caused her to be the first African American woman listed in The Social Register...

…In Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness (UNC Press 2009), Elizabeth Smith-Pryor argues that the Rhinelander trial encapsulated the tremendous anxieties over racial passing, class slippage, and black migration in the northern United States during this era.

Other books about the trial include Angela Onwuachi-Willig’s According to Our Hearts: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander and the Law of the Multiracial Family (Yale University Press, forthcoming in 2013) and Heidi Ardizzone’s Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White (Norton 2002)…

Read the entire article here.

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Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations: Mixed-Heritage Families in Brooklyn

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-06-18 11:27Z by Steven

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations: Mixed-Heritage Families in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn, New York

April 2011

Project Description

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG) is a public programming series and oral history project about mixed-heritage families, race, ethnicity, culture, and identity, infused with historical perspective. CBBG is currently in the planning phase (April 2011 – March 2012) and will result in a multi-faceted interpretive website expected to be completed in 2015.

By providing a public forum for conversations about mixed-heritage families, Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations will inform the dialogue with historical perspectives on social constructions of race, ethnicity, and community; changes in immigration and citizenship laws and practices; and changes in marriage and partnership laws and practices. Through an interpretive website, online discussions initiated and led by scholars, public programs and events, Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) will invite the public to share their own stories, respond to other people’s stories, react to, and learn from scholarly interpretations of these stories…

Scholarly Advisors

Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Oral History Research Office
Columbia University

Martha Hodes, Professor of History
New York University

Keren R. McGinity, History
University of Michigan

Suleiman Osman, Assistant Professor of American Studies
George Washington University

Renee Romano, History
Oberlin College

Michael J. Rosenfeld, Associate Professor of Sociology
Stanford University

Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor, Associate Professor of History
Kent State University

Karen Woods Weierman, Associate Professor of English (Literary History)
Worcestor State University

Project Staff

Sady Sullivan, Director of Oral History
Brooklyn Historical Society

For more information, click here. View the PDF brochure here.

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Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing on 2010-12-13 19:12Z by Steven

Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 41, Number 3, Winter 2010
E-ISSN: 1530-9169, Print ISSN: 0022-1953
pages 478-480

Adriane Lentz-Smith, Hunt Family Assistant Professor History
Duke Univeristy

In October 1924, Leonard Rhinelander, scion of a wealthy and well-established New York family, wed Alice Jones, domestic worker and daughter of a Caribbean-born coachman. Less good-looking than well-appointed, Leonard used his fashionable goods and family fortune to woo Alice—appearing, as one reporter stated, like “a weak-chinned version of the sheiks”. Alice fell for Leonard and the life that he promised, one vastly different from the sturdy working-class existence that she shared with her parents in New Rochelle. After a three-year courtship, they announced their marriage in the society pages, but within a month, the honeymoon ended. The Rhinelanders had initiated an annulment suit, claiming that Alice had defrauded Leonard by hiding her racial lineage. Alice, as their lawyer alleged and the New York press trumpeted, had fooled Leonard into making her his “colored bride”.

In Property Rites, Smith-Pryor uses the Rhinelander trial to weave a narrative of classification, confusion, and cultural dislocation in the Jazz Age. At once a period…

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Review of Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor’s Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing on 2010-08-31 22:12Z by Steven

Review of Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor’s Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

History News Network
December 2009

Renee Romano, Associate Professor of History
Oberlin College

“Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness” (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

On a fall evening in 1921, eighteen-year old Leonard “Kip” Rhinelander, the son of one of New York’s oldest and wealthiest families, met Alice Jones, a 22-year old maid. After a complicated romance, the two married in 1924. But only one month after their wedding, news reports began to circulate that Rhinelander’s new bride was “colored,” the daughter of a white British mother and a father of “colored” West Indian origins. Under intense pressure from his family, Leonard deserted his new wife and appealed to the New York courts to annul his marriage on the grounds that Alice had deceived him about her race. The 1925 Rhinelander annulment trial became a media spectacle, and as historian Elizabeth Smith-Pryor asserts in her fine new book, a “social drama” that revealed the anxieties of white northerners about racial instability in response to sweeping cultural and demographic changes during the Jazz Age.

Closely analyzing the Rhinelander trial in the historical context of the 1920s, Smith-Pryor explores why the public became obsessed with the tale of Kip Rhinelander and Alice Jones and what that obsession reveals about the expansion and strengthening of racial hierarchies in the North in the period after the Great Migration. Two migrations—that of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe to the United States, and that of southern blacks to northern cities—intensified anxieties in the North about how to determine race and how to uphold and maintain racial boundaries in the 1920s. Whites sought to find new ways to shore up the boundaries of race, and as Smith-Pryor ably demonstrates, although Alice ultimately won the case, the Rhinelander trial became an important site for reasserting notions of race that served to uphold and maintain privilege…

Read the entire book review here.

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Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2009-11-17 19:23Z by Steven

Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness

University of North Carolina Press
April 2009
408 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 10 illus., notes, bibl., index
Cloth ISBN  978-0-8078-3268-4
Paper ISBN  978-0-8078-5939-1

Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor, Assistant Professor of History
Kent State University

In 1925 Leonard [Kip] Rhinelander, the youngest son of a wealthy New York society family, sued to end his marriage to Alice [Beatrice] Jones, a former domestic servant and the daughter of a “colored” cabman. After being married only one month, Rhinelander pressed for the dissolution of his marriage on the grounds that his wife had lied to him about her racial background. The subsequent marital annulment trial became a massive public spectacle, not only in New York but across the nation—despite the fact that the state had never outlawed interracial marriage.

Elizabeth Smith-Pryor makes extensive use of trial transcripts, in addition to contemporary newspaper coverage and archival sources, to explore why Leonard Rhinelander was allowed his day in court. She moves fluidly between legal history, a day-by-day narrative of the trial itself, and analyses of the trials place in the culture of the 1920s North to show how notions of race, property, and the law were—and are—inextricably intertwined.

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