What is Racial Passing?

Posted in Economics, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2019-03-03 03:59Z by Steven

What is Racial Passing?

Digital Studios: Origin of Everything
PBS Digital Studios
Public Broadcasting Service
Season 2, Episode 13 (First Aired: 2019-02-27)

Danielle Bainbridge, Host, Writer, and Postdoctoral Fellow
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

What motivates someone to disguise their race, gender, religion, etc.? Today Danielle explores the complicated history of passing in the United States.

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Shades of Complexity: A History of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-01-25 03:54Z by Steven

Shades of Complexity: A History of Racial Passing

Literature and Digital Diversity
Department of English
Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
2017-12-11

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Professor of English

Sarah Connell, Assistant Director, Women Writers Project

This archival exhibit was created by Vanessa Gregorchik in Literature and Digital Diversity, fall 2017.

Introduction

On the surface, race appears as a simple category to quantify—the color of one’s skin, the box one circles on the census, even the percentage that appears on an at-home DNA testing kit. But the reality of one’s racial identity is hardly objective. This archive outlines the stories of individuals who chose to “pass” as a different race, or as a portion of their racial background, often in pursuit of societal advancement that their given race prevented them from obtaining. The decision to accept or deny any aspect of one’s identity is a complex and difficult decision, and this collection aims to educate the public on those challenges and intricacies faced by those of multiracial backgrounds in both the era of segregation and today.

Organization

This archive is structured around the environments and dominant factors in each individual’s decision to pass—including emancipation, education, and employment. This division is not intended to claim that these are the sole or even intentional reasons to racially pass, but rather to thematically organize stories that share similar domains. To best tell the narrative of both the individuals and the broader social climate they lived in, I collected individual and family portraits, illustrations, and newspaper clippings. I aimed to represent both the singular person and the communities they were joining or leaving…

Read this entire digital archive here.

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Passing for White

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2017-07-26 15:48Z by Steven

Passing for White

Barrington Stoke
2017-05-11
112 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78112-681-3

Tanya Landman

She must pose as a master to make herself free.

It’s 1848 in the Deep South of America. Rosa is a slave but her owner is also her father and her fair skin means she can ‘pass for white’. With the help of Benjamin, her husband, she disguises herself as a young white man – and Benjamin’s master. In this guise, the two of them must make their way out of the South, avoiding those they have encountered before and holding their nerve over a thousand miles to freedom.

Inspired by the amazing true story of Ellen and William Craft, this is a powerful tale of danger, injustice and unimaginable courage.

Information for Adults: This book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy it. It has been edited to a reading age of 8.

It features a removable ‘super-readable’ sticker.

Read the first chapter here.

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Rachel Dolezal’s Unintended Gift to America

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-17 22:22Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal’s Unintended Gift to America

The New York Times
2015-06-17

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History
Stanford University

Allyson Hobbs is the author of “A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life.”

In James Baldwin’s 1968 novel “Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone,” a child points to his light-skinned mother’s relationships to offer a compelling case that she is indisputably black:

“Our mama is almost white … but that don’t make her white. You got to be all white to be white …. You can tell she’s a colored woman because she’s married to a colored man, and she’s got two colored children. Now, you know ain’t no white lady going to do a thing like that.”

For the child in Baldwin’s novel, racial identity was determined by the life one chose to live and the relationships one chose to privilege.

Rachel A. Dolezal evidently believes that she should have the same choice as the light-skinned mother in Baldwin’s novel. Enmeshed in black politics, black communities and black experiences — she is raising two black sons — why should she see herself any other way?

As a historian who has spent the last 12 years studying “passing,” I am disheartened that there is so little sympathy for Ms. Dolezal or understanding of her life circumstances…

Whiteness is a form of property, the legal scholar Cheryl I. Harris has argued, a privilege that allocated economic, political and social resources along the color line. By passing as white, one could have access to employment opportunities, buy a house in a better neighborhood, and enjoy countless other advantages, like sitting in a more comfortable seat on a train or being addressed as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” One could do more than survive; one could live….

Read the entire article here.

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Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory

Posted in Biography, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2015-01-15 02:11Z by Steven

Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory

University of Georgia Press
2015-05-15
136 pages
8 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8203-3802-6
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-4724-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-4832-2

Barbara McCaskill, Associate Professor of English and co-director of the Civil Rights Digital Library
University of Georgia

How William and Ellen Craft’s escape from slavery, their activism, and press accounts figured during the antislavery movement of the mid-1800s and Reconstruction

he spectacular 1848 escape of William and Ellen Craft (1824–1900; 1826–1891) from slavery in Macon, Georgia, is a dramatic story in the annals of American history. Ellen, who could pass for white, disguised herself as a gentleman slaveholder; William accompanied her as his “master’s” devoted slave valet; both traveled openly by train, steamship, and carriage to arrive in free Philadelphia on Christmas Day. In Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery, Barbara McCaskill revisits this dual escape and examines the collaborations and partnerships that characterized the Crafts’ activism for the next thirty years: in Boston, where they were on the run again after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law; in England; and in Reconstruction-era Georgia. McCaskill also provides a close reading of the Crafts’ only book, their memoir, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, published in 1860.

Yet as this study of key moments in the Crafts’ public lives argues, the early print archive—newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, legal documents—fills gaps in their story by providing insight into how they navigated the challenges of freedom as reformers and educators, and it discloses the transatlantic British and American audiences’ changing reactions to them. By discussing such events as the 1878 court case that placed William’s character and reputation on trial, this book also invites readers to reconsider the Crafts’ triumphal story as one that is messy, unresolved, and bittersweet. An important episode in African American literature, history, and culture, this will be essential reading for teachers and students of the slave narrative genre and the transatlantic antislavery movement and for researchers investigating early American print culture.

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‘A Chosen Exile,’ by Allyson Hobbs [Senna Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-11-22 03:00Z by Steven

‘A Chosen Exile,’ by Allyson Hobbs [Senna Review]

The New York Times
Sunday Book Review
2014-11-21

Danzy Senna

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life By Allyson Hobbs; Illustrated. 382 pp. Harvard University Press. $29.95.

One of the best birthday presents anybody ever gave me was a “calling card” by the conceptual artist Adrian Piper. I was in college at the time, and it felt like the ultimate inside joke handed from one racially ambiguous person to another.

Slim and innocuous as a business card, it reads: “Dear Friend, I am black. I am sure you did not realize this when you made/laughed at/agreed with that racist remark. In the past I have attempted to alert people to my identity in advance. . . . I regret any discomfort my presence is causing you, just as I’m sure you regret the discomfort your racism is causing me.”

To be black but to be perceived as white is to find yourself, at times, in a racial no man’s land. It is to feel like an embodiment of W. E. B. Du Bois’s double consciousness — that sense of being in two places at the same time. It is also to be perpetually aware of both the primacy of race and the “bankruptcy of the race idea,” as Allyson Hobbs, an assistant professor of history at Stanford University, puts it in her incisive new cultural history, “A Chosen Exile.”

Hobbs is interested in the stories of individuals who chose to cross the color line — black to white — from the late 1800s up through the 1950s. It’s a story we’ve of course read and seen before in fictional accounts — numerous novels and films that have generally portrayed mixed-race characters in the sorriest of terms. Like gay characters, mulattoes always pay for their existence dearly in the end. Joe Christmas, the tormented drifter in William Faulkner’sLight in August,” considers his blackness evidence of original sin (a.k.a. miscegenation) and ends up castrated and murdered. Sarah Jane, a character in Douglas Sirk’s 1959 remake of the film “Imitation of Life,” denies her black mother in her attempt to be seen as white. Her tragedy once again feels like mixed fate. As her long-suffering mother puts it, “How do you tell a child that she was born to be hurt?”…

Read the entire review here.

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The Long Walk to Freedom: Runaway Slave Narratives

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2012-10-25 17:29Z by Steven

The Long Walk to Freedom: Runaway Slave Narratives

Beacon Press
2012-08-21
288 pages
6″ x 9″
Cloth ISBN: 978-080706912-7

Devon W. Carbado, Professor of Law and African American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Donald Weise, Independent Scholar in African American history

The first book about the runaway slave phenomenon written by fugitive slaves themselves.

In this groundbreaking compilation of first-person accounts of the runaway slave phenomenon, editors Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise have recovered twelve narratives spanning eight decades-more than half of which have been long out of print. Told in the voices of the runaway slaves themselves, these narratives reveal the extraordinary and often innovative ways that these men and women sought freedom and demanded citizenship. Also included is an essay by UCLA history professor Brenda Stevenson that contextualizes these narratives, providing a brief yet comprehensive history of slavery, as well as a look into the daily life of a slave. Divided into four categories-running away for family, running inspired by religion, running by any means necessary, and running to be free-these stories are a testament to the indelible spirit of these remarkable survivors.

The Long Walk to Freedom presents excerpts from the narratives of well-known runaway slaves, like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, as well as from the narratives of lesser-known and virtually unknown people. Several of these excerpts have not been published for more than a hundred years. But they all portray the courageous and sometimes shocking ways that these men and women sought their freedom and asserted power, often challenging many of the common assumptions about slaves’ lack of agency.

Among the remarkable and inspiring stories is the tense but triumphant tale of Henry Box Brown, who, with a white abolitionist’s help, shipped himself in a box-over a twenty-seven-hour train ride, part of which he spent standing on his head-to freedom in Philadelphia. And there’s the story of William and Ellen Craft, who fled across thousands of miles, with Ellen, who was light-skinned, disguised as a white male slave-owner so she and her husband could achieve their dream of raising their children as free people.

Gripping, inspiring, and captivating, The Long Walk to Freedom is a remarkable collection that celebrates those who risked their lives in pursuit of basic human rights.

Read the Introduction here.

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English R1A: Keeping it Real?: Racial & Queer Passing in American Literature

Posted in Course Offerings, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-05-20 03:54Z by Steven

English R1A: Keeping it Real?: Racial & Queer Passing in American Literature

University of California, Berkeley
Fall 2010

Rosa Marti­nez

“I had a literature rather than a personality, a set of fictions about myself.”
Kafka Was the Rage by Anatole Broyard

This course intends to explore the “art” of racial passing and masquerade in American literature and culture through a diverse sample of American novels and short stories, such as traditional narratives of black-to-white passing, which is historically prevalent particularly in African-American literature, and other modes of passing, for instance gender and ethnic ambiguity as well as posing and the “closeting” of one’s sexuality. What are the connections or disjunctions between “closeting,” posing, and crossing the gender or color line? By focusing on the trope of the passing figure, we will ask how people and imagined characters negotiate their identity in various and varying social spaces and also, how authors disclose the frailty of social order regarding sexuality, race and the body to make alliances in unimagined ways. Venturing out of the closet as another and as they please, these passing figures are, indeed, queer. Yet what are the personal costs in relinquishing a disfavored identity for a favored one?

This course intends to hone your reading and writing skills, and will focus on helping you make thoughtful questioning and “interesting use of the texts you read in the essays you write.” Through a gradual process of outlining, rewriting and revising, you will produce 32 pages of written work (including brief response papers and three 3-4 page argumentative essays).

Book List

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Naufragios (1542); William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860); Joseph Harris, Rewriting (2006); Nella Larsen, Passing (1929); Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894); a course reader containing critical readings.

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Crimes of Performance

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2011-11-02 03:34Z by Steven

Crimes of Performance

Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society
Volume 13, Issue 1 (2011)
Special Issue: Black Critiques of Capital: Radicalism, Resistance, and Visions of Social Justice
pages 29-45
DOI: 10.1080/10999949.2011.551476

Uri McMillan, Assistant Professor of English
University of California, Los Angeles

In this article, I focus on the intersections between discourses of crime and illegality with modes of performance in the multiple impersonations staged by William and Ellen Craft, two married fugitive slaves who escaped from chattel slavery in the United States in 1848 through a complex set of layered performances. I begin illustrating the linkages between crime and performance by tracing the workings of a dynamic I term “fugitive transvestism” in an aesthetic representation of Ellen Craft, specifically an engraving she posed for in 1851 that was later published in The London Illustrated News. In doing so, I not only reveal the engraving as a site where we can witness Craft’s embodied performances, rather than a seemingly static document, but also focus on the crimes of “being” acted by Craft that surface in the engraving itself. In addition, I further reveal the performative and criminal acts committed by Ellen Craft, by later moving to a discussion of prosthetics, focusing attention on the mechanisms of Craft’s escape costume. Prosthetic performances, as I discuss them, were dramatic and tactical strategies employed by the Crafts that continue to reveal the suturing of crime and performance in Ellen Craft’s counterfeit embodiment of her alter-ego, while taking it further into yet another set of unlawful impersonations. Thus, this essay will evince how the Craft’s multiple crimes of performance enabled their mobility across 19th-century spatial sites and representational spheres.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Impurely Raced // Purely Erased: Toward a Rhetorical Theory of (Bi)Racial Passing

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2011-05-21 02:31Z by Steven

Impurely Raced // Purely Erased: Toward a Rhetorical Theory of (Bi)Racial Passing

University of Southern California
May 2009
348 pages

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Visiting Scholar
Brown University

Dissertation Presented to the FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (COMMUNICATION)

This dissertation develops a theory about the interrelations between mixed race identification and passing as they pertain to the field of rhetoric and to United States slavery and segregation settings. I introduce the concept of (bi)racial passing to argue that passing is a form of rhetoric that identifies and represents passers intersectionally via synecdoche. In Chapter One I introduce the rhetorical, cultural, and conceptual significances of passing based on a review of the literature. I introduce the central argument of the project by proposing a theory of (bi)racial passing that considers the problems and possibilities of mixed race representation and mobility as a bridge between Platonic episteme and Sophistic doxa as well as between the material and symbolic components of biracial categorization. Chapter Two considers the historical narrative of Ellen Craft at the intersection of synecdoche and irony to highlight and transgress real and imagined borders that stretch beyond a simple consideration of race. Taking up the issue of appropriation through a detailed critique of the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, my third chapter considers passing as an antecedent form of identity theft and as a form of resistance. In contrast to the cases examined in these chapters, my fourth chapter explores Harper’s Iola Leroy, as a fictional account of passing that ties synecdoche to eloquence, articulating the tension between the threat of passing contained in the Plessy ruling and its relation to contemporary attempts at measuring discrimination at the intersection of race, class, and gender.

My fifth chapter takes a turn by exploring the literary and cinematic versions of The Human Stain, as contemporary narratives of passing based on tragedy and synecdoche in the context of minstrel performance and Jim and Jane Crow segregation. My last chapter fleshes out the theory introduced in the first, working toward a theory of (bi)racial passing that rethinks inadequate dichotomies of episteme vs. doxa as well as white vs. black. Then, blending the critical race theory of intersectionality with rhetorical personae I explain the significances of synecdoche, metonymy, irony, appropriation, eloquence, and tragedy in the various instances of passing explored. At a theoretical level, I rethink the inadequate dichotomies of episteme vs. doxa as well as white vs. black. I conclude with a rhetorical theory of passing based on the fourth persona and six original passwords that present opportunities for future research.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Epigraph
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Chapter One: Running Along the Color Line: Racial Passing and the Problem of Mixed Race Identity
  • Chapter One References
  • Chapter Two: The “Craft” of Passing: Rhetorical Irony, Intersectionality and the Case of Ellen Craft
  • Chapter Two References
  • Chapter Three: “Membership Has Its Privileges:” Plessy’s Passing and the Threat of Identity Theft
  • Chapter Three References
  • Chapter Four: “She Was Above All Sincere:” (Bi)racial Passing and Rhetorical Eloquence in Iola Leroy
  • Chapter Four References
  • Chapter Five: “A Crow that Doesn’t Know How to Be a Crow:” Reading The Human Stain and Racial Passing from Text to Film
  • Chapter Five References
  • Chapter Six: Things Said in Passing: Toward a Rhetorical: Theory of (Bi)Racial Passing
  • Chapter Six References
  • Bibliography

LIST OF FIGURES

  • Figure 1: Rev. Rafael Matos Sr
  • Figure 2: “The New Eve”
  • Figure 3: Dramatic Theater of Passing
  • Figure 4: Ellen Craft in Plain Clothes
  • Figure 5: Ellen Craft as Mr. Johnson
  • Figure 6: D. F. Desdunes
  • Figure 7: Homer A. Plessy
  • Figure 8: Hopkins as Elder Silk
  • Figure 9: Miller as Younger Silk
  • Figure 10: Rhetorical Intersections of Passing
  • Figure 11: Dramatic Theater of Passing as Rhetorical and Intersectional
  • Figure 12: Layers of Meaning: The Dramatic and Tropological Roots of (Bi)racial Passing
  • Figure 13: Neoclassical Elements of Passing
  • Figure 14: The Truths of (Bi)racial Passing
  • Figure 15: (Bi)racial Passing as Material and Symbolic

Read the entire dissertation here.

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