ï»żBlack as We Wanna Be

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-18 17:45Z by Steven

Black as We Wanna Be

The Nation
2016-09-15

Matthew McKnight, Assistant Literary Editor


Frederick Douglass, February 21, 1895. (National Park Service, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington, DC)

Stauffer, John, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (New York: Liveright, 2015)

Fields, Karen E., and Barbara J. Fields, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (Brooklyn: Verso, 2012)

Trying to remedy racism on its own intellectual terrain is like trying to extinguish a fire by striking another match. The fiction must be unbelieved, the fire stamped out.

In her 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag explored some questions about the ever-evolving technology of photography and what it does to us, particularly when it’s used to capture moments that would normally make us avert our eyes. “Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order,” Sontag wrote, “are those who could do something to alleviate it—say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken—or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” Sontag spends much of the book discussing war photography; scant pages mention images and cruelties closer to home.

In the modern American context, there remains perhaps no more insidious cruelty than the belief—constantly manipulated and reinforced—that race is a natural and constant thing, something that should have any bearing on how we choose to organize our society and our lives. And though the convergence of racism and the photographic impulse isn’t new, the recent pictures and videos of killings by police officers have given renewed life to the questions that Sontag explored—and those she didn’t. Indeed, these images raise fewer questions about the act of looking at them than about the ways in which we view ourselves.

To modern eyes, the photographic portraits of Frederick Douglass are not so remarkable. Douglass was almost always photographed seated, wearing a dark suit, alternately staring directly into the camera and looking off to one side. As he abided by the portrait conventions of the era, only his skin color would have made these portraits remarkable in Douglass’s own time. The real joy of Picturing Frederick Douglass (2015)—a collection of 60 portraits, taken between 1841 and 1895; his four speeches on his theory of photography; and a critical essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr.—is to study his constancy. The changes in Douglass’s facial expressions across all of the portraits are mostly imperceptible: He looks serious, defiant, and proud.

The final portrait of Douglass was taken on February 21, 1895. He’d died the day before. That image shows him lying on his bed in Washington, DC. It is mostly a spectral gray-white. His hair and beard, his clothes, the bed linens, and the wall in the background all appear to be about the same color. There’s a faint outline of his profile, and with his hands crossed over his abdomen, he looks as dignified as ever…

Read the entire article here.

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Who’s the most photographed American man of the 19th Century? HINT: It’s not Lincoln…

Posted in Anthropology, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-03-31 00:35Z by Steven

Who’s the most photographed American man of the 19th Century? HINT: It’s not Lincoln…

The Washington Post
2016-03-15

Jennifer Beeson Gregory

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass would become one of the most well-known abolitionists, orators, and writers of his time. He understood and heralded not only the power of the written or spoken word, but also the power of the visual image — especially, his own likeness. He therefore sat for portraits wherever and whenever he could. As a result, Douglass was photographed more than any other American of his era: 160 distinct images (mostly portraits) have survived, more than Abraham Lincoln at 126. Many of these rare, historically significant images are published for the first time in “Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American,” by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd and Celeste-Marie Bernier.

This book shows all 160 photos and delves into Douglass’s life and passions, including photography. In his writings, Douglass praises Louis Daguerre, who invented the daguerreotype, which made the developing process easier and cheaper, and in turn made photography available to the masses. By the mid-19th century, there were portrait studios all over the Northern United States. Almost everyone in a free state could afford to have their picture taken — even non-whites. Douglass therefore called photography a “democratic art.”…


Unknown Photographer, Honeymoon with Helen Pitts in Niagara Falls, N.Y., August 1884. Albumen print (Frederick Douglass National Historic Site/National Park Service)

Read the entire article here.

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WELL! WELL!

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-03-16 22:41Z by Steven

WELL! WELL!

Goldsboro Weekly Argus
Goldsboro, North Carolina
Thursday, 1895-02-28 (Volume XVI, Number 67)
page 1, column 3
Source: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. United States Library of Congress.

Well, well, well!

“Where are we at?”

The sudden death of Frederick Douglas, the foremost negro in America, not by deserts but by the combination of fortuitous circumstances, occurred at his home in Washington, D. C., Wednesday night, and yesterday the Rep-Pop-Fusion House of Representatives of the General Assembly of North Carolina adjourned in his honor.

Fred Douglas as every one knows, was a mulatto, who was born a slave, but ran away at the age of 21 and made good his escape to New York. He had acquired a pretty fair education in his slavery days, which aided him in engineering his escape and helped him in his thus acquired freedom to gain notoriety. He leaped into prominence at one bound—at an anti-slavery meeting in Nantucket in 1841, where he made a speech, and delivered himself with such force and venom against the South that he was at once employed by the “Massachusetts Anti-Slavery League” to take the lecture field m behalf of the emancipation movement, that culminated in the war between the States.

After the war Douglas pressed himself into the field of politics, with his past prestige to give him force, and was made secretary of the San Domingo Commission, in 1871, under President Grant; and in 1872 he was one of the Republican Presidential electors of New York.

Subsequently he was for a number of years, until the Republicans went out of power, Register of Deeds for the District of Columbia, and while incumbent of that office married a white woman.

When President Harrison came into power he made Douglas U.S. Minister to Hayti.

This is the record in brief of the man who, though a negro himself, eschewed his own race and attempted to promulgate amalgamation, by marrying a white wife:—this is the man, “neither fish nor fowl,” as to race, but very foul always in his abuse of the South, in whose “honor” the lower House of the General Assembly of North Carolina, by the majority vote of its Rep-Pop fusion contingent, adjourned yesterday.

Wonder what Senator Marion Butler’s Etheopean will have to say about this action of his Russell-Pearson-Skinner Butler-Kitchen-ridden “Co-operative” Legislature.

Truly are we fallen on strange times in North Carolina.

Miscegenation Endorsed.

Several weeks ago a proposition was made in the General Assembly to adjourn in honor of Robert E. Lee, on the occasion of his birthday. This resolution was voted down, although by enactment of a prior Legislature Gen. Lee’s birthday is a public holiday in the State, and the public buildings are closed on that day.

Yesterday a resolution was introduced to adjourn until 10 o’clock on Saturday in order to pay respect to the memory of George Washington, whose birthday is also a legal holiday. This was voted down.

At the same session that the resolution to adjourn in honor of Washington was voted down, the following resolution, introduced by Crews, colored, of Granville, was adopted:

Whereas, The late Frederick Douglass departed this life on the 20 inst.; and whereas, we greatly deplore the same; now, therefore,

Resolved, That when this House adjourn, it adjourn in respect to the memory of the deceased.

These three dates—the birth of Lee, the birth of Washington, and the death of Douglass are compassed in one month. This General Assembly, deliberately and after debate, voted down the resolutions to honor the memory of the Father of his country, and Robt. E. Lee, who, with Grant, was among the heroes of Chepultapec, and the commander of the armies of the South, but put on record, in the journals of the House, a resolution of adjournment “in respect to the memory of Frederick Douglass.”

This action is equivalent to saying:

“Washington—
Lee—
Douglas—
these three, but the greatest of these is Douglas.”

This action, more correctly than any other official proceeding of this Legislature, shows the spirit of this body.

Fusion is a marriage of two parties having no principles in common.

The endorsement of the miscegenation leader is the legitimate heir of this union. —Raleigh News & Observer

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The many faces of Frederick Douglassï»ż

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-12-28 00:10Z by Steven

The many faces of Frederick Douglass

Democrat and Chronicle
Rochester, New York
2015-12-25

Jim Memmott, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York


Portrait of Frederick Douglass taken November 3, 1882 by John Howe Kent, 24 State Street, Rochester, New York
(Photo: Courtesy of the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, University of Rochester River Campus Libraries)

In November 1882, Frederick Douglass, escaped slave, orator, abolitionist, writer, lecturer, was back in Rochester, the city where he had lived for nearly 30 years, to give a talk.

Not surprisingly, he found time to visit the studio of Rochester photographer John Howe Kent to pose for a portrait.

The photograph, which is among the collection of the University of Rochester, shows a white-haired, bearded and contemplative Douglass. He looks away from the camera, his brow furrowed, his eyes on a distant prize.

According to the authors of a rich and rewarding book, the recently published Picturing Frederick Douglass, Kent’s picture became a lasting image of Douglass. It was used as the illustration facing the title page of the last edition of Douglass’s autobiography. And it was reproduced again and again on monuments, on a postage stamp and in drawings.

As the subtitle of Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American makes clear, the Rochester picture is just one of many of Douglass taken during a time when photography was coming of age.

The authors of the book, John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd and Celeste-Marie Bernier, have identified 160 separate photographs of Douglass, a handful taken in Rochester, and all republished in the book.

Read the entire article here.

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The Cry of Black Rage in African American Literature from Frederick Douglass to Richard Wright

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-12-22 04:26Z by Steven

The Cry of Black Rage in African American Literature from Frederick Douglass to Richard Wright

Edwin Mellen Press
2013
176 pages
ISBN10: 0-7734-4077-1; ISBN13: 978-0-7734-4077-7

Steven Troy Moore, Assistant Professor of Language and Literature
Abilene Christian University, Abilene Texas

This book examines the contrasting experiences of black rage that is exhibited in the writings of male and female African American authors. It boldly captures the compelling theme of the white silence and the black rage that battled each other from the early days of slavery up to the pre-Civil Rights Movement. It exposes the birth of black rage and the African American experience through such writers as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Ann Jacobs. Next, it gives a painful glimpse into the complicated experience of the biracial in the post-Reconstruction era through the eyes of Charles Chesnutt and Nella Larsen. Finally, this study concludes with an astounding view of the modern state of black rage through the controversial writings of Richard Wright and Ann Petry. Currently, many studies present a one-dimensional analysis of black rage; however, this book provides a comprehensive examination of this phenomenon. From the viewpoint of African American authors, it traces the gender differences of black rage that span one hundred years and includes valuable insights from such brilliant scholars as bell hooks, Cornel West, Barbara Christian, Martha J. Cutter, Deborah E. McDowell, and James Baldwin.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Maureen Honey
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • “Get Over It”
  • Chapter 1: Examining a Century of Silence and Rage in African American Literature, 1865-1946
    • Introduction
    • Literature Review
    • The Duality of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Ann Jacobs
    • The Biracial Worlds of Charles Chesnutt and Nella Larsen
    • Richard Wright’s Explosive Rage
  • Chapter 2: Silent Trees: Personal Reflections on Silence and Rage
    • The Silence
    • Silence and Rage
    • Mark
    • Blackness: Silence and Identity
    • Words from bell hooks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X
  • Chapter 3: Witnessing the Birth of Black Rage in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) and Harriet Ann Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
    • The Enduring Pain of Slavery
    • The Autobiographical Rage of Frederick Douglass
    • Impotent Rage
    • Black Female Rage in Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
    • The Slave Girl and the Sexual Predator
    • The Female Slave’s Alternative Retribution
    • Lasting Blow: The Lingering Influences of Slavery
  • Chapter 4: The Phenomenon of Biracial Rage in Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900) and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929)
    • The Biracial Identity
    • The White Mask in The House Behind Cedars Chesnutt’s Biracial Female
    • Black Female Rage in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand A Place to Belong: Location and Helga’s Biracial Identity
    • The Biracial Female in Passing Differed Rage
  • Chapter 5: Exploring the Explosive Urban Rage in Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) and Ann Petry’s The Street (1946)
    • Brutal Clarity
    • “Like a Red-Hot Iron”: Bigger Thomas’s Burning Rage
    • The White Cat and the Black Rat
    • Native Son’s Perpetuating Rage
    • The Furious Hell of Ann Petry’s The Street
    • The White Heaven: Petry’s Contrasting Spaces
    • The White Ideal and the Black Other
    • Blackness and Claustrophobic Spaces
    • Explosive Black Female Rage
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-11-03 01:28Z by Steven

Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American

Liveright (an imprint of W. W. Norton & Company)
November 2015
320 pages
9.4 × 12.4 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-87140-468-8

John Stauffer, Professor of English, American studies, and African American Studies
Harvard University

Zoe Trodd, Professor of American Literature
Department of American and Canadian Studies
University of Nottingham

Celeste-Marie Bernier, Professor of African American Studies
Department of American and Canadian Studies
University of Nottingham

A landmark and collectible volume—beautifully produced in duotone—that canonizes Frederick Douglass through historic photography.

Picturing Frederick Douglass is a work that promises to revolutionize our knowledge of race and photography in nineteenth-century America. Teeming with historical detail, it is filled with surprises, chief among them the fact that neither George Custer nor Walt Whitman, and not even Abraham Lincoln, was the most photographed American of that century. In fact, it was Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the ex-slave turned leading abolitionist, eloquent orator, and seminal writer whose fiery speeches transformed him into one of the most renowned and popular agitators of his age. Now, as a result of the groundbreaking research of John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Douglass emerges as a leading pioneer in photography, both as a stately subject and as a prescient theorist who believed in the explosive social power of what was then just a nascent art form.

Indeed, Frederick Douglass was in love with photography. During the four years of Civil War, he wrote more extensively on the subject than any other American, even while recognizing that his audiences were “riveted” by the war and wanted a speech only on “this mighty struggle.” He frequented photographers’ studios regularly and sat for his portrait whenever he could. To Douglass, photography was the great “democratic art” that would finally assert black humanity in place of the slave “thing” and at the same time counter the blackface minstrelsy caricatures that had come to define the public perception of what it meant to be black. As a result, his legacy is inseparable from his portrait gallery, which contains 160 separate photographs.

At last, all of these photographs have been collected into a single volume, giving us an incomparable visual biography of a man whose prophetic vision and creative genius knew no bounds. Chronologically arranged and generously captioned, from the first picture taken in around 1841 to the last in 1895, each of the images—many published here for the first time—emphasizes Douglass’s evolution as a man, artist, and leader. Also included are other representations of Douglass during his lifetime and after—such as paintings, statues, and satirical cartoons—as well as Douglass’s own writings on visual aesthetics, which have never before been transcribed from his own handwritten drafts.

The comprehensive introduction by the authors, along with headnotes for each section, an essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and an afterword by Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.—a direct Douglass descendent—provide the definitive examination of Douglass’s intellectual, philosophical, and political relationships to aesthetics. Taken together, this landmark work canonizes Frederick Douglass through a form he appreciated the most: photography.

Featuring:

  • Contributions from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. (a direct Douglass descendent)
  • 160 separate photographs of Douglass—many of which have never been publicly seen and were long lost to history
  • A collection of contemporaneous artwork that shows how powerful Douglass’s photographic legacy remains today, over a century after his death
  • All Douglass’s previously unpublished writings and speeches on visual aesthetics
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The Lives of Frederick Douglass

Posted in Articles, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2015-09-10 01:14Z by Steven

The Lives of Frederick Douglass

Harvard University Press
February 2016
350 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
9 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674055810

Robert S. Levine, Professor of English and a Distinguished University Professor
University of Maryland

Frederick Douglass’s fluid, changeable sense of his own life story is reflected in the many conflicting accounts he gave of key events and relationships during his journey from slavery to freedom. Nevertheless, when these differing self-presentations are put side by side and consideration is given individually to their rhetorical strategies and historical moment, what emerges is a fascinating collage of Robert S. Levine’s elusive subject. The Lives of Frederick Douglass is revisionist biography at its best, offering new perspectives on Douglass the social reformer, orator, and writer.

Out of print for a hundred years when it was reissued in 1960, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) has since become part of the canon of American literature and the primary lens through which scholars see Douglass’s life and work. Levine argues that the disproportionate attention paid to the Narrative has distorted Douglass’s larger autobiographical project. The Lives of Frederick Douglass focuses on a wide range of writings from the 1840s to the 1890s, particularly the neglected Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, 1892), revised and expanded only three years before Douglass’s death. Levine provides fresh insights into Douglass’s relationships with John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, and his former slave master Thomas Auld, and highlights Douglass’s evolving positions on race, violence, and nation. Levine’s portrait reveals that Douglass could be every bit as pragmatic as Lincoln—of whom he was sometimes fiercely critical—when it came to promoting his own work and goals.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Lives after the Narrative
  • 1. The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society Narrative
  • 2. Taking Back the Narrative: The Dublin Editions
  • 3. Heroic Slaves: Madison Washington and My Bondage and My Freedom
  • 4. Tales of Abraham Lincoln (and John Brown)
  • 5. Thomas Auld and the Reunion Narrative
  • Epilogue: Posthumous Douglass
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
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Deconstructing Pseudo-Scientific Anthropology: Anténor Firmin and the Reconceptualization of African Humanity

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive on 2015-03-23 01:41Z by Steven

Deconstructing Pseudo-Scientific Anthropology: Anténor Firmin and the Reconceptualization of African Humanity

The Journal of Pan African Studies
Volume 7, Number 2, August 2014
pages 9-33

Gershom Williams, Adjunct Professor of African-American History and African-American Studies
Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona

“The science of inequality is emphatically a science of White people. It is they who have invented it, and set it going, who have maintained, cherished and propagated it, thanks to their observations and their deductions.” –Jean Finot, Race Prejudice (1907)

“A preponderance of (fossil) and genetic evidence has revealed, virtually beyond a doubt, that the same Europeans who created the idea of race and White supremacy are the genetic progeny of the very Africans they devalued.” –Salim Muwakkil, Chicago Tribune

Abstract

Euro-American ideas and assumptions regarding African innate inferiority and racial inequality are central to the pseudo-scientific ‘race myth’ of White supremacy. In their search to find an expedient explanation, rationalization and justification for the horrific holocaust of enslavement, Europeans and later White Americans developed the international thesis and concept of African biological and intellectual inferiority.

In this exploratory essay, I am endeavoring to present a critical review of the anti-racist, vindicationist tradition of African American and Haitian intellectuals who challenged, rejected and refuted the ‘scientific racism’ of Euro-American ethnologists, Egyptologists, anthropologists, historians, philosophers, and physicians.

In another essay that we discuss in the contents of this manuscript, anti-racist theorists Stepan and Gilman argue that those stigmatized and stereotyped by the ideology of ‘scientific racism’ published prolific counter narratives that remain obscured and unrecognized by the historians of mainstream science.

What did the men and women of African descent in the diaspora, categorized by the biological, medical and anthropological sciences as racially inferior have to say about the matter? How did they respond to the charges and claims made about them in the name of science? In seeking to provide credible answers to the latter questions, we are re-visiting the powerful and illuminating publications by Black American and Haitian writers of the pre-AntÚnor Firmin era which are viable proof of the vindicationist tradition inherent among diasporan Black intellectuals. This school or community of literate intellectuals boldly offers a passionate and consistent rhetoric of resistance to economic and psychological enslavement and the mis-education of their people.

This essay remembers and pays homage to those public intellectuals of the early and late nineteenth century who dared to disagree with popular opinion and proceeded to debate the dangerous discourse of race and the fallacy of White supremacy. Central to our narrative are the names and voices of David Walker, Lydia Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Martin R. Delaney and George Washington Williams. All of the aforementioned writers preceded the publication of Haitian scholar and statesmen Joseph Antùnor Firmin’s The Equality of the Human Races in 1885. Haitian anthropologist, Egyptologist, Pan-Africanist and politician J. Antùnor Firmin did not rise out of an intellectual vacuum to conduct study and research for his massive and masterful manuscript.

As I attempt to demonstrate in this paper, there is a long standing pre and post Firmin intellectual tradition in the United States and Haiti during the early nineteenth and continuing throughout the twentieth century. Like many of the intellectuals already mentioned, AntÚnor Firmin (a descendant of the Haitian intellectual Maroons) obviously did not possess an inferiority complex. He was not intellectually intimidated by the dominant thinking and behavior of the advocates of racial ranking and hierarchy.

A bold and brilliant thinker, he re-envisioned and re-conceptualized the image and pre-colonial cultural heritage of African descended people. Lastly, my essential purpose in presenting this paper is to convey to the reader(s) that prior to the invention and propagation of the ‘race myth’, the concept and belief in Black inferiority was non-existent.

As classicist historian Frank M. Snowden Jr. writes in his iconic text, Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, “
Nothing comparable to the virulent color prejudice of modern times existed in the ancient world. This is the view of most scholars who have examined the evidence and who have come to conclusions such as these: The ancients did not fall into the error of biological racism; Black skin color was not a sign of inferiority
” (Snowden 1983: 63) By confronting and deconstructing the multitude of racial myths and stereotypes fashioned by Euro-Americans centuries ago, Antùnor Firmin and others who believed in liberty, equality and fraternity could dismantle and destroy the foundational pillars of scientific racism. It is indeed instructive to remember what anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits stated a half century ago. “
The myth of the Negro (African) past is one of the principal supports of race prejudice in this
country…”

Read the entire article here.

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Interracial Intimacies: An Examination of Powerful Men and Their Relationships across the Color Line

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-03-07 02:02Z by Steven

Interracial Intimacies: An Examination of Powerful Men and Their Relationships across the Color Line

Carolina Academic Press
2009
144 pages
Paper ISBN: 978-1-59460-496-6

Earl Smith, Professor Emeritus of Sociology
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Angela J. Hattery, Professor and Director of Women and Gender Studies
George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Unique among books on interracial relationships, this book examines the lives of high profile men who have produced public discourses on race and interracial relationships and who themselves, often contradictory to their rhetoric, were or continue to be involved in love relationships across the color line. The book opens with a discussion of the history of interracial couplings in the United States, including an examination of the relationship of Richard and Mildren Loving which led to the landmark case Loving v. Virginia in which the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1967, rendered unconstitutional all state laws that prohibited interracial marriage. Each of the subsequent chapters is devoted to an individual man or couple; we explore the lives of men about whom their interracial relationships are relatively well known, including Thomas Jefferson, Strom Thurmond, Clarence Thomas, Frederick Douglass, and William Cohen. We also explore a few figures about whom less is known about their intimate lives including George Washington and Richard Mentor Johnson.

Rather than simply focusing on the relationships exclusively, this book examines specifically the role that power plays in shaping the negotiation of intimate relationships, family forms, racial identity, hegemonic ideology and public policy among public figures who not only contributed to the public discourses on race and interracial unions, but also contributed to the racial ideologies that gained hegemony and dominated Americans’ beliefs about race and the laws and public policies that established second class citizenship for those identified as “Black.”

This book offers the interested reader a glimpse into the personal lives of famous and not so famous American men who clandestinely or in open view loved women across the color line. In some cases, these loving relationships mirrored the men’s beliefs about race and interracial unions—Richard Mentor Johnson, William Cohen—and in others these relationships were in seeming contradiction to the beliefs these men held and in fact developed about racial purity and segregation—Thomas Jefferson, Clarence Thomas, Strom Thurmond. These contradictions between the public and private lives of our country’s public servants offers a rich arena for exploration of race in the United States. In light of the recent election of the first African American president, Barack Obama, this book could not be more timely.

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My Bondage and My Freedom

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2014-04-20 16:52Z by Steven

My Bondage and My Freedom

Yale University Press
2014 (originally published in 1855 by Miller, Orton & Mulligan)
432 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Paperback ISBN: 9780300190595

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895)

Introduction and Notes by David W. Blight

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass escaped to freedom and became a passionate advocate for abolition and social change and the foremost spokesperson for the nation’s enslaved African American population in the years preceding the Civil War. My Bondage and My Freedom is Douglass’s masterful recounting of his remarkable life and a fiery condemnation of a political and social system that would reduce people to property and keep an entire race in chains.

This classic is revisited with a new introduction and annotations by celebrated Douglass scholar David W. Blight. Blight situates the book within the politics of the 1850s and illuminates how My Bondage represents Douglass as a mature, confident, powerful writer who crafted some of the most unforgettable metaphors of slavery and freedom—indeed of basic human universal aspirations for freedom—anywhere in the English language.

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