How one Civil Rights activist posed as a white man in order to investigate lynchings

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2022-04-21 20:32Z by Steven

How one Civil Rights activist posed as a white man in order to investigate lynchings

Fresh Air
National Public Radio
2022-03-30

Dave Davies, Guest Host

White Lies author A.J. Baime tells the story of Walter White, a light-skinned Black man whose ancestors had been enslaved. For years White risked his life investigating racial violence in the South.

Listen to the story (00:42:04) and read the transcript here.

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‘Passing’ filmmaker Rebecca Hall shares the personal story behind her movie

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2021-12-03 02:32Z by Steven

‘Passing’ filmmaker Rebecca Hall shares the personal story behind her movie

Fresh Air
National Public Radio
2021-11-30

Terri Gross, Host

Rebecca Hall (right) works on the set of Passing with actors Ruth Negga (left) and Tessa Thompson.
Netflix

Actor/filmmaker Rebecca Hall had what she describes as a “real gasp” moment when she first read Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing.

The book centers on two light-skinned African American women who run into each other after not having seen each other for many years. One of the women is an active member of Harlem’s Black community. The other is married to a white man and is passing as white.

Reading the story of these fictional women, Hall realized that her maternal grandfather had also passed as white.

“Suddenly, aspects of my family life that were tinged with so much mystery and obfuscation, there was a reason for that,” Hall says.

Hall’s mother, acclaimed opera singer Maria Ewing, also passed as white, though not necessarily by her own volition. Instead, Hall says, Ewing tended to “be whatever people chose to see” — which sometimes meant being described as “exotic” by members of the opera community.

Hall was so moved by Larsen’s novel that she drafted a script for a film adaptation — and then she put it away until she felt ready to do something with it. Now, 13 years later, her adaptation of Passing is available on Netflix

Read the entire interview here.

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if he marries off or at least has his sons procreate with local women, that the children of these couplings will become part of his clan. And as Mozambican citizens, they will be able to own the land legally in perpetuity.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-12-12 21:46Z by Steven

And so he [a Chinese businessman] develops this scheme to bring his sons to Mozambique – teenage sons, one of them about 17, one of them a few years younger. And his idea that he comes up with is that if he marries off or at least has his sons procreate with local women, that the children of these couplings will become part of his clan. And as Mozambican citizens, they will be able to own the land legally in perpetuity. And his hold on this rich valley then can’t be challenged. —Howard French

Terry Gross, “China Turns To Africa For Resources, Jobs And Future Customers,” Fresh Air, WHYY-FM Philadelphia, National Public Radio, May 27, 2014. http://www.npr.org/2014/05/27/316299135/china-turns-to-africa-for-resources-jobs-and-future-customers.

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“I mean, how do you explain… to children that slavery existed in freedom-loving America, No. 1; and No. 2, how do you explain to a child about an enslaved heritage shrouded in miscegenation? It’s not an easy thing to do.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-01-19 03:00Z by Steven

“I mean, how do you explain… to children that slavery existed in freedom-loving America, No. 1; and No. 2, how do you explain to a child about an enslaved heritage shrouded in miscegenation? It’s not an easy thing to do.” —Regina Mason

Terry Gross, “When Ancestry Search Led To Escaped Slave: ‘All I Could Do Was Weep’,” National Public Radio, Fresh Air, WHYY Philadelphia, (January 18, 2016). http://www.npr.org/2016/01/18/463164866/when-ancestry-search-led-to-escaped-slave-all-i-could-do-was-weep. (00:06:48-00:07:05).

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When Ancestry Search Led To Escaped Slave: ‘All I Could Do Was Weep’

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-01-19 02:13Z by Steven

When Ancestry Search Led To Escaped Slave: ‘All I Could Do Was Weep’

Fresh Air (From WHYY in Philadelphia)
National Public Radio
2016-01-18

Terry Gross, Host

When she was in fifth grade, Regina Mason received a school assignment that would change her life: to connect with her country of origin. That night, she went home and asked her mother where they were from.

“She told me about her grandfather who was a former slave,” Mason tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “And that blew me away, because I’m thinking, ‘Slavery was like biblical times. It wasn’t just a few generations removed.’ ”

But for Mason, slavery was a few generations removed. She would later learn that her great-great-great-grandfather, a man named William Grimes, had been a runaway slave, and that he had authored what is now considered to be the first fugitive slave narrative.

“William Grimes’ narrative is precedent-setting,” Mason says. “[It] was published in 1825, and this was years before the abolitionist movement picked up slave narrative as a propaganda tool to end slavery. It sort of unwittingly paved the way for the American slave narrative to follow.”

Grimes’ original narrative tells the story of his 30 years spent in captivity, followed by his escape in 1814 from Savannah, Ga. He describes how his former owner discovered his whereabouts after the escape and forced him to give up his house in exchange for his freedom. (An updated version, published in 1855, includes a chapter about Grimes’ later life in poverty.)

Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave was again republished in 2008 by Oxford University Press. The latest edition was edited by Mason and William Andrews, a scholar of early African-American autobiography…

…Interview Highlights

On learning from her mother that her ancestors had been slaves

She talked about Grandpa Fuller, who was a mulatto slave. And I inquired about his parentage and she told me that his father, from what she knew, was a plantation owner, and his mother was an enslaved black woman. …

And I’m asking, “Well, that’s weird. Did his father own him?” … I mean, how do you explain … to children that slavery existed in freedom-loving America, No. 1; and No. 2, how do you explain to a child about an enslaved heritage shrouded in miscegenation? It’s not an easy thing to do…

Read the story highlights here. Listen to the interview (00:35:55) here. Download the interview here.

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Privilege And Pressure: A Memoir Of Growing Up Black And Elite In ‘Negroland’

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-09 19:11Z by Steven

Privilege And Pressure: A Memoir Of Growing Up Black And Elite In ‘Negroland’

Code Switch: Fronties of Race, Culture and Ethnicity
National Public Radio
2015-09-08

Terry Gross, Host
Fresh Air

Growing up in the 1950s, Margo Jefferson was part of Chicago’s black upper class. The daughter of a prominent doctor and his socialite wife, Jefferson inhabited a world of ambition, education and sophistication — a place she calls “Negroland.”

That afforded her many opportunities, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic says. But life was also undercut by the fear that her errors and failures would reflect poorly on her family and, subsequently, her race.

“It was very important that you show yourself a bright, lively, well-spoken person,” Jefferson tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “If you go back and read editorials in black magazines — even in white magazines — watch television, this attitude is everywhere: ‘Jackie Robinson, he’s advancing the race!’ ‘Marion Anderson, she’s advancing the race!’ This was the way America … [viewed] blacks: The individual was a collective symbol.”

In her memoir, Negroland, Jefferson describes the social pressures of her upbringing, as well as the sense of separation that it engendered. She writes that she and other members of the black elite thought of themselves as a “Third Race, poised between the masses of Negroes and all classes of Caucasians.”

Ultimately, it was the Black Power movement that led Jefferson to question some of the tenets that she had grown up with: “Black Power was really a major challenge to the social privileges and structures of the kind of privilege that I had grown up with,” she says. “That whole belief … that you will only be able to advance if you are perfectly behaved, if you present yourself as what white people would consider an ideal of whiteness … all of that just began to burst open.”…

Listen to the story (00:34:47) here. Download the story here. Read the transcript here.

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Mat Johnson On ‘Loving Day’ And Life As A ‘Black Boy’ Who Looks White

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-29 21:11Z by Steven

Mat Johnson On ‘Loving Day’ And Life As A ‘Black Boy’ Who Looks White

Fresh Air
National Public Radio
2015-06-29

Terry Gross, Host

As a biracial child growing up in Philadelphia, writer Mat Johnson identified as black – but looked white. His new novel is about a man who returns to his hometown after inheriting a run-down mansion.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. In a personal essay called “Approving My Blackness,” my guest Mat Johnson wrote, I grew up a black boy who looked like a white one. His African-American mother and Irish-American father divorced when he was 4. He says, I was raised mostly by my black mom in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia during the Black Power movement. So there was quite a contrast between how he saw himself and how others saw him.

Race and identity are also themes of his novel “Pym” and his comic book “Incognegro.” The main character in Johnson’s new satirical novel “Loving Day” is a comic book artist who, like Mat Johnson, is biracial but to many people looks white. When the novel opens, he’s newly divorced and has just returned to Germantown, the Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up because his father, who just died, bequeathed him a huge, old wreck of a mansion that he bought in an auction but was never able to renovate.

A mansion in the ghetto is how Johnson describes it. The character doesn’t know what to do with the mansion or his life. The book’s title, “Loving Day,” refers to the day of the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision Loving v. Virginia, which struck down all laws banning interracial marriage.

Mat Johnson, welcome to FRESH AIR. I’d love to start with a reading. So this reading happens when the main character is at a small comic book convention, and he finds himself placed on the panel of African-American comic book authors. And he knows because he looks white that people will assume, like, what is he doing there? And in fact, somebody asks, like, what are you doing on this panel? And if you could pick it up from there.

MAT JOHNSON: (Reading) Why am I at the black table? I’m a local writer just back in town, you know, peddling my wares, I tell them, then babble on a bit more, eventually getting to my name and the last book I worked on…

Listen to the interview here (00:38:01). Download the interview here. Read the transcript here.

 

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China Turns To Africa For Resources, Jobs And Future Customers

Posted in Africa, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Economics, Interviews, Media Archive on 2014-06-03 13:03Z by Steven

China Turns To Africa For Resources, Jobs And Future Customers

Fresh Air, WHYY-FM Philadelphia
National Public Radio
2014-05-27

Terry Gross, Host

Dave Davies, Senior Reporter

China’s economic engagement in Africa can be measured in dollars — for instance, the $71 million airport expansion contract in Mali, funded by American foreign aid, that went to a Chinese construction firm.

More remarkably, it can be measured in people: More than a million Chinese citizens have permanently moved to Africa, buying land, starting businesses and settling among local populations.

Journalist Howard French, who spent years reporting on Africa and China for The New York Times and The Washington Post, has a new book that looks at these trends. In China’s Second Continent, French draws on interviews with Chinese and African businesspeople, government officials and ordinary citizens to explore China’s presence in 15 African countries.

He says there’s a debate about the long-term consequences of China’s push into the African continent: Will it create development and prosperity, or will it lead to exploitation reminiscent of 19th-century European colonialism?

French tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies that African citizens, for their part, would like Chinese businesses to be more open and transparent. He also explains that when Chinese leaders look at Africa, they don’t just see arable land and natural resources — they see a potential market for Chinese products…

…DAVIES: You spent some time in Mozambique with a Chinese immigrant, Hao Shengli – is that – am I getting close to his name?

FRENCH: Hao Shengli.

DAVIES: Hao Shengli. Just tell us a little bit about how he got there and what kind of farming business he established.

FRENCH: So Hao Shengli had a been sort of a moderately successful businessman back in China who had a peculiar marital history. He had taken on several wives in succession, but after each divorce, had maintained an intimate and financial relationship with the past wife, even as he took on a new wife. And so this led to a need for him to continually amass more and more money. And this drove him eventually to seek opportunity outside of China.

He initially tries to open some businesses in the Middle East. They don’t succeed. And he went to a trade fair in southern China where, for the first time, he’s exposed to talk about opportunities in Africa. And he decided to try his hand there, and this leads him to go to Mozambique where he believed, because it was a Portuguese-speaking country, he wouldn’t find any Chinese people. He -Hao Shengli was driven by this very common motive that we’ve talked about before, where, you know, he wants to get to a place where there’s not going to be any competition from other Chinese people. And so he goes to Mozambique, and I meet him in the capital, Maputo. And he very generously drives me to his farm.

DAVIES: And how is he able to buy so much arable land?

FRENCH: So Hao had come with a certain amount of savings. He was a businessman. In China, he had had a reasonable success. He had saved up – I don’t know – over $100,000, which he had arrived with. And he described a process to me where he sort of makes his way from county to county ingratiating himself to local officials. And in the county where he finally settled, he had apparently helped in the construction of some local roads there. And this had won him great favor with local officials. And he ends up using these relationships to secure interest in this land.

He made a payment for the land, and then he settles on the land. He begins farming Stevia, which is a plant that produces sweeteners that are used in diet sodas. And his scheme is to become a giant Stevia producer and to export to the likes of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, etc. Hao very quickly, though, runs into trouble with residents of the surrounding villages around his land who are resentful of the fact that he secured this very rich and irrigated valley, which had been years earlier owned and run by Portuguese colonials.

And so he develops this scheme to bring his sons to Mozambique – teenage sons, one of them about 17, one of them a few years younger. And his idea that he comes up with is that if he marries off or at least has his sons procreate with local women, that the children of these couplings will become part of his clan. And as Mozambican citizens, they will be able to own the land legally in perpetuity. And his hold on this rich valley then can’t be challenged.

DAVIES: Well that’s – that’s an entrepreneurial spirit to family building, isn’t it?

FRENCH: Absolutely.

DAVIES: This immigrant, Shengli, who had bought this land and was bringing his sons over and had big plans, how exactly did he figure his son would get African wives? I mean, what would they do to get them? Is it a matter of dating? Is it a matter of visiting their parents?

FRENCH: Very good question. I mean, so the exact details are a bit hazy here. But as I began to talk through these questions with Shengli, it emerges that he himself may have had something of a relationship with the girl who ends up being the girlfriend of his first son—either that or he had a relationship with a friend of the girl who becomes the girlfriend of his son.

As we talk these things through, he tells me that through a variety of payments made to essentially the family members of the clan of eligible girls—eligible in his view—girls, he had been able to secure relationships with various local girls. And he exhibited a great deal of impatience for his younger son, who he called Little Fatty. This is a prepubescent – I don’t know – I want to say 14-year-old, who had just arrived very recently from China and really had no sort of native interest in girls yet. And Hao was deeply irritated by this, saying, you know, we’ve got to get on with this, we’ve got to get on with this. You know, he’s thinking about building his clan, and he’s paired off the older son with a girl and – who knows? – but they may have had children by now. And he’s very anxious to see this happen with the younger boy as well…

Read the article here. Listen to the interview (00:26:23)  here. Download the audio here. Read the transcript here.

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For Key And Peele, Biracial Roots Bestow Special Comedic ‘Power’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, Media Archive, United States on 2013-11-21 03:49Z by Steven

For Key And Peele, Biracial Roots Bestow Special Comedic ‘Power’

Fresh Air
National Public Radio
2013-11-20

Terry Gross, Host

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are the duo behind the Comedy Central sketch comedy show Key & Peele. Each has a white mother and black father, and a lot of their comedy is about race: Perhaps because they’re biracial, they’re perfectly comfortable satirizing white people and African-Americans — as well as everybody else. The New Yorker’s TV critic Emily Nussbaum describes their biracialism as a “Golden Ticket to themes rarely explored on television.”

Peele tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “I think the reason both of us became actors is because we did a fair amount of code switching growing up, and still do.”

Key and Peele met in Chicago, where they were part of the improv scene, and later worked together on the sketch comedy series MADtv. Their current show on Comedy Central wraps up its third season on Dec. 18, and has been renewed for a fourth.

Key and Peele tell Gross the stories behind some of their sketches, and their feelings about Saturday Night Live’s lack of female African-American cast members…

Read the entire article here. Listen to the story here. Download the audio here. Read the transcript here.

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‘Americanah’ Author Explains ‘Learning’ To Be Black In The U.S.

Posted in Articles, Audio, Interviews, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-01 00:40Z by Steven

‘Americanah’ Author Explains ‘Learning’ To Be Black In The U.S.

Fresh Air from WHYY
National Public Radio
2013-06-27

Terry Gross, Host

When the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was growing up in Nigeria she was not used to being identified by the color of her skin. That changed when she arrived in the United States for college. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of color in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn.

The learning process took some time and was episodic. Adichie recalls, for example, an undergraduate class in which the subject of watermelon came up. A student had said something about watermelon to an African-American classmate, who was offended by the comment.

“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘But what’s so bad about watermelons? Because I quite like watermelons,’ ” Adichie tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.

She felt that her African-American classmate was annoyed with her because Adichie didn’t share her anger — but she didn’t have the context to understand why. The history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was not taught to students in Nigeria. Adichie had yet to learn fully about the history of slavery — and its continuing reverberations — in the U.S.

“Race is such a strange construct,” says Adichie, “because you have to learn what it means to be black in America. So you have to learn that watermelon is supposed to be offensive.”

Adichie is a MacArthur Fellowship winner and author of the novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of A Yellow Sun. Her new novel, Americanah, explores this question of what it means to be black in the U.S., and tells the story of a young Nigerian couple, one of whom leaves for England and the other of whom leaves for America.

The title, she says, is a Nigerian word for those who have been to the U.S. and return with American affectations.

“It’s often used,” she says, “in the context of a kind of gentle mockery.”…

Read the transcript here. Listen to the interview here. Download the interview here.

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