MAMP Podcast Ep #4: Revisiting the One-Drop Rule

Posted in Audio, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2019-01-25 15:42Z by Steven

MAMP Podcast Ep #4: Revisiting the One-Drop Rule

My American Melting Pot
2019-01-04

Lori L. Tharps, Host, Head Chef and Chief Content Creator; Associate Professor of journalism
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

On episode #4 of the MAMP podcast, we’re revisiting the one-drop rule with two women who both believed they were white, until they discovered by accident, that they weren’t.

My guests are Gail Lukasik and Shannon Wink. Gail is the author of the new book, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing and Shannon is a Philadelphia-based journalist and writer. In her late 40s, Gail discovered that her mother had been passing as white for her entire adult life. Shannon learned her maternal grandfather wasn’t Native American as he’d claimed, he was actually Black.

In this riveting discussion, we hear about Gail and Shannon’s “family secrets,” but spend the majority of the time speaking about what it means to be Black or white. We revisit this flawed concept of the one-drop rule that stipulates a person is Black if they have just one drop of Black blood in them. If that were truly the case, then both Gail and Shannon would be certifiably Black. But they’re not.

What does it mean to be white or Black in this country? How does knowing you have Black ancestry change one’s sense of racial identity? What role do culture and community play in one’s identity formation? Listen in on the conversation to hear how we answer these questions and more.

“I’ve often wondered why more colored girls … never ‘passed’ over. It’s such a frightfully easy thing to do. If one’s the type, all that’s needed is a little nerve.”Nella Larsen, from the novel Passing

Listen to the episode (00:47:24) here download the episode here.

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‘White Like Her’ Optioned For TV Series By FGW Productions

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-01-22 21:00Z by Steven

‘White Like Her’ Optioned For TV Series By FGW Productions

Deadline Hollywood
2019-01-15

Anita Busch, Film Editor


Skyhorse Publishing/Jerome Lukasik

EXCLUSIVE: The bestselling book White Like Her, author Gail Lukasik’s personal exploration about her mother’s decision to hide her African American heritage and pass for white, has been optioned by FGW Productions (Who Killed Tupac?). White Like Her will be adapted as a dramatic TV series.

The book, published last year by Skyhorse Publishing, was inspired by Lukasik’s appearance on PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow. Vowed to secrecy until her mother’s death, Lukasik revealed on national television to 1.5 million people that her mother passed for white. Within 24 hours of her appearance, the family she never knew she had, found her.

Set against the historical backdrop of the Jim Crow South, the book chronicles Lukasik’s journey to uncover the truth of her mother’s racial heritage and to understand her mother’s decision to pass for white. The project will be produced by Stephanie Frederic and Susan Banks in association with Tricia Woodgett of TigerEye Films and Datari Turner of Datari Turner Productions…

Read the entire article here.

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In visit to Kenyon, author illuminates history of racial passing in America

Posted in Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-11-13 04:28Z by Steven

In visit to Kenyon, author illuminates history of racial passing in America

Kenyon College
Gambier, Ohio
2018-11-09

Mary Keister, Director of News Media Relations
Telephone: 740-427-5592

GAMBIER, Ohio — Award-winning author Gail Lukasik will speak about her book “White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” at Kenyon College on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, will be held in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater, 101 ½ College Drive.

Lukasik’s memoir chronicles her journey to uncover her mother’s racial lineage and traces her family back to 18th-century colonial Louisiana. Her mother was born into a black family in New Orleans and eventually left the Jim Crow South, moving north and marrying a white man. She passed as white for the rest of her life.

In 1995, as Lukasik, who identifies as white, was exploring Louisiana census records, she learned that her mother’s father and his entire family were designated black. The shocking discovery changed her sense and understanding of white identity.

When Lukasik tried to ask her mother questions about her family’s black heritage, her mother refused to speak about the matter and told her daughter to not share the secret. In the 17 years Lukasik kept her mother’s secret, the author of mystery novels started to retrace her memories in order to better understand her mother, sorting out fiction from truth to solve her own real-life mystery. Was this why, growing up, Lukasik never really visited her mother’s side of the family or saw pictures of her grandfather?…

Read the entire press release here.

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My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-21 03:34Z by Steven

My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

The Washington Post
2017-11-20

Gail Lukasik


The author’s mother, Alvera Fredric, was born into a black family in New Orleans but spent her life passing as white. (Family photo)

I’d never seen my mother so afraid.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.

The discovery had left me reeling, confused and in need of answers. My sense of white identity had been shattered.

My mother’s visit to my home in Illinois seemed like the right moment. This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the phone.

But my mother’s fearful plea for secrecy only added to my confusion about my racial identity. As did her birth certificate that I obtained from the state of Louisiana, which listed her race as “col” (colored), and a 1940 Louisiana census record, which listed my mother, Alvera Frederic, as Neg/Negro, working in a tea shop in New Orleans. Four years later, she moved north and married my white father…

Read the entire article here.

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I have to tell you, if I hadn’t found that 1900 census record and appeared on Genealogy Roadshow, I would’ve lived my life blissfully ignorant of my black heritage and the family my mother left behind in New Orleans. To me, that would have been a tragic loss.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-11-12 04:41Z by Steven

“I would like to believe that “passing” is an archaic notion,” she [Gail Lukasik] said. “I really would like to believe that, because we no longer have laws like the one drop rule. But I suspect that in America’s racist culture, mixed race people who can pass for white must still wrestle with that choice. I have to tell you, if I hadn’t found that 1900 census record and appeared on Genealogy Roadshow, I would’ve lived my life blissfully ignorant of my black heritage and the family my mother left behind in New Orleans. To me, that would have been a tragic loss.”

Matt Christy, “Secret heritage,” The Herald-Argus, October 26, 2017. http://www.heraldargus.com/news/secret-heritage/article_09c33d4a-b024-5a13-96cf-07394e1200d2.html.

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Secret heritage

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-12 04:32Z by Steven

Secret heritage

The Herald-Argus
La Porte, Indiana
2017-10-26

Matt Christy, Staff Writer
Telephone: (219) 326-3870


Secret heritage
White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” is on book shelves now and available for check-out at the La Porte County Public Library.

Author tells story behind new book

Looks can be deceiving.

To look at a photograph of Alvera Frederic Kalina, you wouldn’t know the secret she was hiding. Hiding from her husband, hiding from her children, hiding from everyone but those she cut all ties to when she left her New Orleans roots far, far behind.

Alvera avoided the sun. She had no photos of her family. She was obsessed with makeup, even wearing it when she slept.

“I can’t even imagine the fear she lived with, which I later understood was why she did (those mysterious things),” said Alvera’s daughter, author Gail Lukasik.

Lukasik is a mystery writer, but her newest book “White Like Her” is a mystery of another sort. Unlike the female driven detective novels Lukasik is known to pen, “White Like Her” tells the story of a true mystery, one Lukasik — not one of her fictional protagonists — unraveled. It was the mystery her mother made her swear to carry to her grave.

It began with Lukasik wanting to know more about her mother’s father, Azemar Frederic. She knew nothing of her grandfather and when asked, her mother would only say her parents divorced when she was young and her father didn’t raise her.

“The one time I asked her if we could visit New Orleans, where she grew up, she said it would depress her to go home, so I let it go. But in the back of my mind I always wondered about Azemar Frederic. What did he look like? What did he do for a living? What kind of man was my grandfather?” she said.

The answers would shock her and would change everything she thought she knew…

Read the entire article here.

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“Those cards have been copied. B means black.” She looked me up and down. “You know the saying, ‘there’s a nigger in every woodshed.’”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-11-11 23:48Z by Steven

As I traced across the grid, I stopped on the letter B, perplexed by its meaning, then I scrolled up to find the category: Race.

My mind didn’t quite take in what I was seeing. Would the census taker use B for black in 1900? It didn’t seem likely. Then what did B mean if not black? And why would the census taker mark my grandfather and his family black? It had to be a mistake. My grandfather’s family was not black.

Aware of the time, I hurriedly searched for Azemar in the 1930 census. When I found him, his race was no longer designated as B, now his racial designation was W. I was familiar with the one-drop rule, a racial classification asserting that any person with even one ancestor of African ancestry was considered to be black no matter how far back in their family tree. But the B perplexed me, as did the W. How could Azemar be black in 1900 and white in 1930?

I glanced back at the gray-haired lady. She was shuffling through index cards, keeping herself busy, and looking bored. I got up from the machine and walked over to her.

“I was wondering about the racial designation B in the 1900 Louisiana census. Can that be right?” I asked reticently, purposely not mentioning that the B was attached to my mother’s family.

“Those cards have been copied. B means black.” She looked me up and down. “You know the saying, ‘there’s a nigger in every woodshed.’”

I was speechless. Struck dumb.

She laughed, a tight pinched laugh full of malice. “Things were different back then. We had those candies, you know, we called them ‘nigger babies.’” She said this with some glee in her voice as if we were sharing the same joke.

The word nigger kept reeling from her mouth like the rolls of microfilm whirling around me. I stood there, stunned, having no idea what the woman was talking about or how to respond. I’d never heard of “nigger babies.” And if I had, I’d never be spewing the term out like a sharp slap.

All I could muster in defense of a family whose race I’d just discovered and was unsure of was a fact that sounded like an excuse. “In Louisiana,” I muttered, “you only had to have one drop of black blood to be considered black.” I felt assaulted with an experience I had no way to relate to and that I wasn’t certain I could even claim.

She finished my thought for me as if confirming what she’d already said about race and blood. “Yes, just one drop was all that was needed. You know the saying, ‘nigger in the woodshed.’”

She seemed to think I agreed with her, that the one-drop rule was correct, leaving no doubt about my race and in her eyes my tainted blood. It was evident to me it would be useless to continue this conversation with this bigoted God-lugging woman.

For a long second she stared through her glasses at me as if she was searching for a physical confirmation of my heritage. “Oh,” she finally said as if a light bulb had gone on in her head, “You’re the one with the slaves in your family.”

Gail Lukasik, ‘“You’re the one with the slaves in your family”’, Salon, October 28, 2017. https://www.salon.com/2017/10/28/you-are-the-one-with-the-slaves-in-your-family/.

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“You’re the one with the slaves in your family”

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-11 23:31Z by Steven

“You’re the one with the slaves in your family”

Salon
2017-10-28

Gail Lukasik


(Credit: Salon/Ilana Lidagoster)

I went looking for information on my mother’s side of the family. My experience was eye-opening

Excerpted with permission from “White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” by Gail Lukasik. Copyright 2017, Skyhorse Publishing.

The windowless basement of the Buffalo Grove Family History Center had the feel of an underground bunker—fluorescent lights, cinder block walls, the musty scent of dampness. At the room’s entrance sat a gray-haired woman, birdlike and benign. With robotic precision, she meted out instructions on how to use the machines, where the microfilms were located and how to order original documents. She appeared as nondescript and gray as the walls.

I’d come to the family history center in search of my grandfather Azemar Frederic. I was between adjunct college teaching jobs, applying for tenure track teaching positions in creative writing, and working part-time as an assistant editor for a medical journal. The year before, I’d been offered a position in creative writing at a liberal arts college in Tennessee. But I turned it down. Uprooting my life at the age of forty-nine for a position that paid in the low five figures seemed foolhardy. My husband would need to obtain a Tennessee dental license to practice dentistry, and we would have to pay out-of-state tuition at the University of Illinois for our daughter Lauren. So I resigned myself to seeking positions in the Chicago area where the competition was especially rigorous and my chances for success slim.

I had time on my hands and an insatiable longing to find Azemar who over the years had become more and more unreal to me as if he never existed, was a figment of my mother’s imagination. Without a photograph of him, I had nothing physical to connect him to me. This need for a physical image of him was primal. It was an aching absence that I needed to fill…

Read the entire article here.

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Visibly white but legally designated as black, my mother did what the 1924 Virginia state law, the Act to Preserve Racial Integrity, was determined to prevent.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-10-08 03:45Z by Steven

Visibly white but legally designated as black, my mother did what the 1924 Virginia state law, the Act to Preserve Racial Integrity, was determined to prevent. In an effort to preserve the “purity” of the white race, this law enshrined the one-drop rule, legally designating anyone with even one drop of African blood as black. A eugenicist at the time expressed the fear emblazoned in the law: “Many thousands of white Negros … were quietly and persistently passing over the line.” My mother was one of them.

Gail Lukasik, “My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.Mic, September 12, 2017. https://mic.com/articles/184393/my-mother-passed-for-white-for-most-of-her-life-heres-what-that-taught-me-about-racial-identity.

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My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Virginia on 2017-10-07 22:32Z by Steven

My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Mic
2017-09-12

Gail Lukasik


Gail’s grandfather’s family that she never knew
Source: Gail Lukasik

Gail Lukasik, Ph.D. is a professional speaker, mystery novelist, and the author of the upcoming memoir, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing (Skyhorse; Oct. 17).

For the majority of my life, I believed I was a white woman. I had no reason to question my race or my racial heritage. Why would I? I had only to look in the mirror to know the veracity of my whiteness — or so I thought.

In 1995, while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records looking for my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, I made a startling discovery. Azemar Frederic and his entire family were classified as black. In that split second, everything I knew about myself changed. When I walked into the Illinois family history center, I was a white woman. When I left I didn’t know who I was. My sense of identity was shattered…

Read the entire article here.

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