What do Meghan Markle and Chicago woman who wrote ‘Passing’ have in common?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2018-02-25 23:47Z by Steven

What do Meghan Markle and Chicago woman who wrote ‘Passing’ have in common?

The Chicago Tribune
2018-02-23

Christopher Borrelli


Nella Larsen, author of “Passing.” (Carl Van Vechten)

Nella Larsen was a mystery in life, and a mystery after her death in 1964. According to biographers, when she died her half sister inherited the $35,000 that remained in Larsen’s savings, then said she didn’t know she had a half sister.

Which wasn’t true.

Yet, in many ways, it’s the response you expect.

Nella Larsen was born Nellie Walker in 1891, in Chicago.

Or Nella Larsen was born Nella Larsen, 1892, in Chicago.

Or Nella Larsen was born Nellye Larson, 1893, in Chicago.

Biographers have run across a few possibilities, and the agreed-upon details are this: Nella Larsen was born in 1891, in Chicago, as Nellie Walker. Larsen fudged her vitals on occasion, depending on who was asking and what form she was completing. She lived her life at times with a sort of concentrated vagueness — “in the shadows,” wrote George Hutchinson, one of her biographers. Just as her career was taking off, she broke ties with her closest friends, and she spent her last three decades working as a nurse, living in a relative, self-imposed anonymity. Which sounds melodramatic, yet Larsen — who had been a major star of the Harlem Renaissance after leaving Chicago (but never quite cast aside the rejection that she felt here) — lived a life that could fuel melodramas.

As it happens, she left great ones, slim novels that amount to 250 pages, combined. Indeed, “Quicksand” (1928) and “Passing” (1929) constitute most of her published work. Yet both are portraits of Chicago women who, like Larsen, navigated the blurriest of racial lines in the early 20th century, having been born to one black parent and one white parent. Both novels are about women who “passed” — that is, they presented themselves, day to day, as white. Her biographers say it’s unlikely Larsen herself did this, yet her protagonists are haunted by identity, frozen out by the black bourgeois, not at ease in white society, torn by the task of self-identifying in a binary-minded country…

Read the entire article here.

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Lucy Parsons bio reveals new facts about the birth, ethnicity of the ‘Goddess of Anarchy’

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2017-11-20 01:58Z by Steven

Lucy Parsons bio reveals new facts about the birth, ethnicity of the ‘Goddess of Anarchy’

The Chicago Tribune
2017-11-15

Mark Jacob, Metro Editor


A new biography of Lucy Parsons reveals new facts about her life. Photo courtesy of the Lucy Parsons Project/Justice Design (/ LUCY PARSONS PROJECT)

Lucy Parsons, an anarchist firebrand who was one of the most enigmatic Chicagoans ever, might fit in better today than she did during her own time a century ago.

She was a black woman married to a white man. Scandalous then, no big thing now…

She favored an eight-hour workday and a social safety net, positions that made her a radical in the late 1800s but would qualify her for Congress today.

And Parsons had another trait of today’s politicians: She was a merchant of misinformation.

Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical” is an important new biography by University of Texas historian Jacqueline Jones that fact-checks Parsons’ made-up details about her own background, correcting errors existing in virtually every biographical sketch ever written about this amazing woman…

Read the entire article here.

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Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention: The Old Negro in New Negro Art

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2017-09-06 04:20Z by Steven

Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention: The Old Negro in New Negro Art

University of Illinois Press
September 2017
248 pages
6 x 9 in.
8 color photographs, 34 black & white photographs

Phoebe Wolfskill, Assistant Professor
Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies
Indiana University, Bloomington

The painter’s struggle at the crossroads of artistic expression and social progress

An essential African American artist of his era, Archibald Motley Jr. created paintings of black Chicago that aligned him with the revisionist aims of the New Negro Renaissance. Yet Motley’s approach to constructing a New Negro–a dignified figure both accomplished and worthy of respect–reflected the challenges faced by African American artists working on the project of racial reinvention and uplift.

Phoebe Wolfskill demonstrates how Motley’s art embodied the tenuous nature of the Black Renaissance and the wide range of ideas that structured it. Focusing on key works in Motley’s oeuvre, Wolfskill reveals the artist’s complexity and the variety of influences that informed his work. Motley’s paintings suggest that the racist, problematic image of the Old Negro was not a relic of the past but an influence that pervaded the Black Renaissance. Exploring Motley in relation to works by notable black and non-black contemporaries, Wolfskill reinterprets Motley’s oeuvre as part of a broad effort to define American cultural identity through race, class, gender, religion, and regional affiliation…

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Review: Vic Mensa, ‘The Autobiography’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2017-07-28 15:41Z by Steven

Review: Vic Mensa, ‘The Autobiography’

First Listen: Hear Upcoming Albums in Their Entirety
NPR Music
National Public Radio
2017-07-20

Rodney Carmichael, Hip-Hop Reporter


Vic Mensa’s new album, The Autobiography, is out July 28.
Courtesy of the artist

When history ranks 2017 among hip-hop’s wonder years — and from the sounds of the previous six months it certainly qualifies — Vic Mensa’s long-awaited full-length debut will be a big part of the reason why. The Chi-town native has created a work in The Autobiography that’s equal parts confessional and confrontational, gut-wrenching and uplifting. Steeped in a personal story arc that envelopes Mensa’s hometown, it echoes with the pain of a generation.


Courtesy of the artist

It only makes sense that the LP is executive produced by No I.D., who’s already responsible for another of the year’s more revelatory LPs in Jay-Z’s 4:44

Read the entire review here.

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‘A Woman of Strange, Unfathomable Presence’: Ida Platt’s Lived Experience of Race, Gender, and Law, 1863-1939

Posted in Biography, Law, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Passing, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2017-07-06 02:16Z by Steven

‘A Woman of Strange, Unfathomable Presence’: Ida Platt’s Lived Experience of Race, Gender, and Law, 1863-1939

Gwen Jordan
University of Illinois, Springfield

2017-05-08
52 pages

In 1894, Ida Platt became the first African-American woman lawyer in Illinois. She was one of only five black women lawyers in the country and the only one able to maintain a law practice. Throughout her thirty-three year career, Platt served as head of her household, providing for her mother and sisters, without marrying or having children. She accomplished these feats by employing a fluid racial identity, passing as white in her professional life, and by avoiding the dominant gender roles that excluded women from the masculine legal profession. In 1927, at the age of sixty-four, Ida Platt retired, married Walter Burke, a white man, and moved to England. Twelve years later, Ida Burke died. As is the practice in England, there was no race designation on her death certificate.

Platt’s choice to employ a fluid racial identity allowed her to pursue her career as a lawyer amidst a racist and sexist society that particularly discriminated against black women. She entered the law when Jim Crow was taking root, race lines were hardening, and elite, white, male lawyers were intensifying their opposition to women’s rise within the profession. Platt’s life and career offer insights into how law and the legal profession responded to the complexities of race and tender a new story of the lived experience of race as it intersects with gender. It suggests that Platt’s pragmatic strategy of changing her racial identity both contested and shaped the ways in which race, gender, and identity were constructed and represented in American society, as it exposed both the rigidity and permeability of these constructions.

Read the entire paper here.

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Escaping slavery, one family’s story

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-12-23 03:02Z by Steven

Escaping slavery, one family’s story

Free Press Newspapers
Illinois
2016-12-14

Sandy Vasko, Executive Director
Will County Historical Society

Black history in Braidwood starts during the coal strikes of the 1870s. Before that time the only black people this area knew were passing through on the Underground Railroad. Or did they? As I have learned, not all of them kept going. Some decided to stay in one place not to very far from here despite all the troubles and complications that meant.

Let’s start at the beginning with Eliza Wilson. She was born a slave in South Carolina in 1825 and is described as a mullato, in other words she was partly white, and probably her father was her owner. But in those days, one drop of black blood meant you were black. In 1845 we find her in a census as a free woman. How she earned her freedom is unknown, but soon we find her listed in South Carolina register as a slave owner. Blacks owning slaves!?!?! Yes, it seems that it was not uncommon. What is interesting is that the three slaves she owned were 1, 3, and 5 years of age…

Read the entire article here.

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Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2016-12-07 01:20Z by Steven

Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary

Haymarket Books
February 2013
282 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781608462131

Carolyn Ashbaugh

The life and times of Lucy Parsons, early American radical and labor organizer, told definitively here.

Lucy Parsons’ life energy was directed toward freeing the working class from capitalism. She attributed the inferior position of women and minority racial groups in American society to class inequalities and argued, as Eugene Debs later did, that blacks were oppressed because they were poor, not because they were black. Lucy favored the availability of birth control information and contraceptive devices. She believed that under socialism women would have the right to divorce and remarry without economic, political and religious constraints; that women would have the right to limit the number of children they would have; and that women would have the right to prevent “legalized” rape in marriage.

“Lucy Parsons’ life expressed the anger of the unemployed workers, women, and minorities against oppression and is exemplary of radicals’ efforts to organize the working class for social change.” —From the preface

Lucy Parsons, who the Chicago police considered “more dangerous than a thousand rioters,” was an early American radical who defied all the conventions of her turbulent era as an outspoken woman of color, writer, and labor organizer. Parsons’ life as activist spanned the era of the Robber Barons through the Great Depression, during which she actively campaigned and organized for the emancipation of the working class from wage slavery. Parsons courageously led the defense campaign for the “Haymarket martyrs,” including her husband Albert Parsons. Ashbaugh’s biography takes a giant leap toward reinterpreting the role of women in American history.

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Would-Be Bridegroom Takes Oath He Is Negro

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-12-03 23:55Z by Steven

Would-Be Bridegroom Takes Oath He Is Negro

The San Francisco Call
Volume 104, Number 70 (1908-08-09)
Page 31, Column 4
(Source: California Digital Newspaper Collection)

Cannot Get License to Wed Mulatto Until He Proves His Race

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 8.— “You can’t get a marriage license here,” said Leon G. Smith of East St. Louis yesterday when William Hawkins and a mulatto woman named Fanny F. Austin of East St. Louis came into the marriage license clerk’s office and asked for a license.

Hawkins inquired what the reason was for refusing him a license, and was told that licenses would not be issued for mixed marriages, whites and negroes. Then he laughed and told Smith that while he generally passed for a white man and very few people ever imagined he had negro blood, that he really was a negro. To prove this Hawkins opened his shirt collar and showed that below his throat he was somewhat darker than his face appeared. He also showed his finger nails to prove his negro blood, and finally made an affidavit that he was a negro. Then the license was issued. Hawkins told Smith that he has three sisters married to white men who do not suspect their wives of having negro blood.

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Black People Have Every Right to Distrust You For Being Light Skinned

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2016-10-18 23:43Z by Steven

Black People Have Every Right to Distrust You For Being Light Skinned

Radical Faggot
2016-10-17

rad fag (Benjamin Hart)

My dad is Black and from the US. My mom is Scottish-Irish. I came out very light skinned. For most of my early childhood I was universally read as white. It wasn’t until I hit puberty and entered into a largely Puerto Rican middle school that I started being seen as Latino—a shock both because I am not, but also because I had rarely been identified by others as a person of color before.

Though I grew up in a somewhat racially and economically diverse neighborhood, my family is wealthy. My class status in addition to my light skin called my Blackness into constant question in class, in my after school program, and wherever else I met other Black people. Most of the slang and cultural cues I picked up to help me fit in were learned from friends, neighbors and Black popular culture, because they were not present in my household.

In Chicago where I currently live, other Black people usually do not acknowledge me. On my way to the train, passing folks on the sidewalk, there is usually no eye contact made, no attempt at a connection. Only when I am walking with my roommate, or another Black friend are the acknowledgements—head nods, handshakes, good afternoons—directed towards me through proximity. The racial context I inhabit changes quickly based on who I’m standing with, talking to, or whose arm is linked in mine.

In the youth work I do—both professionally and as an independent community member—I often reach out to other light-skinned, half-white and white-passing young people. I see them grappling with identity, self-acceptance, with where they fit into the larger Black community, and the struggles currently renting that community apart. I try my best to hold their pain, make room for their confusion, while also underlining the most important thing I can teach them: Being light skinned is a privilege, not a struggle…

Read the entire article here.

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For You Were Strangers: A Hanley & Rivka Mystery

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2016-06-17 01:24Z by Steven

For You Were Strangers: A Hanley & Rivka Mystery

Allium Press of Chicago
2015
320 pages
6″ x 9″
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9890535-9-4
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9967558-0-1

D. M. Pirrone [Diane Piron-Gelman]
Chicago, Illinois

On a spring morning in 1872, former Civil War officer Ben Champion is discovered dead in his Chicago bedroom—a bayonet protruding from his back. What starts as a routine case for Detective Frank Hanley soon becomes anything but, as his investigation into Champion’s life turns up hidden truths best left buried. Meanwhile, Rivka Kelmansky’s long-lost brother, Aaron, arrives on her doorstep, along with his mulatto wife and son. Fugitives from an attack by night riders, Aaron and his family know too much about past actions that still threaten powerful men—defective guns provided to Union soldiers, and an 1864 conspiracy to establish Chicago as the capital of a Northwest Confederacy. Champion had his own connection to that conspiracy, along with ties to a former slave now passing as white and an escaped Confederate guerrilla bent on vengeance, any of which might have led to his death. Hanley and Rivka must untangle this web of circumstances, amid simmering hostilities still present seven years after the end of the Civil War, as they race against time to solve the murder, before the secrets of bygone days claim more victims.

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