Anatole Broyard’s Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2012-10-28 03:11Z by Steven

Anatole Broyard’s Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

Journal of American Ethnic History
Volume 32, Number 1 (Fall 2012)
pages 95-100
DOI: 10.5406/jamerethnhist.32.1.0095

Greg Carter, Associate Professor of History
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

I DESIGNED MY FIRST COURSE, Mixed Race Identity in American Culture, an elective surveying the history of racial mixing in the United States, as a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. Four sections of the class have convened at two universities since then. During the first sessions, I always introduce undergraduates to the analytic lenses of race (and ethnicity), class, and gender, emphasizing that their meanings shift across time and place. From there, Gary Nash’s essay, “The Hidden History of Mestizo America” presents interracial intimacy of many configurations, privileging no particular combination (i.e., black and white). In addition to equipping students with the tools they will need throughout the term, these first two weeks emphasize that the class is historical, going from first contact to the present moment.

However, the class is also interdisciplinary, drawing from popular culture, sociological texts, feature articles, and scientific tracts. Along with helping students contextualize ideas around racial mixing, sampling various discourses addresses complex themes from different perspectives. Anti-intermarriage laws in colonial Virginia introduce students to the gradual development of the one-drop rule in the seventeenth century. Through antebellum ethnological and literary writings, they see the beginnings of hybrid degeneracy notions that follow racially mixed people well past the nineteenth century. An introduction to blackface minstrelsy shows that, in addition to deploying a hateful set of stereotypes, this mainstay of American popular culture involves a sort of racial mixing on the bodies of the actors. Later they see much of the same in the yellowface minstrelsy that targeted Asians in the United States.

I also present students with positive notions regarding racial mixing in the United States, from the Pocahontas myth to Thomas Jefferson’s policy of civilization and assimilation to some of the radical abolitionists’ visions of a post-Civil War racial democracy. In the unit immediately before the two weeks we focus on racial passing, we analyze the birth of the melting…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , ,

“I Was Black When It Suited Me; I Was White When It Suited Me”: Racial Identity in the Biracial Life of Marguerite Davis Stewart

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Live Events, Passing, United States, Women on 2011-12-25 22:02Z by Steven

“I Was Black When It Suited Me; I Was White When It Suited Me”: Racial Identity in the Biracial Life of Marguerite Davis Stewart

Journal of American Ethnic History
Volume 26, Number 4, Women’s Voices, Ethnic Lives through Oral History (Summer, 2007)
pages 24-49

A. Glenn Crothers
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Tracy E. K’Meyer, Associate Professor of History
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Sitting onthe rooftop restaurant of the fictional Drayton Hotel in Chicago, Irene Redfield, the occasional “passer” and protagonist of Nella Larsen’s Passing, is suddenly swept with panic when she notices another woman—ostensibly a white woman—staring at her. “Did that woman, could that woman, somehow know that here before her very eyes on the roof of the Drayton sat a Negro?” Redfield asked herself. “No,” she concludes after some time, “the woman sitting there staring couldn’t possibly know” because a light-skinned woman like herself was usually mistaken “for an Italian, a Spaniard, a Mexican, or a gipsy.” Despite her assurance, Redfield still was troubled by the experience. She “felt, in turn ” Larsen writes, “anger, scorn, and fear slide over her.” Larsen’s fiction, based in the reality of African American life in the 1920s, provides a clear portrait of what sociologist F. James Davis has called “the agony of passing,” the fear of exposure by both the white and black communities. Fast forward to the end of the twentieth century, when in contrast to Larsen’s fearful passer Irene, such popular figures as Tiger Woods celebrate their mixed-race backgrounds and when the U.S. Census, which, as one sociologist puts it, “counts what the nation wants counted,” offers such individuals the opportunity to reject old categories and self-identify as “other.”

Marguerite Davis Stewart’s life spanned the decades between these two poles of racial experience, between tension-wrought “passing” and the embrace of multiracial identities. About the same time Larsen was envisioning the scene at the fictional Drayton Hotel, Stewart and her mother, light-skinned, African American women from Louisville, Kentucky, were staying at an all-white hotel in French Lick, Indiana. Brought to the hotel by a white man who loved Stewart’s mother, Stewart, a child at the time, remembered no sense of panic, no sense of fear in this environment. “Any time my people wanted to do what they wanted to do, they did what they damned [well] pleased,” including…

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,