Walter F. White: The NAACP’s Ambassador for Racial Justice

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Social Justice, United States on 2018-06-30 03:07Z by Steven

Walter F. White: The NAACP’s Ambassador for Racial Justice

West Virginia University Press
January 2019
468 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-946684-62-2
eBook ISBN: 978-1-946684-63-9

Robert L. Zangrando, Professor Emeritus of History
University of Akron

Ronald L. Lewis, Stuart and Joyce Robbins Chair and Professor Emeritus of History
West Virginia University

Walter F. White of Atlanta, Georgia, joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1918 as an assistant to Executive Secretary James Weldon Johnson. When Johnson retired in 1929, White replaced him as head of the NAACP, a position he maintained until his death in 1955. During his long tenure, White was in the vanguard of the struggle for interracial justice. His reputation went into decline, however, in the era of grassroots activism that followed his death. White’s disagreements with the US Left, and his ambiguous racial background—he was of mixed heritage, could “pass” as white, and divorced a black woman to marry a white woman—fueled ambivalence about his legacy.

In this comprehensive biography, Zangrando and Lewis seek to provide a reassessment of White within the context of his own time, revising critical interpretations of his career. White was a promoter of and a participant in the Harlem Renaissance, a daily fixture in the halls of Congress lobbying for civil rights legislation, and a powerful figure with access to the administrations of Roosevelt (via Eleanor) and Truman. As executive secretary of the NAACP, White fought incessantly to desegregate the American military and pushed to ensure equal employment opportunities. On the international stage, White advocated for people of color in a decolonized world and for economic development aid to nations like India and Haiti, bridging the civil rights struggles at home and abroad.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Prisms of Passing: Reading beyond the Racial Binary in Twentieth-Century U.S. Passing Narratives

Posted in Dissertations, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-04-30 00:40Z by Steven

The Prisms of Passing: Reading beyond the Racial Binary in Twentieth-Century U.S. Passing Narratives

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2011
217 pages

Amanda M. Page

A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

In “The Prisms of Passing: Reading beyond the Racial Binary in Twentieth-Century U.S. Passing Narratives,” I examine a subset of racial passing narratives written between 1890 and 1930 by African American activist-authors, some directly affiliated with the NAACP, who use the form to challenge racial hierarchies through the figure of the mulatta/o and his or her interactions with other racial and ethnic groups. I position texts by Frances E.W. Harper, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter White in dialogue with racial classification laws of the period—including Supreme Court decisions, such as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and immigration law, such as the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924—to show how these rulings and laws were designed to consolidate white identity while preventing coalition-building among African Americans and other subordinate groups.

In contrast to white-authored passing narratives of the time, I argue that these early African American passing narratives frequently gesture toward interracial solidarity with Native American, European immigrant, Latina/o, or Asian American characters as a means of
challenging white supremacy. Yet, these authors often sacrifice the potential for antiracist coalitions because of the limitations inherent in working within the dominant racial and nativist discourses. For example, in Iola Leroy (1892), Harper, despite her racially progressive intentions, strategically deploys white nativist discourse against Native Americans to demonstrate the “Americanness” of her mulatta heroine and demand recognition of African American assimilation. Though later African American passing narratives, such as Johnson‘s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and White‘s Flight (1926), began to reflect a collaborative global approach to civil rights as the century progressed, these strategies of domestic antagonism and/or international solidarity with groups outside of the black-white binary ultimately worked in service to a specifically African American civil rights agenda.

This study concludes with an examination of a contemporary passing narrative by an Asian American author. Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son (2001) revises the form to challenge the continued marginalization of Latina/os and Asian Americans and thus suggests the need for a reconsideration of how we approach civil rights activism to accommodate new racial dynamics in the post-civil rights era.

Read the entire dissertation here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Walter White and the Atlanta NAACP’s Fight for Equal Schools, 1916–1917

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-04-08 02:07Z by Steven

Walter White and the Atlanta NAACP’s Fight for Equal Schools, 1916–1917

History of Education Quarterly
Volume 7, Issue 1 (April 1967)
pages 3-21
DOI: 10.2307/367230

Edgar A. Toppin (1928-2004), Professor of History
Virginia State College

In 1917 a delegation of negroes went before the Board of Education in Atlanta, Georgia, to demand equal facilities for colored school children. This marked the beginning of the work in Atlanta of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The youthful branch secretary who sparked this drive, Walter Francis White, called this “our first fight and our first victory and … we have only begun to fight.” Despite his enthusiasm, Atlanta moved at a glacial pace toward parity in the dual school systems.

Read or purchase the article here or here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Dilemma of Interracial Marriage: The Boston NAACP and the National Equal Rights League, 1912–1927

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2016-10-14 20:32Z by Steven

The Dilemma of Interracial Marriage: The Boston NAACP and the National Equal Rights League, 1912–1927

Historical Journal of Massachusetts
Volume 44, Number 1, Winter 2016

Zebulon Miletsky, Professor of Africana Studies
Stony Brook University, State University of New York

On a wintry evening on February 1, 1843, a group of Boston’s African American citizens gathered in the vestry of the African Baptist Church nestled in the heart of Boston’s black community on the north slope of Beacon Hill. The measure they were there to discuss was a resolution to repeal the 1705 Massachusetts ban on interracial marriage.  Led largely by white abolitionists, the group cautiously endorsed a campaign to lift the ban. Their somewhat reluctant support for this campaign acknowledged the complexity that the issue of interracial marriage posed to African American communities. In contrast, during the early twentieth century, black Bostonians attended mass meetings at which they vigorously campaigned against the resurgence of antimiscegenation laws led by the Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and William Monroe Trotter’s National Equal Rights League (NERL). This change is indicative of both the evolution of thinking about the issue of interracial marriage and the dilemma that it had frequently represented for black Bostonians and their leaders.

Laws against interracial marriage were a national concern. In both 1913 and 1915 the U.S. House of Representatives passed laws to prohibit interracial marriage in Washington DC; however, each died in Senate subcommittees. In 1915 a Georgia Congressman introduced an inflammatory bill to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit interracial marriage. These efforts in the U.S. Congress to ban interracial marriage reflected widespread movements at the state level.

The 1913 bill (HR 5948) would have prohibited the “intermarriage of whites with negroes or Mongolians” in the District of Columbia and made intermarriage a felony with penalties up to $500 and/or two years in prison. The bill passed “in less than five minutes” with almost no debate, by a vote of 92–12. However, it was referred to a Senate committee and never reported out before the session expired. In 1915 an even more draconian bill was introduced (HR 1710). It increased penalties for intermarriage to $5,000 and/or five years in prison. The bill was first debated on January 11 and passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 238–60. However, it too was referred to a Senate committee and never reported out. African Americans and their allies throughout the nation closely followed the passage of both bills and organized strong opposition, particularly to the 1915 bill. Most likely, their protests were key to the bill’s defeat in the Senate. As several authors have pointed out: Although a symbolic victory [the 1913 and 1915 passage by the U.S. House of Representatives], a federal antimiscegenation policy was not produced. The District of Columbia would continue to be a haven for interracial couples from the South who wished to marry. Indeed, Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who would be at the center of the Loving v. Virginia (1967) Supreme Court case that struck down state-level anti-miscegenation laws, were married in the District of Columbia in 1958. Although the bill to ban interracial marriage in Washington, DC, was successfully defeated, by 1920 thirty states had anti-miscegenation laws on their books. (The term “miscegenationwas coined in 1863 and was derived from the Latin word miscere, meaning “to mix.”) As late as 1967, when the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in the aptly named Loving v. Virginia decision, sixteen states still enforced them.

This article examines the political struggle over the issue of interracial marriage and the dilemma it posed for the Boston branch of the NAACP, as well as the national organization. The NAACP and its Boston chapter constituted the principal opposition to these efforts. The author examines the struggle to defeat similar bills that would have criminalized intermarriage in Massachusetts in 1913 and a second attempt in 1927.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Surprising Story of Walter White and the NAACP

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-01 01:54Z by Steven

The Surprising Story of Walter White and the NAACP

Time
2015-07-01

Jennifer Latson

July 1, 1893: Walter Francis White, head of the NAACP for more than 20 years, is born

In the last few weeks, Rachel Dolezal—the Spokane, Wash., NAACP leader who recently left her post after being outed as white though saying that she identified as black—led many to examine the relationship between skin color and racial-justice activism. Writing for TIME, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar noted that, despite her ethnic background, Dolezal “has proven herself a fierce and unrelenting champion for African-Americans politically and culturally.”

Regardless of what one thinks of Dolezal, whose story only grew increasingly complicated, there’s plenty of historical evidence that looks aren’t the most important thing when it comes to championing equality. For proof, look no further than Walter Francis White, who was born on this day, July 1, in 1893. White ushered the NAACP into the Civil Rights era, serving as its leader more than 20 years, from 1931 until his death in 1955

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Walter White, 61, Dies in Home Here

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-07-31 20:36Z by Steven

Walter White, 61, Dies in Home Here

The New York Times
1955-03-22

Walter White, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, died last night of a heart attack at his home at his home, 242 East Sixty-eighth Street. He was 61 years old.

Last October he twice entered the New York Hospital for treatment for a heart ailment that had caused him to take a leave of absence from his duties.

Recently he had returned from a month’s leisurely visit in Haiti and Puerto Rico. Yesterday he spent two hours at his office.

Mr. White, the nearest approach to a national leader of American Negroes since Booker T. Washington, was a Negro by choice.

Only five-thirty-seconds of his ancestry was Negro. His skin was fair, his hair blond, his eyes blue and his features Caucasian. He could easily have joined the 12,000 Negroes who pass the color-line and disappear into the white majority every year in this country.

But he deliberately sacrificed his comfort to publicize himself as a Negro and to devote his entire adult life to completing the emancipation of his people…

Read the entire obituary here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-21 02:29Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies

Vanity Fair
2015-07-19

Allison Samuels

Justin Bishop, Photography


Photograph by Justin Bishop.

For a time this summer, it seemed all anyone could talk about was the N.A.A.C.P. chapter president whose parents had “outed” her as white. The tornado of public attention has since moved on, but Rachel Dolezal still has to live with her choices—and still refuses to back down.

It’s safe to say that Rachel Dolezal never thought much about the endgame. You can see it on her face in the local-TV news video—the one so potently viral it transformed her from regional curiosity to global punch line in the span of 48 hours in mid-June. It is precisely the look of a white woman who tanned for a darker hue, who showcased a constant rotation of elaborately designed African American hairstyles, and who otherwise lived her life as a black woman, being asked if she is indeed African American.

It is the look of a cover blown…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Mimicry is Not Solidarity: Of Allies, Rachel Dolezal and the Creation of Antiracist White Identity

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-06-17 21:12Z by Steven

Mimicry is Not Solidarity: Of Allies, Rachel Dolezal and the Creation of Antiracist White Identity

Tim Wise: Antiracist Essayist, Author and Educator
2015-06-14

Tim Wise

In a country where being black increases your likelihood of being unemployed, poor, rejected for a bank loan, suspected of wrongdoing and profiled as a criminal, being arrested or even shot by police, the mind boggles at the decision of Rachel Dolezal some years ago to begin posing as an African American woman. Yes perhaps blackness helps when you’re looking for a job in an Africana Studies department, selling your own African American portraiture art, or hoping to head up the local NAACP branch—all of which appear to have been the case for Dolezal—but generally speaking, adopting blackness as one’s personal identity and as a substitute for one’s actual whiteness is not exactly the path of least resistance in America.

And so, cognizant of the rarity with which white folks have tried to pass as black over the years—and in all likelihood for the above-mentioned reasons, among others—many have chimed in as to the personal, familial and even psychological issues that may lie at the heart of her deceptions. Not possessing a background in psychology I am loathe to spend too much time there, but having said that, it strikes me that there is an important, largely overlooked, and quite likely explanation for Dolezal’s duplicity, and one the importance of which goes well beyond her and whatever deep-seated emotional baggage may have contributed to her actions. Indeed, it has real implications for white people seeking to work in solidarity with people of color, whether in the BlackLivesMatter movement, Moral Mondays in North Carolina, or any other component of the modern civil rights and antiracism struggle. It is one I hadn’t really thought much about until I read something yesterday, a comment from one of her brothers (one of the actual black ones, adopted by her parents), to the effect that while Dolezal had been a graduate student at Howard, she felt as though she “hadn’t been treated very well,” at least in part because she was never fully accepted—she the white girl from Montana who paints black life onto canvas, and quite well at that—at this venerable and unapologetically black institution.

…Most disturbing of all, there was another path, however much Dolezal showed no interest in treading it. Whether intended or not, make no mistake, by negating the history (and even the apparent possibility) of real white antiracist solidarity, Dolezal ultimately provided a slap in the face to that history by saying that it wasn’t good enough for her to join…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Before Rachel Dolezal, there was Walter White

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-16 17:24Z by Steven

Before Rachel Dolezal, there was Walter White

The Christian Science Monitor
2015-06-15

Randy Dotinga

The man known as ‘Mr. NAACP’ was blonde, blue-eyed and 5/32nd black, all of which provoked an outcry similar to that over contemporary NAACP official Rachel Dolezal.

Walter White, known as “Mr. NAACP,” didn’t look black. He had blue eyes and blonde hair, and his enemies sought to smear him as an opportunist who lied about his race and couldn’t possibly understand the black experience. But the secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People persevered through much of the 20th century and left a stunning if tarnished legacy.

White energized the refined halls of the NAACP, brought together literary stars of the Harlem Renaissance, and helped craft the partial demise of segregation. He battled lynching, convinced politicians to kill the Supreme Court nomination of a racist and hobnobbed with the famous. Sixty years after his death, White is eclipsed in modern memory by other civil-rights leaders. Few know about his remarkable struggle to be seen as the genuine article by other African-Americans, and his vicious battles with fellow leaders like W. E. B. DuBois.

But this month, the ever-bubbling issue of blackness – who has it, who doesn’t, and why it matters – is on tongues across the country amid the roaring debate over Rachel Dolezal, a NAACP official in Spokane, Wash. White’s story resonates as Dolezal, who may not be black as she’s claimed, faces a national storm.

Here are 5 Things to Know about Walter White and Racial Identity, gleaned from his crisply written 1948 memoir A Man Called White and author Thomas Dyja’s perceptive and often-critical 2008 biography Walter White: The Dilemma of Black Identity in America

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

‘Are you African-American?’

Posted in Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2015-06-14 16:40Z by Steven

‘Are you African-American?’

All In With Chris Hayes
MSNBC
2015-06-12

Chris Hayes, Host

Lacey Schwartz, a film-maker who grew up in a white family then discovered that her biological father was black, shares her unique perspective on Rachel Dolezal, the head of the Spokane NAACP whose estranged parents claim is misrepresenting herself as black.

Watch the interview (00:09:19) here.

Tags: , , , , , ,