How one woman discovered her true cultural heritage

Posted in Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos, Women on 2021-04-08 02:16Z by Steven

How one woman discovered her true cultural heritage

BBC News
2021-04-06

What would you do if you discovered one of your parents wasn’t who they said they were?

That’s what happened to Gail Lukasik who found out her mother had ‘passed’ as white to escape racial segregation in the US, in the early 20th Century.

She was, in fact, mixed race but had kept it secret all her life and made Gail promise to keep the secret until after she died.

Gail has turned her story into a book called White Like Her.

Video produced by Trystan Young.

Watch the video here.

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What did make Louisiana, and especially its port city, New Orleans, different from the English colonies or the eastern seaboard was the way it understood race mixture.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-02-15 02:55Z by Steven

None of this, of course, should encourage the reader to think of Louisiana as any sort of racial haven. Louisiana began as a white idea and remained one: Choctaw kindnesses were repaid with genocide, most Africans were shipped in as chattel slaves, and Europeans walked the land as rulers, just as they did everywhere else. What did make Louisiana, and especially its port city, New Orleans, different from the English colonies or the eastern seaboard was the way it understood race mixture. Though white Americans also had sex with Africans and Indians, they usually denied its result. Anyone with “one drop” of African blood was by the American schema defined as black, and everyone else was effectively white.

Joe Wood, “Fade to Black: Once Upon a Time in Multi-Racial America,” The Village Voice, 12/08/1994. 25-34. https://www.villagevoice.com/2019/12/04/escape-from-blackness-once-upon-a-time-in-creole-america/.

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Escape From Blackness: Once Upon a Time in Creole America

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-10-29 01:55Z by Steven

Escape From Blackness: Once Upon a Time in Creole America

The Village Voice
2019-12-04

Originally published on 1994-12-08 as “Fade to Black: Once Upon a Time in Multi-Racial America”

Joe Wood

“Growing up in New Orleans,” you told me later, “it would be impossible to see race as anything but socially constructed. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

“METTÉ MILATE
ENHAUT CHOUAL,
LI VA DÎ NÉGRESSE PAS
SO MAMAN.”

“JUST PUT A
MULATTO ON HORSEBACK,
AND HE’LL TELL
YOU HIS MOTHER WASN’T
A NEGRESS.”

—Creole proverb, as translated
by Lafcadio Hearn, 1885

NEW ORLEANS — It was late and the show was finished. We were hungry and drunk. Adolph said Mulé’s was probably closed by now but he knew a place to eat on the other side of town. “Maybe you’ll see some of them over there, too,” he said. Adolph is a scholar of African American history and politics, and he was raised in New Orleans and knew how they looked and where they ate. They liked Mulé’s, a seventh-ward diner that serves the best oyster rolls in the city. The other place, Adolph said, was also good for observations, but far below seventh-ward culinary standards. It turned out to be an all-night fast-food joint, lighted too brightly, with a listless crowd of party people waiting in broken lines for some uninspired fried fare.

For a moment I forgot entirely about them and they. I wanted to try an oyster roll but there were none left, so I ordered a chicken sandwich “dressed” with lettuce and tomato and mayonnaise. The woman at the cash register seemed bored by my enthusiasm, and sighed, and in response I noted her skin color. She was dark. I turned my head and checked out two sleepy-eyed girls in the next line. They looked tired in their frilly prom dresses; their skin was waxen, the sad pale finish of moonlight. I knew — oh, I hesitated a moment, because I could see how a hasty eye might have thought them white, but I knew. Turning to Adolph I whispered “creole” and made giant drunken nod in their direction. Adolph looked and confirmed it: they were, in fact, them

Read the entire article here.

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Overtures to Louisiana Whites failed, and biracial activists had no choice but to swallow their racist pride and ally with emancipated Blacks by the end of 1864.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2020-08-21 17:57Z by Steven

The reconstruction of the Union seemed to be on everyone’s mind, including abolitionists. In late January 1864 [William Lloyd] Garrison challenged an anti-Lincoln resolution at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society meeting. Garrison’s longtime friend Wendell Phillips, primed to take the helm of abolitionism from his old friend and mentor, labeled Lincoln “a half-converted, honest Western Whig, trying to be an abolitionist.” As Garrison stared down emancipation, Phillips looked past emancipation at the reconstruction of the United States. Back in December 1863, Lincoln had announced his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which offered restoration of rights (except slave-holding) to all Confederates taking the loyalty oath. When loyalty levels reached 10 percent, states could establish governments that restricted civil rights for Black residents, Lincoln had proposed. But this proposal “frees the slave and ignores the negro,” Phillips snapped. The sizable free biracial community of New Orleans snapped, too, demanding voting rights. These biracial activists separated “their struggle from that of the Negroes,” said an observer. “In their eyes, they were nearer to the white man, they were more advanced than the slave in all respects.” Overtures to Louisiana Whites failed, and biracial activists had no choice but to swallow their racist pride and ally with emancipated Blacks by the end of 1864.

Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2016), 226.

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Dark secrets: The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett, reviewed

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-07-27 00:46Z by Steven

Dark secrets: The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett, reviewed

The Spectator
2020-07-18

Rabeea Saleem


Brit Bennett. Credit: Getty Images

Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half, A Novel (New York: Riverhead Books, 2020)

Bennett’s compelling novel explores the fraught subject of what it means to ‘pass for white’ in a black community

Passé Blanc is the Creole expression — widely used in the US — for black people ‘passing for white’ to seek social and economic privileges otherwise denied them. Brit Bennett has a panoptic approach to racial passing in this intergenerational family saga, which takes us on a 20-year journey into the lives of twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes.

We meet them in the 1950s as children living in Mallard, a small town in the Deep South known for its light-skinned negroes. For Desiree, the local obsession with skin colour makes little sense, since being light-skinned didn’t save her father from being lynched by white men. In their teens, the twins run away to New Orleans, but their paths soon diverge: ‘Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.’

Fourteen years later Desiree is spotted back in Mallard with a ‘blueblack’ child in tow called Jude. She is an anomaly in a town where ‘nobody married dark’, adhering to the strict colour code of its mixed-race founder, who was determined that the town would see ‘each generation lighter than the one before’. Stella, meanwhile, remains estranged from her family and now lives a life of luxury with her white husband and their daughter Kennedy in an affluent, all-white neighbourhood in LA. She has kept her past a secret from them, with her daughter realising how Stella would cite lack of money as an excuse not to discuss her background — ‘as if poverty were so unthinkable to Kennedy that it could explain everything’. Eventually, Jude’s and Kennedy’s paths cross, dismantling Stella’s carefully constructed façade…

Read the entire review here.

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The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2020-06-23 17:36Z by Steven

The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction

W. W. Norton
2020-06-18
336 pages
6.4 x 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-24744-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-53172-5

Daniel Brook

A technicolor history of the first civil rights movement and its collapse into black and white.

In The Accident of Color, Daniel Brook journeys to nineteenth-century New Orleans and Charleston and introduces us to cosmopolitan residents who elude the racial categories the rest of America takes for granted. Before the Civil War, these free, openly mixed-race urbanites enjoyed some rights of citizenship and the privileges of wealth and social status. But after Emancipation, as former slaves move to assert their rights, the black-white binary that rules the rest of the nation begins to intrude. During Reconstruction, a movement arises as mixed-race elites make common cause with the formerly enslaved and allies at the fringes of whiteness in a bid to achieve political and social equality for all.

In some areas, this coalition proved remarkably successful. Activists peacefully integrated the streetcars of Charleston and New Orleans for decades and, for a time, even the New Orleans public schools and the University of South Carolina were educating students of all backgrounds side by side. Tragically, the achievements of this movement were ultimately swept away by a violent political backlash and expunged from the history books, culminating in the Jim Crow laws that would legalize segregation for a half century and usher in the binary racial regime that rules us to this day.

The Accident of Color revisits a crucial inflection point in American history. By returning to the birth of our nation’s singularly narrow racial system, which was forged in the crucible of opposition to civil rights, Brook illuminates the origins of the racial lies we live by.

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The Vanishing Half, A Novel

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-06-14 00:55Z by Steven

The Vanishing Half, A Novel

Riverhead Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2020-06-02
352 Pages
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525536291
Paperback ISBN: 9780593286104
Ebook ISBN: 9780525536970

Brit Bennett

From The New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

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Overlooked No More: Homer Plessy, Who Sat on a Train and Stood Up for Civil Rights

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2020-02-05 02:24Z by Steven

Overlooked No More: Homer Plessy, Who Sat on a Train and Stood Up for Civil Rights

The New York Times
2020-01-31

Glenn Rifkin


A mural in New Orleans shows what Homer Plessy, right, might have looked like. On the left is P.B.S. Pinchback, the first black man to serve as a governor in the United States, in Louisiana. Pinchback is often mistaken for Plessy.
Mural by Ian Wilkinson; Photo by Jane Morse Rifkin

He boarded a whites-only train car in New Orleans with the hope of getting the attention of the Supreme Court. But it would be a long time before he got justice.

Since 1851, many remarkable black men and women did not receive obituaries in The New York Times. This month, with Overlooked, we’re adding their stories to our archives.

When Homer Plessy boarded the East Louisiana Railway’s No. 8 train in New Orleans on June 7, 1892, he knew his journey to Covington, La., would be brief.

He also knew it could have historic implications.

Plessy was a racially mixed shoemaker who had agreed to take part in an act of civil disobedience orchestrated by a New Orleans civil rights organization.

On that hot, sticky afternoon he walked into the Press Street Depot, purchased a first-class ticket and took a seat in the whites-only car…

Read the entire article here.

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A Painter Resurrects Louisiana’s Vanished Creole Culture

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2020-01-22 01:19Z by Steven

A Painter Resurrects Louisiana’s Vanished Creole Culture

The New York Times
2020-01-16

Elizabeth Pochoda, Editor-in-Chief
The Magazine ANTIQUES


Andrew LaMar Hopkins portrays the significant role Creoles played in the civic life of New Orleans. “Edmond Dédé Piano Recital” (2019) shows the freeborn Creole musician and composer in his elegant salon. Andrew LaMar Hopkins

Andrew LaMar Hopkins celebrates the rich contributions of 19th-Century New Orleans in his folk art style (and drag).

NEW ORLEANS — Dressed as his alter ego, the modish matron Désirée Joséphine Duplantier, the artist Andrew LaMar Hopkins is a familiar presence on this city’s arts scene. His paintings, faux naïf renderings of 19th-century life in the city — particularly the vanished culture of New Orleans’s free Creoles of color — also keep good company. You can see these works in Nadine Blake’s gallery on Royal Street in the French Quarter, on the art-filled walls of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in Treme, and in the rooms of collectors like the designer Thomas Jayne and the food stylist Rick Ellis.

When a dozen of Mr. Hopkins’s paintings appear at the Winter Show at the Park Avenue Armory on Jan. 24 they will be making their first foray north. Placed alongside 18th- and 19th -century portrait miniatures in the booth of Elle Shushan near the entrance of the show, these small works portraying daily life in New Orleans, circa 1830, will enact their own sly magic, inserting themselves into the stream of art history as if the visual record of people and places in antebellum Creole culture had not been lost. “This is what these lives looked like, and no one else was doing it,” Mr. Hopkins, 42, says of both white Creoles and Creoles of color in his work. “I wanted to do them justice.”

Creole is a long-embattled term, perhaps best defined now as a person whose background and identity is traceable to colonial French Louisiana and/or its Franco-African culture. William Rudolph, the chief curator at the San Antonio Museum of Art and an early enthusiast about the work of Mr. Hopkins, says this artist “has used his work to interrogate Creole history.” He added, “He has deconstructed the past.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Genealogy & Racial Passing; Author Mary Doria Russell

Posted in Audio, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-11-12 20:47Z by Steven

Genealogy & Racial Passing; Author Mary Doria Russell

The Sound of Ideas
ideastream
Cleveland, Ohio
2019-11-11

Rachel Rood, Producer


Credit: MeganBrady/shutterstock

Parma native and award winning author, Gail Lukasik discovered in 1995 that her mother had kept a deep family secret from her. Her mother was half-black, but was passing as a white woman, and begged Gail not to reveal her true identity. Lukasik will be speaking about her family’s story, which she turned into a book in 2017, this week in Lakewood, and we’ll discuss the complicated waters of genealogy and race, on The Sound of Ideas. Later, Lyndhurst author, Mary Doria Russell, talks about her new historical novel: The Women of the Copper Country.

Listen to the episode (00:49:56) here.

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