BOOK REVIEW: “White Like Her” by Gail Lukasik, Reviewed By C. Ellen Connally

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-08-03 02:22Z by Steven

BOOK REVIEW: “White Like Her” by Gail Lukasik, Reviewed By C. Ellen Connally

Cool Cleveland
2019-07-16

Former Clevelander and author Gail Lukasik named her recently published memoir White Like Her. Subtitled My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing, Lukasik tells the story of her mother, Alvera Frederic Kalina, who changed her racial identity from black to white when she married in 1944 and moved to Cleveland. With that move, she abandoned her black family and racial heritage and in her mind, became white like the man she married.

Alvera hid her secret from the world until her daughter made the discovery when she was tracing her family tree. Her mother’s birth certificate and that of her grandfather and other relatives ,along with census records, showed that her mother and other relatives were black. When confronted with such concrete evidence, Alvera refused to admit her mixed-race heritage. In her mind, her life as a black person was over when she married and left New Orleans, the city of her birth. She begged her daughter not to reveal her secret. For 17 years, until her mother’s death, Lukasik continued her research but did not reveal her findings outside her immediate family.

Stories of passing — a term used to define the process of abandoning one’s cultural identity and adopting another — are traditionally associated with a light-skinned black person who assumes a white identity. People of color living as white have been the theme for many literary works in the late 19th and 20th century. Clevelander Charles W. Chesnutt, a black man who could have easily passed for white, wrote a significant number of stories about black people passing for white around the turn of the 20th century. Many of the stories take place in Cleveland which he fictionalized to be Groveland, Ohio…

Read the entire review here.

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Band of Angels, A Novel

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, United States, Women on 2019-07-28 22:50Z by Steven

Band of Angels, A Novel

Louisiana State University Press
August 1994 (originally published in 1955)
375 pages
5.50 x 8.50 inches
no illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 9780807119464

Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)

Amantha Starr, born and raised by a doting father on a Kentucky plantation in the years before the Civil War, is the heroine of this powerfully dramatic novel. At her father’s death Amantha learns that her mother was a slave and that she, too, is to be sold into servitude. What follows is a vast panorama of one of the most turbulent periods of American History as seen through the eyes of star-crossed young woman. Amantha soon finds herself in New Orleans, where she spends the war years with Hamish Bond, a slave trader. At war’s end, she marries Tobias Sears, a Union officer and Emersonian idealist. Despite sporadic periods of contentment, Amantha finds life with Tobias trying, and she is haunted still by her tangled past. “Oh, who am I?” she asks at the beginning of the novel. Only after many years, after achieving a hard-won wisdom and maturity, does she begin to understand that question.

Band of Angels puts on ready display Robert Penn Warren’s prodigious gifts. First published in 1955, it is one of the most searing and vivid fictional accounts of the Civil War era ever written.

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In Search of Julien Hudson: Free Artist of Color in Pre–Civil War New Orleans

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Economics, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2019-06-10 23:55Z by Steven

In Search of Julien Hudson: Free Artist of Color in Pre–Civil War New Orleans

Historic New Orleans Collection
2010
128 pages
70 color images, 7 b/w images
8″ × 9½”
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-917860-57-7

Edited and with an introduction by Erin M. Greenwald, with essays by William Keyse Rudolph and Patricia Brady

Julien Hudson, born in 1811 in New Orleans, was the son of a property-owning free woman of color and a white English merchant, ironmonger, and ship chandler. Hudson began painting in the mid-1820s, training first in New Orleans and later in Paris. Little is known about his personal life, outside of scattered details found in a handful of public documents and a pair of early-twentieth-century reminiscences by former student George Coulon and prominent Creole of color Rodolphe Desdunes. This carefully researched volume is the most thorough examination to date of Julien Hudson and his world.

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The Other Room

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2019-06-07 01:46Z by Steven

The Other Room

Crown Publishers
1947
274 pages
ISBN 13: 9780000100184

Worth Tuttle Hedden (1896-1985)

Winner of the Southern Authors Award

A Southern White Girl Gets The Shock Of Her Life

The iron grillwork of the gate stood between them…..and so did years of tradition and social custom. It was a barrier, built by hate and fear, between one color and another. He might have crossed that line, and lived on her side–but he was too proud to pass for white.

This prize-winning novel is about a young woman who unknowingly signs up to teach classes at an all-black college in New Orleans in 1920. It is one of the best—and earliest—views of breaking the color line as well as a touching love story of a man and woman of different races.

In the evening she was on a train, rushing towards New Orleans. Her first job waited for her; she was counting off the miles to adventure, romance, and independence. In the morning, shamed and horrified, she was fighting the necessity to quit, to go home to a scornful family and admit failure.

Nina Latham was a southern girl, trained in a rigid code of black and white. She wanted to get away from home, but when she signed for her new job she didn’t know she would be working with Negroes, eating with them, living among them. And certainly she didn’t know that she would meet handsome young Leon who could have passed for white—but wouldn’t.

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Novels That Reach for the Stars : DECORATIONS IN A RUINED CEMETERY, By John Gregory Brown (Houghton Mifflin: $19.95; 244 pp.)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-29 00:09Z by Steven

Novels That Reach for the Stars : DECORATIONS IN A RUINED CEMETERY, By John Gregory Brown (Houghton Mifflin: $19.95; 244 pp.)

The Los Angeles Times
1994-01-23

Margaret Langstaff

I wish more people today would attempt books like this one, novels that take on the big questions, the eternal verities, and, without pretense and a whole lot of claptrap, address the difficulty of finding meaning and significance in life. For this is the stuff of which classics are made and what literature, certainly, is all about. That John Gregory Brown had the nerve to square off before such issues in his first novel is by itself laudable. The fact that he wrote a fine story with believable, memorable characters in the process is reason for applause.

Brown, not yet 40, writes out of the Southern tradition in fiction, and is midway, in terms of depth and accessibility, between Faulkner and Walker Percy, (sort of a Lite-Faulkner or a Percy au jus.) Race, family, heritage, faith, good and evil are the obsessions in question, and the plot turns on critical choices having to do with one’s understanding of the difference between virtuous behavior and cowardice, and one’s courage to do the right thing. More readable than Faulkner, less comedic than Percy, Brown is nonetheless in their direct line of descent, their natural heir, without any obvious imitation.

Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery” concerns the Eagen family of New Orleans and its immediate vicinity, Irish Catholics whose lineage is made more colorful, if not more difficult, by containing within it a black matriarch who mysteriously, in midlife, disappears, leaving her husband and small son to continue their lives without her. The legacy of this racial intermarriage and the mystery of Molly Moore Eagen’s disappearance–unsolved until the book’s final pages–haunt and twist the lives of three generations of Eagens…

Read the entire review here.

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Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, A Novel

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2019-05-28 00:10Z by Steven

Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, A Novel

University of South Carolina Press
May 2019 (originally published in 1994)
256 pages
5.5 x 8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-64336-018-8

John Gregory Brown

A luminous and heartbreaking tale of identity, devotion, and regret

John Gregory Brown’s debut novel examines family, race, and faith in a heartbreaking tale of identity, devotion, and regret. The story centers on the Eagen family of New Orleans, Irish Catholics of “mixed blood” in a city where race defines destiny. In 1965 Thomas Eagen and his twelve-years-old twins, Meredith and Lowell, abruptly drive off, leaving his second wife, Catherine, and their home. As they cross Lake Pontchartrain, a section of the bridge collapses, injuring Murphy Warrington, an African American man who once worked for Thomas’s father. Murphy becomes the catalyst for a series of revelations about Thomas’s light-skinned black mother and the reasons she abandoned her husband and son when Thomas was an infant.

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The Secret Album reveals how a powerful truth changed a family forever

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2019-05-22 21:03Z by Steven

The Secret Album reveals how a powerful truth changed a family forever

The Garage
HP (Hewlett-Packard)
2019-05-02

Patrick Rodgers

A novelist learns about her mother’s long-held secret by search for what’s missing from her family photo albums.

The Secret Album is part of HP’s original documentary project, History of Memory, which celebrates the power of printed photos.

We treasure family photos not only because they illuminate the past, but also because they can offer up an alternative narrative to the stories we tell — and retell — about our identities.

This is true for author Gail Lukasik, who was just as captivated by what was left out of her parents’ snapshots as by the faces and stories they portrayed. Growing up in suburban Ohio, Lukasik puzzled over why there were so few pictures of her mother’s side of the family. In the stack of family photo albums, there were only a handful of black-and-white prints of relatives from New Orleans, where her mother, Alvera (Frederic) Kalina, had lived in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. “I felt very close to my mother, but she had a certain mystery,” she says. “When I used to ask her about that she’d say, ‘Oh I just don’t have any,’ which I thought was strange.” Her mother’s guardedness about her own family’s origins were yet another layer to their already complex relationship…

…It took Lukasik two years to confront her mother, and the encounter didn’t go well. “I had never seen her so afraid,” says Lukasik, who tells the story in her memoir, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing. “She said, ‘Promise me you won’t tell anyone until after I die.’”…

Read the entire article and watch the video here.

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Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2019-05-20 14:38Z by Steven

Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation

W. W. Norton
February 2019
624 pages
6.6 × 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-393-23937-9

Steve Luxenberg

A myth-shattering narrative of how a nation embraced “separation” and its pernicious consequences.

Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case synonymous with “separate but equal,” created remarkably little stir when the justices announced their near-unanimous decision on May 18, 1896. Yet it is one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the nineteenth century, whose outcome embraced and protected segregation, and whose reverberations are still felt into the twenty-first.

Separate spans a striking range of characters and landscapes, bound together by the defining issue of their time and ours—race and equality. Wending its way through a half-century of American history, the narrative begins at the dawn of the railroad age, in the North, home to the nation’s first separate railroad car, then moves briskly through slavery and the Civil War to Reconstruction and its aftermath, as separation took root in nearly every aspect of American life.

Award-winning author Steve Luxenberg draws from letters, diaries, and archival collections to tell the story of Plessy v. Ferguson through the eyes of the people caught up in the case. Separate depicts indelible figures such as the resisters from the mixed-race community of French New Orleans, led by Louis Martinet, a lawyer and crusading newspaper editor; Homer Plessy’s lawyer, Albion Tourgée, a best-selling author and the country’s best-known white advocate for civil rights; Justice Henry Billings Brown, from antislavery New England, whose majority ruling endorsed separation; and Justice John Harlan, the Southerner from a slaveholding family whose singular dissent cemented his reputation as a steadfast voice for justice.

Sweeping, swiftly paced, and richly detailed, Separate provides a fresh and urgently-needed exploration of our nation’s most devastating divide.

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Descendants Tell Stories of Free People of Color

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2019-03-14 17:12Z by Steven

Descendants Tell Stories of Free People of ColorDescendants Tell Stories of Free People of Color

The New York Times
2019-03-12

Katy Reckdahl


Dwight and Beverly Stanton McKenna on the porch of the museum. “In this area, free people of color left their fingerprints on everything,” Ms. McKenna said. “This is who we are. This is our story.”
Erica Christmas for The New York Times

NEW ORLEANSLe Musée de f.p.c. is devoted to the story of the free people of color of New Orleans, as told by their descendants.

Kim Coleman, 29, a curator at the museum whose grandmother was born three blocks from Le Musée, says that she sees it as a “reminder of who built the city culturally, politically and economically,” even as the black population of the surrounding Tremé-Lafitte neighborhood dropped to 64 percent from 92 percent after Hurricane Katrina.

Before the Civil War, free people of color made up a higher proportion of the population in New Orleans than anywhere else in the United States. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, free black residents made up about 20 percent of the city’s population, largely because French and Spanish officials had allowed enslaved people to purchase their freedom.

Le Musée de f.p.c. is on the first floor of a grand, white-pillared mansion on Esplanade Avenue. Two hundred years ago, French-speaking Afro-Creole free people of color owned much of the property along Esplanade, a broad boulevard shaded by massive, gnarled live oak trees…

Read the entire article here.

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Henriette Delille is two steps away from becoming a Saint

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2019-02-22 23:54Z by Steven

Henriette Delille is two steps away from becoming a Saint

The Louisiana Weekly
2019-01-02

HENRIETTE DELILLE
Henriette Delille

As the Who Dat Nation roots for the New Orleans Saints as they strive to win the NFL Super Bowl in Atlanta, another group of dedicated and faithful folks is eagerly awaiting the day that their Beloved Founder becomes a bonafide Saint in her own right.

Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, is but two steps from being recognized by the Vatican as a Roman Catholic Saint.

Henriette Delille was born in New Orleans, La., on Thursday, March 11, 1813. Her mother, Marie-Josèphe “Pouponne” Díaz, was a free woman of color of New Orleans. Her father Jean-Baptiste Lille Sarpy (var. de Lille) was born about 1758 in Fumel, Lotet-Garonne, France. Their union was a common-law marriage typical of the contemporary plaçage system. She had a brother Jean Delille and other siblings. Their maternal grandparents were Juan José (var. Jean-Joseph) Díaz, a Spanish merchant, and Henriette (Dubreuil) Laveau, a Créole of color. Their paternal grandparents were Charles Sarpy and Susanne Trenty, both natives of Fumel, France. Her maternal great-grandmother is said to be Cécile Marthe Basile Dubreuil, a woman of color considered to be a daughter of Villars Dubreuil, born in 1716, who immigrated to Louisiana from France. Henriette and her family lived in the French Quarter, not far from St. Louis Cathedral

Read the entire article here.

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