My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Virginia on 2017-10-07 22:32Z by Steven

My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Mic
2017-09-12

Gail Lukasik


Gail’s grandfather’s family that she never knew
Source: Gail Lukasik

Gail Lukasik, Ph.D. is a professional speaker, mystery novelist, and the author of the upcoming memoir, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing (Skyhorse; Oct. 17).

For the majority of my life, I believed I was a white woman. I had no reason to question my race or my racial heritage. Why would I? I had only to look in the mirror to know the veracity of my whiteness — or so I thought.

In 1995, while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records looking for my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, I made a startling discovery. Azemar Frederic and his entire family were classified as black. In that split second, everything I knew about myself changed. When I walked into the Illinois family history center, I was a white woman. When I left I didn’t know who I was. My sense of identity was shattered…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Know Your Black History: Deconstructing the Quadroon Ball

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-04-30 21:03Z by Steven

Know Your Black History: Deconstructing the Quadroon Ball

Afropunk
2016-10-27

Nick Douglas, AFROPUNK Contributor


“The swooning woman of color” This was an advertisement from 1858 New Orleans and is the first proof I had ever seen of a Quadroon Ball. I had never come across any proof that these balls actually happened. I fully believed these balls were the creation of Southern white male fantasies about needy, swooning, sexual women of color hoping to have the opportunity to have a relationship with them—i.e., a white male privilege fantasy. But as I looked in wonder at the very first proof I had ever seen of a Quadroon Ball, everything about the advertisement struck me as wrong and contradicted every bit of history I knew about New Orleans and Louisiana society. Then I did something that too few consumers of history do: I began deconstructing the advertisement in the context of the history of Louisiana and New Orleans. When I did this it crushed and destroyed the mythical ideals behind Quadroon balls.

Quadroon” Referred to women of color whose ancestry was supposedly mixed with only one quarter black blood. The term was popularized by President Jefferson, a slaveholder who never arranged to free his own black children, borne by his slave Sally Hemmings, or any of the other 200 slaves he held at his death.

Grand, Fancy, Superior” In the myth of Quadroon Balls women of color attended lavish dances with the hope of forming a plaçage relationships with eligible white men. But the historic practice of plaçage relationships between white men and free women of color were legally binding contractual agreements, drawn up in the presence of a notary public. In these arrangements for monogamous or extramarital relationships, women were typically set up with a house and income, and any children were financially provided for by the white father. Americans had outlawed marriages between races and made it very difficult for children of color to inherit from their colonial fathers. Plaçage agreements were a logical alternative; couples also simply cohabited.

Free women of color in Louisiana were a powerful group in their own right…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

The first real New Orleans saint? Henriette Delille’s path to canonization

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2017-04-30 00:56Z by Steven

The first real New Orleans saint? Henriette Delille’s path to canonization

The Times-Picayune
2017-03-02

Kim Chatelain


Portrait of Henriette Delille. This “carte de visite” albumen photo was taken by New Orleans photographer A. Constant at his studio on Hospital Street (now Governor Nichols). It’s the only known portrait of Delille.

It was 2011, and Archbishop Gregory Aymond was seeking a sacred antidote to the violence, murder and racism infesting his hometown. He turned to a venerable figure in New Orleans history, but a person only vaguely known to even the most ardent Roman Catholics, and composed a prayer that is now recited at every local Mass. It ends with the plea: “Mother Henriette Delille, pray for us that we may be a holy family.”

Unknown to many Catholics, the object of their prayers was a French-speaking woman of African descent. She was born in 1812 and grew up in the 500 block of Burgundy Street, and she lived a part of her life as a mistress in a social system known as placage, whereby wealthy white European men entered relationships with free women of color to circumvent laws against interracial marriage.

After the deaths of her two young children born through a concubine relationship, however, Delille at age 24 formally rejected the societal norms and experienced a religious transformation that eventually led to the formation of the Sisters of the Holy Family order. The community of Creole nuns provided care for those on the bottom rung of antebellum society, administering to the elderly, nursing the sick and teaching people of color who at the time had limited education opportunities. To this day, Holy Family nuns continue to serve out the mission launched in the mid-1800s by doing good works around the globe.

Now, 175 years after she founded the order, Delille stands at the doorstep of sainthood. If canonized, she will become the first New Orleanian, and the first U.S.-born black person, to be recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Tale Which Must Never Be Told: A New Biography of George Herriman

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-19 14:32Z by Steven

A Tale Which Must Never Be Told: A New Biography of George Herriman

Los Angeles Review of Books
2017-03-18

Ben Schwartz

George Herriman, a Life in Black and White
By Michael Tisserand

Published 12.06.2016
Harper
560 Pages

ON MARCH 4, 1913, Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office and became our 28th president. While we remember Wilson for his internationalist foreign policy and progressive labor laws, he was also the first Southerner elected since the mid-19th century, and his racial policies reflected it. Wilson saw Jim Crow as the necessary remedy to the aftermath of the Civil War. As president, he normalized his revanchist views from the White House by expanding segregation of federal workers. Not surprisingly, 1913 also saw a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. An excerpt from Wilson’s revisionist writings proclaiming the Klan “a veritable empire of the South” even appears in D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, a box-office smash which Wilson personally screened at the White House, the first American film ever shown there.

In that reactionary atmosphere, on October 28, 1913, in the New York Evening Journal, William Randolph Hearst debuted a new comic strip, Krazy Kat, by one of his favorite cartoonists, George Herriman. It starred Krazy, an androgynous cat in love with Ignatz, a brick-throwing, cat-chasing mouse. They lived in Coconino County, Arizona, desert mesa country, and Herriman shifted their backgrounds panel-by-panel — night to day, day to night, mountain to desert to town to river — with no rhyme or reason. They spoke in a patois of slang, Elizabethan English, Yiddish, Spanish, French, and tossed off literary allusions. When asked once about his basic upending of the natural order of cats, mice, dogs, time, and space, Herriman summed up his Weltanschauung: “To me it’s just as sensible as the way it is.”.

Krazy Kat’s whimsy caught on quickly in the Age of Wilson, and its large and devoted fan base ranged from high society to poets to school children to the president himself. What none of them knew then was that George Herriman was black. He passed for white most of his life. And what we can only see now, thanks to an authoritative new biography of Herriman by New Orleans historian Michael Tisserand, is that, as far removed from social commentary as Krazy Kat may appear, race was as much on George Herriman’s mind as the president’s…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

‘Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White’: A life as unorthodox as his comic strip

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-12 02:21Z by Steven

‘Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White’: A life as unorthodox as his comic strip

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
2017-02-19

Wayne Wise


Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White” by Michael Tisserand.

Ignatz Mouse: “Hey, this isn’t black coffee!!!”

Krazy Kat: “Sure it is. Look unda the milk.”

Krazy Kat,” created by George Herriman, is one of the most influential comic strips of all time. Centered around the iconic love triangle of Krazy, Ignatz Mouse and Offisa Pupp, the feature ran as a syndicated newspaper strip from 1913 to 1944. To a modern audience the strip can be difficult to understand, if not impenetrable. The pacing and sense of humor of 100 years ago feel foreign to current trends. There are references that were common at the time that are lost to us now. The language used is an idiosyncratic patois of nonsense poetry.

The backgrounds, while beautifully rendered, are a constantly changing surreal backdrop. Characters frequently broke the fourth wall, commenting directly on their status as cartoons. The title character, Krazy Kat, was of indeterminate gender, referred to with shifting pronouns, sometimes within the same sentence. As a whole, Krazy Kat was an ongoing challenge to the reader’s perception of definitions and boundaries.

Creator George Herriman was born in New Orleans in 1880. In the latter part of the 19th century his family moved to Los Angeles where his father worked as a tailor and George began his art career, eventually becoming one of the most famous and celebrated cartoonists in history. This is a distinction that would not have been possible if the truth of his life had been known at the time.

In 1971, while researching Mr. Herriman for an entry in the Dictionary of American Biography, professor Arthur Berger discovered a previously unknown fact. On his birth certificate Mr. Herriman was listed as “colored.” It had always been assumed that he was a white man. Mr. Herriman, to use the terminology of the time, “passed for white” his entire life, at a time when his color would have prevented him from many, if not all, of the achievements he is known for…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

30 Books #9: Colette Bancroft on Michael Tisserand’s ‘Krazy’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-02 03:07Z by Steven

30 Books #9: Colette Bancroft on Michael Tisserand’s ‘Krazy’

critical mass: The blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors
2017-02-23

Colette Bancroft

In the 30 Books in 30 Days series leading up to the March 16 announcement of the 2016 National Book Critics Circle award winners, NBCC board members review the thirty finalists. Today, NBCC board member Colette Bancroft offers an appreciation of biography finalist Michael Tisserand’s Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White (Harper Collins).

In a surreal desert landscape, a tiny white mouse throws a brick at the head of a black cat. On impact, the cat lifts lightly off the ground, hearts floating in the air above its lovestruck head.

That image, and the story it suggests, might sound slight. But it was the heart and soul of Krazy Kat, a tremendously influential comic strip that ran for more than 30 years at a time when newspaper comic strips were among the most popular American art forms.

Its creator is the subject of Michael Tisserand’s engaging, revealing biography, Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

…In exploring the artist’s life story, Tisserand reveals something that adds even more depth and complexity to the strip: Herriman came from a mixed-race New Orleans family that moved to California during his childhood and ever after passed as white

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , ,

Episode 199 – Michael Tisserand

Posted in Arts, Audio, Biography, Interviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-01-08 20:48Z by Steven

Episode 199 – Michael Tisserand

Virtual Memories: The chief of the Inner Station
2017-01-02

Gil Roth, Host

“I always feel like Herriman’s a a step ahead of me. When I read Krazy Kat I think I know what I’m reading; the next week I read the same strip and I realize I’m reading something different than I thought I was reading.”

For our 199th episode, Michael Tisserand joins the show to talk about his fantastic new book, Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White (Harper). We discuss Krazy Kat, race in America and the phenomenon of racial passing, newsroom culture, conducting research on microfilm in the age of Google, the allure of New Orleans, what it was like to write the biography of an enigma, and a lot more. So don’t be a bald-faced gazooni! Give it a listen! And go buy KRAZY!

“Herriman treated language as something that wasn’t up to shouldering the kind of burdens that we put on it.”

Listen to the episode (01:31:23) here download the episode here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Still ‘Krazy’ after all these years: A life of George Herriman, pioneering comic writer and N.O. exile

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-12-30 23:17Z by Steven

Still ‘Krazy’ after all these years: A life of George Herriman, pioneering comic writer and N.O. exile

The New Orleans Advocate
2016-12-05

Susan Larson, Host, The Reading Life
WWNO-FM, New Orleans


George Herriman, from Michael Tisserand’s Krazy Kat bio of George Herriman

For Michael Tisserand, as for most of us, the love of comics came early in childhood.

His mother took him to the library, where he discovered 741.59, the beloved Dewey Decimal System classification where comics were shelved. Years later, during his post-Katrina exile in Chicago, Tisserand would take his own young son to an exhibit of comics at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

“I was carrying my son in my arms then — he’s 6′-4″ now — and reading the captions out loud. I was feeling the New Orleans exile at that point, and I could imagine the way Herriman felt as a 10 year-old in Los Angeles, and I was looking for a New Orleans story. This was a story about New Orleans that I could tell from Chicago.”

Now, years after chasing the story across the country, Tisserand has produced the first full-length biography of a great New Orleans character and an original American artist in “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White” (HarperCollins, $35).

Herriman (1880-1944) was born in New Orleans to a Creole family, free people of color who moved to California in search of better educational opportunities. There, Herriman began to pass as white, which he did for the rest of his life…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

Posted in Biography, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2016-12-15 01:20Z by Steven

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

HarperCollins
2016-12-06
560 pages
Trimsize: 6 in (w) x 9 in (h) x 1.679 in (d)
Hardcover ISBN: 9780061732997
E-book ISBN: 9780062098054

Michael Tisserand

In the tradition of Schulz and Peanuts, an epic and revelatory biography of Krazy Kat creator George Herriman that explores the turbulent time and place from which he emerged—and the deep secret he explored through his art.

The creator of the greatest comic strip in history finally gets his due—in an eye-opening biography that lays bare the truth about his art, his heritage, and his life on America’s color line. A native of nineteenth-century New Orleans, George Herriman came of age as an illustrator, journalist, and cartoonist in the boomtown of Los Angeles and the wild metropolis of New York. Appearing in the biggest newspapers of the early twentieth century—including those owned by William Randolph Hearst—Herriman’s Krazy Kat cartoons quickly propelled him to fame. Although fitfully popular with readers of the period, his work has been widely credited with elevating cartoons from daily amusements to anarchic art.

Herriman used his work to explore the human condition, creating a modernist fantasia that was inspired by the landscapes he discovered in his travels—from chaotic urban life to the Beckett-like desert vistas of the Southwest. Yet underlying his own life—and often emerging from the contours of his very public art—was a very private secret: known as “the Greek” for his swarthy complexion and curly hair, Herriman was actually African American, born to a prominent Creole family that hid its racial identity in the dangerous days of Reconstruction.

Drawing on exhaustive original research into Herriman’s family history, interviews with surviving friends and family, and deep analysis of the artist’s work and surviving written records, Michael Tisserand brings this little-understood figure to vivid life, paying homage to a visionary artist who helped shape modern culture.

Tags: , , , ,

Secrets and Lies

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-12-03 00:14Z by Steven

Secrets and Lies

Ms. Magazine blog
Ms. Magazine
2016-05-17

Gail Lukasik

The following is an excerpt from White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Identity.

In 1995 when I discovered my mother’s black heritage, she made me promise never to tell her secret until she died. I kept her secret for 17 years. Nine months after her death in 2015, I appeared on PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow and revealed to 1.5 million people that my mother had passed for white. Three days later the family she never knew found me. “Secrets and Lies” recounts the stories my mother told me about her life in New Orleans before she came north to marry my father. After I uncovered her racial secret, I realized her stories held clues to her racial identity and the hardships she endured as a mixed race woman in Jim Crow south.

Parma, Ohio

When I was a young girl my mother would tell me about her life in New Orleans before she came north to Ohio to marry my father. Each story so carefully fashioned, so artfully told I never questioned their validity. It was one of the rare times I’d be allowed to sit on my parents’ double bed in the cramped downstairs bedroom that faced the street, its north window inches from the neighbor’s driveway where a dog barked sometimes into the night.

The room was pristine with its satiny floral bedspread, crisscrossed white lacy curtains and fringed shades. Area rugs surrounded the bed like islands of color over the amber shag carpet. A large dresser held my mother’s perfumes neatly arranged on a mirrored tray. An assortment of tiny prayer books rested on a side table beside a rosary. Over the bed was a painting of a street scene that could be Paris or New Orleans, colorful and dreamy. A similar painting hung in the living room.

It wasn’t until I married and left home that my father was banished to the other first floor smaller bedroom, even then he was an interloper in this feminine domain. His clothes were exiled to the front hall closet where he kept his rifle. On story days the room was a mother-daughter cove of confidences where my mother came as close as she ever would to telling me who she was, dropping clues like breadcrumbs that would take me decades to decipher. As I grew older, she confided intimacies of her marital life best shared with a mother or a sister. I was the substitute for the family left behind in New Orleans…

Read the entire excerpt here.

Tags: , , ,