Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Women on 2019-08-06 20:51Z by Steven

Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America

Oxford University Press
2019-08-05
288 Pages
28 b/w images, 2 maps
6-1/8 x 9¼ inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780190846992

W. Caleb McDaniel, Associate Professor of History
Rice University, Houston, Texas

  • The epic, unique, and haunting story an enslaved woman and her quest for justice
  • Incorporates recent scholarship on slavery, reparations, and the ongoing connection between slavery and incarceration of black Americans
  • McDaniel received a Public Scholar fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities that enabled him to write this book

Born into slavery, Henrietta Wood was taken to Cincinnati and legally freed in 1848. In 1853, a Kentucky deputy sheriff named Zebulon Ward colluded with Wood’s employer, abducted her, and sold her back into bondage. She remained enslaved throughout the Civil War, giving birth to a son in Mississippi and never forgetting who had put her in this position.

By 1869, Wood had obtained her freedom for a second time and returned to Cincinnati, where she sued Ward for damages in 1870. Astonishingly, after eight years of litigation, Wood won her case: in 1878, a Federal jury awarded her $2,500. The decision stuck on appeal. More important than the amount, though the largest ever awarded by an American court in restitution for slavery, was the fact that any money was awarded at all. By the time the case was decided, Ward had become a wealthy businessman and a pioneer of convict leasing in the South. Wood’s son later became a prominent Chicago lawyer, and she went on to live until 1912.

McDaniel’s book is an epic tale of a black woman who survived slavery twice and who achieved more than merely a moral victory over one of her oppressors. Above all, A Sweet Taste of Liberty is a portrait of an extraordinary individual as well as a searing reminder of the lessons of her story, which establish beyond question the connections between slavery and the prison system that rose in its place.

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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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Mother of Orphans: The True and Curious Story of Irish Alice, A Colored Man’s Widow

Posted in Biography, Books, Family/Parenting, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2019-07-30 16:57Z by Steven

Mother of Orphans: The True and Curious Story of Irish Alice, A Colored Man’s Widow

2Leaf Press
July 2019
250 pages
6 x 9
Print ISBN: 978-1-940939-78-0
eBook ISBN: 978-1-940939-87-2

Dedria Humphries Barker

Introduction by:

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Professor of English; Professor of Asian/Asian American Studies
University of Connecticut

Mother of Orphans is the compelling true story of Alice, an Irish-American woman who defied rigid social structures to form a family with a black man in Ohio in 1899. Alice and her husband had three children together, but after his death in 1912, Alice mysteriously surrendered her children to an orphanage. One hundred years later, her great-grand daughter, Dedria Humphries Barker, went in search of the reasons behind this mysterious abandonment, hoping in the process to resolve aspects of her own conflicts with American racial segregation and conflict.

This book is the fruit of Barker’s quest. In it, she turns to memoir, biography, historical research, and photographs to unearth the fascinating history of a multiracial community in the Ohio River Valley during the early twentieth century. Barker tells this story from multiple vantage points, frequently switching among points of view to construct a fragmented and comprehensive perspective of the past intercut with glimpses of the present. The result is a haunting, introspective meditation on race and family ties. Part personal journey, part cultural biography, Mother of Orphans examines a little-known piece of this country’s past: interracial families that survived and prevailed despite Jim Crow laws, including those prohibiting mixed-race marriage. In lyrical, evocative prose, this extraordinary book ultimately leaves us hopeful about the world as our children might see it.

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They look white but say they’re black: a tiny town in Ohio wrestles with race

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-07-25 18:14Z by Steven

They look white but say they’re black: a tiny town in Ohio wrestles with race

The Guardian
2019-07-25

Khushbu Shah


Roberta Oiler, center, stands with her daughters Janelle Stanley and Jessica Keaton in East Jackson, Ohio Photograph: Maddie McGarvey/The Guardian

Many residents in East Jackson were raised to identify as black. But what dictates race: where you live, your DNA, the history you’re taught?

The stale, smoky air around Clarice Shreck heaves. She takes a long hit of oxygen from the tube under her nose. She leans forward, shifting in her armchair, before releasing her raspy smoker’s laugh, which is smudged out a second later by her smoker’s cough.

The pale woman with frizzy grey-streaked hair commands her on-and-off partner of over 20 years, Jimmy – who is from one of the few white families in East Jackson – to fetch her purse. He plops it on to her lap; she struggles to get at an old piece of paper folded up in her wallet. She slowly unfolds it to present her birth certificate.

“Negro”, it reads, next to each of her parents’ names. She looks up triumphantly, victory in her periwinkle eyes. “It’s a legal document,” she says.

The last known full-blooded black person in her family was her great-great-grandfather Thomas Byrd, her parents told her. Photos of them, who both look white, adorn the wooden walls on either side of Shreck’s chair. Their stares follow her throughout their former home. They are the ones who told her she was black…

Note from Steven F. Riley: See the State of the Re:Union podcast “Pike County, Ohio – As Black as We Wish to Be” from 2012-09-28.

Read the entire article here.

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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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Longtown Descendants Breathe New Life Into Historic Mixed-Race Community

Posted in Articles, Audio, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2017-06-05 00:32Z by Steven

Longtown Descendants Breathe New Life Into Historic Mixed-Race Community

WOSU Public Media
WOSU Radio
Columbus, Ohio
2017-05-31

Jerry Kenney


Kaiser family reunion at Longtown. Kaiser Family

In southwest Ohio, about a mile from the Indiana state line, a long-forgotten town with a special place in African American history is struggling to be reborn.

Longtown was established nearly 200 years ago in what is now Greenville. The settlement grew into a thriving mixed-race community and a major stop on the Underground Railroad.

Now, descendants of those pioneering settlers are working to bring Longtown back to life for others to experience.

Longtown’s Founding

In 1818, James Clemens, a freed slave from Rockingham County, Virginia, settled in Darke County, Ohio, with his wife Sophia Sellers and their five children, and began to farm.

“They were the sons and daughters of slave masters,” says historian and Longtown descendant Roane Smothers.

Smothers says some slave owners not only acknowledged the children they bore with slaves but also provided them with financial support. Such was the case with James and Sophia, who purchased land in Ohio with the help of Sellers’ father, he says…

Read the entire article here. Listen to the story (00:05:45) here.

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Let Ohio Vote First

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-02-16 18:43Z by Steven

Let Ohio Vote First

The New York Times
2016-02-16

Emma Roller

We, as voters and election-obsessed bystanders, made it past the first two contests in this eons-long presidential primary, but seven candidates weren’t so lucky.

The winnowed-down field has now moved on to the warmer vote-seeking climes of Nevada and South Carolina. Before moving on too, I’d like to consider what this election has now proven: Iowa and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status is not only obsolete, it’s bad for our democratic process.

Ask people in Iowa or New Hampshire to justify their lock on early voting, and you hear this: “It’s cheap to campaign here.” “We take this job seriously.” “It’s part of our political heritage.” It can turn into a sort of Zen koan: We matter because we’re first, and we’re first because we matter. Inconveniently for them, none of these justifications are good enough.

That’s why, to help save our democracy, I would like to autocratically declare Ohio as the new first-in-the-nation primary state starting in 2020. It might not be a perfect idea, but it would be a lot better than our system now.

The main problem with Iowa and New Hampshire is a demographic one. Put simply, they are too white. Both states’ populations are roughly 90 percent white, while the United States population as a whole is 62 percent white. The United States is projected to become a minority-white country in roughly 30 years. This is where Ohio comes in

Read the entire article here.

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An Ohio town where races have mixed freely for more than 200 years

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-28 17:26Z by Steven

An Ohio town where races have mixed freely for more than 200 years

The Washington Post
2015-09-26

Kevin Williams


Connor Keiser, 22, left, shows his album of historic photos of Longtown to James Jett, 90 at Bethel Long Wesleyan Church. (Maddie McGarvey/For The Washington Post)

Amid the corn and soybean fields of western Ohio lies a progressive crossroads where black and white isn’t black and white, where the concept of race has been turned upside down, where interracial marriages have been the norm for nearly two centuries. The heavy boots of Jim Crow have never walked here.

Founded by James Clemens, a freed slave from Virginia who became a prosperous farmer, Longtown was a community far ahead of its time, a bold experiment in integration.

Now that history is in danger of being lost. Longtime Longtown residents are dying, and whites are moving in and buying property. Many historically black-owned buildings have already been torn down or remodeled.

But Clemens’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson is working to save his family’s heritage. Though his eyes are blue and his skin is pale, Connor Keiser, 22, said that his childhood is filled with memories of “cousins of all colors” playing in the pastures at the family farm.

“We were a typical Longtown family. We all looked different, and we were taught that color didn’t matter,” Keiser said. “As long as I have anything to do with it, Longtown won’t die.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Cincy in 2060: 1 in 7 of us will be biracial

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-04 18:10Z by Steven

Cincy in 2060: 1 in 7 of us will be biracial

The Cincinnati Enquirer
2014-10-21

Mark Curnutte, Social Justice/Minority Affairs Reporter

Photos and video by:

Cara Owsley, Staff Photojournalist

A new index suggests many of our communities will look less like they do today and more like Austin or Washington, D.C.

EAST PRICE HILL –  Lydia Perez is 2 years old, with the curly black hair and dark eyes of her father’s Guatemalan heritage. Her complexion is fairer than his, more like that of her white mother, a woman of Appalachian descent who grew up in Lower Price Hill.

Lydia is 1 of 50 people now counted as bi-racial in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. But by the time she’s in her late 40s, in 2060, 1 in 7 people in our region will claim two or more races.

This is your grandchild’s Cincinnati: A place where a quarter of the people speak Spanish; where thousands more Latin Americans, East Africans, Asians and others live and work; and where increasing diversity is having profound influence on our families, schools, workplaces and politics.

The changes are part of dramatic shifts projected across America’s heartland in the next 50 years. A new diversity index by USA Today suggests that many of our communities will look less like the Cincinnati we know today and more like multi-ethnic Austin, Texas, or suburban Washington, D.C.

In many of our neighborhoods, chances will be 50/50 that the next person your child or grandchild meets in 2060 will be of a different race or ethnic background. In our eight closest-in counties, about one-third of us will be non-white, compared to 18 percent in 2010…

Read the entire article here.

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America’s sex and race failure: Why Raven-Symone and an Ohio couple are struggling

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-10 18:07Z by Steven

America’s sex and race failure: Why Raven-Symone and an Ohio couple are struggling

Salon
2014-10-08

Brittney Cooper, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

How a TV star shunning labels, and a lesbian couple with a Black baby illustrate the fight to assert one’s humanity

This week, iconic Cosby (grand)kid Raven-Symoné caught up with Oprah, telling her in an interview: “I don’t want to be labeled gay… I’m a human who loves other humans. …I’m American not African American.  I don’t know what country I’m from in Africa, but I do know I have roots in Louisiana. I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person.” It would be tempting to frame these recent remarks on race and gay identity from the Cosby Show and Disney star as just more ideal and myopic millennial musings on race. But I think her comments tell us something about the operations of contemporary notions of the “human” that are worth unpacking.

Let me begin by saying that using one’s Louisiana roots is perhaps the worst place to begin in an argument about how the term “American” is a “color-less” one. Both sides of my family have lived in Louisiana since the earliest census records I could find. That census, the 1870 census was the first to record the names of all the black people that had been freed within the last decade. With great care, citizens were designated with a “C,” “M,” or “W,” for “colored,” “mulatto” and “white” respectively. Well into the late 20th century, my grandmother referred to Black people as colored.

Certainly, Raven-Symoné’s arguments bear the trace of the postracial rhetoric so prominent among certain (though not all) segments of millennials.  But her desire to not acknowledge or carry the “African” designation in “African-American” is far from new. To be clear, many Black people who are Americans, are not “African American” in the sense that we mean that term today, namely as native born Black people. Voluntary rather than forced migrations of diasporic Black people from the Caribbean and from West Africa have been a characteristic of the U.S. Black population since the early 20th century.  The side eye I’m giving to Raven-Symoné is not about a desire to demand that all Black people in the U.S. take on the moniker “African American,” but rather about the fact that her framing suggests that it is the connection of Africa to blackness that has her wanting to disavow a hyphenated identity…

…Among the many things I find troubling in her statement is the idea that America is color-less. It is a society built on a foundational color schema in which black skin is figured as the condition for unfreedom and white skin as the condition for freedom. Louisiana itself had a notoriously restrictive definition of the one drop rule as Dr. Yaba Blay discusses in her book “One-Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race,” Louisiana law classified all people with “one-thirty-second or less” of Negro blood would be “deemed, described, or designated” officially as ‘colored, ‘mulatto,’ ‘black,’ ‘negro,’ ‘griffe,’ “Afro-American,’ ‘quadroon,’ ‘mestizo,” ‘colored person,’ or ‘person of color.’ Well into the 1980s, i.e. well into Raven Symoné’s lifetime, this law was used to designate putatively white people as black…

…This kind of rhetorical move is also salient coming on the heels of recent reports of an Ohio lesbian couple opting to sue their sperm bank for erroneously giving them black donor sperm.  I get suing for negligence and shoddy service. But for this queer couple, the presence of their Black daughter disrupts their ability to exist comfortably in the space of whiteness that defines their community, a community that they admit is deeply homophobic. Having chosen to be a queer family in the midst of a heteronormative white universe in Ohio, their Black child has now disrupted their access to white power and privilege. This biracial black girl is growing up with distraught, devastated queer parents who love her despite her blackness. Having internalized antiblackness, they note their discomfort with taking her to a black neighborhood for haircuts and their fear of the racist reprisal of neighbors and family members…

Read the entire article here.

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