When I Was White, A Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2019-06-12 15:06Z by Steven

When I Was White, A Memoir

St. Martin’s Press (an imprint of Macmillan)
2019-08-06
304 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781250146755

Sarah Valentine

The stunning and provocative coming-of-age memoir about Sarah Valentine’s childhood as a white girl in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and her discovery that her father was a black man.

At the age of 27, Sarah Valentine discovered that she was not, in fact, the white girl she had always believed herself to be. She learned the truth of her paternity: that her father was a black man. And she learned the truth about her own identity: mixed race.

And so Sarah began the difficult and absorbing journey of changing her identity from white to black. In this memoir, Sarah details the story of the discovery of her identity, how she overcame depression to come to terms with this identity, and, perhaps most importantly, asks: why? Her entire family and community had conspired to maintain her white identity. The supreme discomfort her white family and community felt about addressing issues of race–her race–is a microcosm of race relationships in America.

A black woman who lived her formative years identifying as white, Sarah’s story is a kind of Rachel Dolezal in reverse, though her “passing” was less intentional than conspiracy. This memoir is an examination of the cost of being black in America, and how one woman threw off the racial identity she’d grown up with, in order to embrace a new one.

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Three-Fifths, A Novel

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Identity Development/Psychology, Novels, Passing, United States on 2019-06-12 15:00Z by Steven

Three-Fifths, A Novel

Agora (an imprint of Polis Books)
2019-09-10
240 pages
5.5” x 8’5”
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-947993-67-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-947993-82-2

John Vercher

The very first title from Agora, the new Polis Books imprint dedicated to crime fiction from diverse and underrepresented voices. Available in hardcover and ebook September 10, 2019.

A compelling and timely debut novel from an assured new voice: Three-Fifths is about a biracial black man, passing for white, who is forced to confront the lies of his past while facing the truth of his present when his best friend, just released from prison, involves him in a hate crime.

Pittsburgh, 1995. The son of a black father he’s never known, and a white mother he sometimes wishes he didn’t, twenty-two-year-old Bobby Saraceno is passing for white. Raised by his bigoted maternal grandfather, Bobby has hidden his truth from everyone, even his best friend and fellow comic-book geek, Aaron, who has just returned home from prison a hardened racist. Bobby’s disparate worlds collide when his and Aaron’s reunion is interrupted by a confrontation where Bobby witnesses Aaron assault a young black man with a brick. Fearing for his safety and his freedom, Bobby must keep his secret from Aaron and conceal his unwitting involvement in the hate crime from the police. But Bobby’s delicate house of cards crumbles when his father enters his life after more than twenty years.

Three-Fifths is a story of secrets, identity, violence and obsession with a tragic conclusion that leave all involved questioning the measure of a man, and was inspired by the author’s own struggles with identity as a biracial man during his time as a student in Pittsburgh amidst the simmering racial tension produced by the L.A. Riots and the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-nineties.

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Sigrid Johnson Was Black. A DNA Test Said She Wasn’t.

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2018-11-20 21:41Z by Steven

Sigrid Johnson Was Black. A DNA Test Said She Wasn’t.

The New York Times Magazine
2018-11-19

Ruth Padawer


Sigrid E. Johnson this year. Illustration by Jules Julien

The surge in popularity of services like 23andMe and Ancestry means that more and more people are unearthing long-buried connections and surprises in their ancestry.

I.

Three years ago, when Sigrid E. Johnson was 62, she got a call from a researcher seeking volunteers for a study on DNA ancestry tests and ethnic identity. Johnson agreed to help. After all, she and the researcher, Anita Foeman, had been pals for half a century, ever since they attended the same elementary school in their integrated Philadelphia neighborhood, where they and other black children were mostly protected from the racism beyond its borders. Foeman, a professor of communication at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, asked Johnson to swab the inside of her cheek and share her thoughts about her ethnic and racial identity before and after the results came back.

Johnson’s father, a chauffeur who later became a superintendent at a housing project in North Philadelphia, had a golden-brown complexion. Her mother, who said her own father was a white Brit and her mother was half African-American and half Native American, was light-skinned. People sometimes mistook Johnson’s mother for white, and when she applied for seamstress jobs at department stores in the 1920s and ’30s, she chose not to correct them.

Sigrid, who had light caramel skin, was their only child, and her parents, Martha and Frank Gilchrist, doted on her. In grade school, she prayed each night for an older brother, someone who would be fun to play with and would look after her, as her friends’ brothers did with their siblings. When she wasn’t busy with ballet and piano lessons, she caught lightning bugs and played dolls, hopscotch and jump rope with nearby friends. The neighborhood, West Mount Airy, was a tree-lined community, one of the first in the nation to integrate successfully. It was populated mostly by middle- and upper-class people, including many African-American professional men who had fair-skinned wives and children whose complexions matched their mothers’.

Johnson doesn’t remember her parents talking much about race, except when her father made it clear that he expected her to marry a black man. But even without that explicit talk, she was immersed in the highs and lows of black life. Her cousin, a surgeon named William Gilchrist Anderson, lived in Albany, Ga., where he led a large coalition of activists in the early 1960s to desegregate public facilities. A friend and classmate of Ralph Abernathy, Anderson persuaded the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to participate in the city’s demonstrations, which Johnson remembers she and her parents sometimes joined. During the family’s trips to visit her cousin in Georgia, Johnson saw water fountains that said “Whites Only.” And she still remembers the night that a giant cross burned near her cousin’s front yard and how he swept her and everyone else out of the house and put them all up in a hotel…

As a young teenager, Johnson pestered her mother about what it was like to give birth to her — a query her mother always dodged. But when Johnson was 16, her mother broke down and said through tears that they adopted her when she was an infant. Her mother explained that Johnson’s biological father was black and that her biological mother was a white Italian woman who said she couldn’t keep the baby, who by then was 2 or 3 months old. The woman, who lived in South Philadelphia, had explained that she already had several children, all of whom were blond, and that her white husband didn’t want another man’s child raised in his home, not least of all one whose color so boldly announced that fact. Johnson’s mother said the woman came to see the baby for about a year, until she asked the woman to stop visiting because she didn’t want Sigrid to find out she was adopted. Johnson teared up as she recounted the conversation with her mother that took place 49 years ago. “The news — all of it — was crushing,” Johnson told me. “To this day, I honestly wish she had never told me. I wanted my mom to be my mom.” Neither one ever broached the subject with the other again.

So when Anita Foeman requested that she take a DNA test, Johnson figured it was no big deal: She was half African and half Italian. “I knew what the results would show when they came back — that is, until the results actually came back.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Kali Nicole Gross

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-03-22 02:31Z by Steven

Kali Nicole Gross

New Books Network
2018-03-13

Host:

Christine Lamberson, Assistant Professor of History
Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas


Kali Nicole Gross

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America
Oxford University Press 2016

True crime is as popular as ever in our present moment. Both television and podcast series have gained critical praise and large audiences by exploring largely unknown individual crimes in depth and using them to consider broader questions surrounding the justice system, guilt and innocence, class and racial inequality, and evidence. Rarely do we get to think historically about these broader topics through the lens of individual, especially unknown, cases in light of the challenges posed by researching historical crimes. Kali Nicole Gross, Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University New Brunswick, has done incredible research to do just that in her new book, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America (Oxford University Press, Hardcover 2016, Paperback 2018). The book won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction.

The book tells the story of the discovery of a torso, the investigation of the murder, and the life of the accused—Hannah Mary Tabbs. The body was discovered in 1887 and drew an unusual amount of attention in the segregated areas in and around Philadelphia, especially given the victim and accused were black. In this episode of the podcast, Gross discusses why the case caught the eye of the public and investigators at the time. She also explains some of the broader context and insights of the case. Finally, she talks about her research process. We don’t give away the resolution of the case in our conversation, but will introduce you to Hannah Mary Tabbs and the world of post-Reconstruction Philadelphia in which she lived.

Listen to the interview (00:56:48) here. Download the interview here.

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Two Lessons in Prejudice

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-08-26 23:00Z by Steven

Two Lessons in Prejudice

The New York Times
2017-08-26

SaĂŻd Sayrafiezadeh


Niedring/Drentwett – MITO images, via Getty Images

What I know of rural white America mostly begins and ends with the three times I went at the age of 8 to visit a friend’s farm in Butler County, Pa., about an hour north of Pittsburgh, where I grew up. I recall vast farmland, ample sunshine and no black people — or Hispanics or Jews, or for that matter, half-Iranian, half-Jewish people like me. There was, however, my friend’s father, who found it amusing to make fun of my name over dinner, coming up with a wide variety of ways to mispronounce it each time. I did my best to politely correct him each time, until it finally became apparent to me that I was participating in a game in which there was no chance of winning, and I ran from the table and out of the house and cried among the farmland.

It is, of course, unfair to judge an entire county with a population of almost 200,000 on the behavior of one man 40 years ago, but I hope you can understand my disbelief when on a dark night last November, I watched on television as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign tried to assure her supporters that little Butler County was going to come through for her in the 11th hour and overtake Donald Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania, and by extension the Electoral College. Now, I thought, is as good a time as any to turn off the television and go bury my head under the pillow

Read the entire article here.

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Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Women on 2017-04-12 21:18Z by Steven

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Atria (an imprint of Simon and Schuster)
February 2017
272 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781501126390
eBook ISBN: 9781501126437

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Black Studies and History
University of Delaware

A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked everything to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom.

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary and eight slaves, including Ona Judge, about whom little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs.

At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.

With impeccable research, historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked it all to gain freedom from the famous founding father.

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‘To be black doesn’t have to mean anything more than what I already am’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2017-02-11 20:43Z by Steven

‘To be black doesn’t have to mean anything more than what I already am’

The Philadelphia Inquirer
2016-02-06

Sofiya Ballin, Staff Writer


Sonia Galiber, Director of Operations at Urban Creators
Michael Bryant

For Black History Month, we’re exploring history and identity through the lens of joy. Black joy is the ability to love and celebrate black people and culture, despite the world dictating otherwise. Black joy is liberation.

Sonia Galiber, 25, Director of Operations
Philly Urban Creators, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

My high school was pretty segregated. As a biracial kid, I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t black enough or Asian enough. That’s when I developed an inferiority complex.

Throughout all of this, I’m also dealing with needing to be Japanese enough. My mother’s family didn’t approve of my parents’ marriage. My grandparents got to know my dad, but there are some extended family members that I’m just meeting.

It was a motivating force for me. I went to Japanese school every Saturday from third grade to high school. That was an identity I was chasing in the same way that I was chasing blackness…

Read the entire article here.

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Even today, being biracial in America is not always easy

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-18 23:31Z by Steven

Even today, being biracial in America is not always easy

Observer-Reporter
Washington County News
Washington, Pennsylvania
2016-12-17

Karen Mansfield, Staff Writer


Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter
Dontae Monday, a student at Washington & Jefferson College, stands in front of Old Main recently.

Koron Harris is used to strangers sneaking glances at her, and she knows why.

“They’re trying to figure out if I’m black or I’m white.”

The daughter of a black father and white mother, Harris has encountered curiosity and fascination about her biracial heritage since she was in elementary school.

“I don’t really think about it at this point, but everybody else does. I’ve had people ask me whether I think I’m black or I’m white, and I honestly don’t see it that way,” said Harris, 19, of Washington. “I just think of me as being Koron.”…

Read the entire article here.

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While Trump Won York County, Pa., Republican Cal Weary Backed Clinton

Posted in Audio, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-12-15 13:45Z by Steven

While Trump Won York County, Pa., Republican Cal Weary Backed Clinton

Morning Edition
National Public Radio
2016-12-15

Steve Inskeep catches up with Cal Weary, an ex-art teacher from York, who spoke about race and politics as part of the York Project in 2008. Weary, an African-American, is a registered Republican.

Download the story (00:05:34) here.

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The natural separation of the races is therefore an undeniable fact, and all social organizations which lead to their amalgamation are repugnant to the law of nature.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-07-03 17:04Z by Steven

In this connection the language of Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in the case of Philadelphia & West Chester Railway Company vs. Miles, 93 American Dec., 747, is well worth considering. It is as applicable to the Chinese and the Japanese as it is to the negro:

“The danger to the peace engendered by the feeling of aversion between individuals of the different races cannot be denied. If a negro takes his seat beside a white man or his wife or daughter, the law cannot repress the anger or conquer the feeling of aversion which some will feel. However unwise it may be to indulge the feeling, human infirmity is not always proof against it. It is much wiser to avert the consequences of this repulsion of race by separation than to punish afterwards the breach of the peace it may have caused. * * *

The question is one of difference, not of superiority, or inferiority. Why the Creator made one black and the other white, we know not; but the fact is apparent, and the races distinct, each producing its own kind, and following the peculiar law of its constitution. Conceding equality, with natures as perfect and rights as sacred, yet God has made them dissimilar, with those natural instincts and feelings which He always imparts to His creatures when He intends that they shall not overstep the natural boundaries He has assigned to them. The natural law which forbids their intermarriage, and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of the races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to them different natures. The tendency of intimate social intermixture is to amalgamation, contrary to the law of races. The separation of the white and black races upon the surface of the globe is a fact equally apparent. Why this is so, it is not necessary to speculate; but the fact of a distribution of men by race and color is as visible in the providential arrangement of the earth as that of heat and cold. The natural separation of the races is therefore an undeniable fact, and all social organizations which lead to their amalgamation are repugnant to the law of nature. From social amalgamation it is but a step to illicit intercourse, and but another to intermarriage. But to assert separateness is not to declare inferiority in either; it is not to declare one a slave and the other a freeman,—that would be to draw the illogical sequence of inferiority from difference only. It is simply to say that following the order of Divine Providence, human authority ought not to compel these widely separate races to intermix. The right of such to be free from social contact is as clear as to be free from intermarriage. The former may be less repulsive as a condition, but not less entitled to protection as a right. When, therefore, we declare a right to maintain separate relations, so far as is reasonably practicable, but in a spirit of kindness and charity, and with due regard to equality of rights, it is not prejudice, nor caste, nor injustice of any kind, but simply to suffer men to follow the law of races established by the Creator himself, and not to compel them to intermix contrary to their instincts.”

The American Law Register, Volume 54, (From January to December 1906), (Philadelphia: 1906), 702. https://books.google.com/books?id=RzLBgPFFjGMC&pg=PA702.

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