The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2022-11-27 03:08Z by Steven

The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family

Liveright (an imprint of W. W. Norton)
2022-11-08
432 pages
6.3 x 9.4 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-324-09084-7

Kerri K. Greenidge, Mellon Assistant Professor
Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

A stunning counternarrative of the legendary abolitionist Grimke sisters that finally reclaims the forgotten Black members of their family.

Sarah and Angelina Grimke—the Grimke sisters—are revered figures in American history, famous for rejecting their privileged lives on a plantation in South Carolina to become firebrand activists in the North. Their antislavery pamphlets, among the most influential of the antebellum era, are still read today. Yet retellings of their epic story have long obscured their Black relatives. In The Grimkes, award-winning historian Kerri Greenidge presents a parallel narrative, indeed a long-overdue corrective, shifting the focus from the white abolitionist sisters to the Black Grimkes and deepening our understanding of the long struggle for racial and gender equality.

That the Grimke sisters had Black relatives in the first place was a consequence of slavery’s most horrific reality. Sarah and Angelina’s older brother, Henry, was notoriously violent and sadistic, and one of the women he owned, Nancy Weston, bore him three sons: Archibald, Francis, and John. While Greenidge follows the brothers’ trials and exploits in the North, where Archibald and Francis became prominent members of the post–Civil War Black elite, her narrative centers on the Black women of the family, from Weston to Francis’s wife, the brilliant intellectual and reformer Charlotte Forten, to Archibald’s daughter, Angelina Weld Grimke, who channeled the family’s past into pathbreaking modernist literature during the Harlem Renaissance.

In a grand saga that spans the eighteenth century to the twentieth and stretches from Charleston to Philadelphia, Boston, and beyond, Greenidge reclaims the Black Grimkes as complex, often conflicted individuals shadowed by their origins. Most strikingly, she indicts the white Grimke sisters for their racial paternalism. They could envision the end of slavery, but they could not imagine Black equality: when their Black nephews did not adhere to the image of the kneeling and eternally grateful slave, they were cruel and relentlessly judgmental—an emblem of the limits of progressive white racial politics.

A landmark biography of the most important multiracial American family of the nineteenth century, The Grimkes suggests that just as the Hemingses and Jeffersons personified the racial myths of the founding generation, the Grimkes embodied the legacy—both traumatic and generative—of those myths, which reverberate to this day.

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Racial Passing off the Record: A Journey in Reconnection and Navigating Shifting Identities

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-01-20 21:06Z by Steven

Racial Passing off the Record: A Journey in Reconnection and Navigating Shifting Identities

Genealogy
Volume 6, Issue 1 (March 2022)
Published online 2022-01-18
8 pages
DOI: 10.3390/genealogy6010008

Gabby C. Womack, Reference/Access Services Associate, McQuade Library
Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts

Anyone of African descent or with African ancestry who engages in a genealogy project soon learns that the U.S. Census is a helpful yet frustrating tool. In 2016, equipped with my history degree and an online ancestry search engine, I searched for my great-grandfather Leroy in census records after I saw a picture of him as a young man at work in Philadelphia. This image would have been unremarkable had it not been for the fact that my African American ancestor was so light skinned that he seemed to blend in with his co-workers at Kramer’s Fruit and Vegetables. I thought there had to be a story behind this. Classified as, “Mu”, for mulatto in most of his records, Leroy became “Black” on the census in 1930. My first thought was to question whether this categorization changed for other folks like him. My research led me to my master’s thesis “From ‘Mulatto’ to ‘Negro’: How Fears of ‘Passing’ Changed the 1930 United States Census”. Through this research, I also became closer to my father’s family. This piece will take you through this journey of discovery and my frustrations along the way.

Read the entire article in HTML or PDF format.

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Throwing Rocks: An Interview with John Vercher

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-01-31 19:00Z by Steven

Throwing Rocks: An Interview with John Vercher

Los Angeles Review of Books
2020-01-29

Alex Segura interviews John Vercher

JOHN VERCHER’S TAUT, impressive debut crime novel, Three-Fifths, follows Bobby Saraceno — a mixed-race man living a lie. Saraceno has spent his life passing as a white man, raised by his racist maternal grandfather in Pittsburgh. Bobby’s kept his true self hidden from everyone, even his fellow comic book fan/best friend, Aaron, who’s just returned home after a prison stint. Aaron not only comes back as a more hardened man, but also as a radical white supremacist. When Bobby witnesses Aaron commit a hateful, race-based crime, his world begins to pull apart. Not only must Bobby keep his mixed race a secret from his militant friend, but he must also make sure he doesn’t land on the police’s radar as an accomplice to Aaron’s vicious crime. But an unexpected return threatens to destroy Bobby’s tricky balancing act.

Three-Fifths is a tale of lost histories, identity, dangerous secrets, and deadly obsessions. It’s a confident, thoughtful novel that doesn’t hesitate to show the brutality of violence and the complexities of race relations, without pumping the brakes for the faint of heart. It’s a confident, mannered debut that feels carefully seasoned — like the work of an author leveling up after a string of starter novels, as opposed to a newcomer. I talked to Vercher about his motivations and influences.

ALEX SEGURA: John, can you talk a bit about why Three-Fifths was the story you wanted to tell now? It feels remarkably urgent, but pensive at the same time, if that makes sense.

JOHN VERCHER: It’s a story I always wanted to tell, in the sense that little to nothing has changed in our country in regards to race between 1995 when the story takes place to now. Similarly, little was different from the same 24-year time span from 1971 to 1995, and even further back. Having said that, I was fortunate that Three-Fifths found a home when it did, because there does seem to be, as a function of our increased access to all forms of media, more talk than ever about race and identity. It would be better if we were having conversations about it rather than talking at each other, and as always, books are some of the best means to spark those kinds of conversations. It was my hope that Three-Fifths could do that, even for the smallest of audiences…

Read the entire interview here.

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The General’s Cook, A Novel

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2019-09-16 00:52Z by Steven

The General’s Cook, A Novel

Arcade Publishing
2018-11-06
336 pages
Trim Size: 6in x 9in
Hardcover ISBN: 9781628729771

Ramin Ganeshram

The General

Philadelphia 1793. Hercules, President George Washington’s chef, is a fixture on the Philadelphia scene. He is famous for both his culinary prowess and for ruling his kitchen like a commanding general. He has his run of the city and earns twice the salary of an average American workingman. He wears beautiful clothes and attends the theater. But while valued by the Washingtons for his prowess in the kitchen and rewarded far over and above even white servants, Hercules is enslaved in a city where most black Americans are free. Even while he masterfully manages his kitchen and the lives of those in and around it, Hercules harbors secrets—including the fact that he is learning to read and that he is involved in a dangerous affair with Thelma, a mixed-race woman, who, passing as white, works as a companion to the daughter of one of Philadelphia’s most prestigious families. Eventually Hercules’ carefully crafted intrigues fall apart and he finds himself trapped by his circumstance and the will of George Washington. Based on actual historical events and people, The General’s Cook, will thrill fans of The Hamilton Affair, as they follow Hercules’ precarious and terrifying bid for freedom.

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Three-Fifths, A Novel

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2019-09-11 01:18Z 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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Black Like Me: A Pittsburgh native’s memoir of racial identities lost and found

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-09-11 01:09Z by Steven

Black Like Me: A Pittsburgh native’s memoir of racial identities lost and found

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
2019-08-30

Bill O’Driscoll

Sarah Valentine, author of
Sarah Valentine

Of all the racist things people do, living out white privilege might be the most insidious. White privilege is not just the assumptions that get white people treated better by employers and loan officers. It’s also the mental architecture that permits white people to avoid thinking of themselves as “white” — even as whiteness is assumed as the norm, and everyone who lacks it as “other.” White privilege is most potent when it goes unconsidered.

It will be nearly impossible to avoid considering white privilege after reading “When I Was White: A Memoir.” Author Sarah Valentine is that rare person who has lived both with white privilege and without it, and her account is moving and analytically rigorous.

Literature has given us light-skinned blacks who “passed” as white, from famed critic Anatole Broyard to figures in the poetry of Pittsburgh-based poet Toi Derricotte. Ms. Valentine’s story is something else again. She was born in 1977, and grew up mostly in the North Hills, one of three children in a tightly knit Catholic family. Her parents were white, and so, therefore, was she — until she learned, at age 27, that her biological father, whom she never knew, was African American…

Read the entire article here.

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When I Was White, A Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2019-08-08 23:08Z 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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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

Saïd 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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