The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2022-10-31 15:04Z 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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Book Talk-Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Posted in Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States, Videos on 2021-10-25 17:39Z by Steven

Book Talk-Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

American Jewish Historical Society
2021-08-04

Author Laura Arnold Leibman discusses her new book with Gender and Jewish Studies Professor, Samira K. Mehta. Hear how family heirlooms were used to unlock the mystery of the Moses’s Family ancestors in, Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family.

Tracing an extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac Moses were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and—at times—white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived.

Watch the video (00:56:47) here.

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Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2021-10-07 15:45Z by Steven

Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Oxford University Press
2021-08-30
320 Pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780197530474

Laura Arnold Leibman, Professor of English and Humanities
Reed College, Portland, Oregon

Highlights

  • Provides a rare historical portrait of life as a Jewish American of color
  • Examines the history of racial “passing” in an international context
  • Uses an intersectional lens to untangle a family history

An obsessive genealogist and descendent of one of the most prominent Jewish families since the American Revolution, Blanche Moses firmly believed her maternal ancestors were Sephardic grandees. Yet she found herself at a dead end when it came to her grandmother’s maternal line. Using family heirlooms to unlock the mystery of Moses’s ancestors, Once We Were Slaves overturns the reclusive heiress’s assumptions about her family history to reveal that her grandmother and great-uncle, Sarah and Isaac Brandon, actually began their lives as poor Christian slaves in Barbados. Tracing the siblings’ extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts they left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and, finally, New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and–at times–white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived, and sheds new light on the fluidity of race–as well as on the role of religion in racial shift–in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Origins (Bridgetown, 1793-1798)
  • Chapter 2: From Slave to Free (Bridgetown, 1801)
  • Chapter 3: From Christian to Jew (Suriname, 1811-12)
  • Chapter 4: The Tumultuous Island (Bridgetown, 1812-1817)
  • Chapter 5: Synagogue Seats (New York & Philadelphia, 1793-1818)
  • Chapter 6: The Material of Race (London, 1815-17)
  • Chapter 7: Voices of Rebellion (Bridgetown, 1818-24)
  • Chapter 8: A Woman Valor (New York, 1817-19)
  • Chapter 9: This Liberal City (Philadelphia, 1818-33)
  • Chapter 10: Feverish Love (New York, 1819-1830)
  • Chapter 11: When I am Gone (New York, Barbados, London, 1830-1847)
  • Chapter 12: Legacies (New York and Beyond, 1841-1860)
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix: Family Trees
  • Abbreviations
  • Bibliography
  • Notes
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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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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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‘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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What an 1887 murder and dismemberment tells us about race relations today

Posted in Arts, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-03-24 00:24Z by Steven

What an 1887 murder and dismemberment tells us about race relations today

The Philadelphia Inquirer
2016-02-17

Samantha Melamed, Staff Writer

On the freezing-cold morning of Feb. 17, 1887, a Bensalem carpenter walking by an ice pond noticed a parcel wrapped in brown paper and marked “handle with care.” Inside, he found a male torso of indeterminate race. The limbs and head were nowhere in sight.

So begins Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, the new book by historian and African studies scholar Kali Nicole Gross.

It’s the type of tale you don’t often hear during Black History Month: the biography of an antiheroine who made her way in the world through violence, deception, and adultery. It’s also a true-crime story told nearly 130 years after the fact—culminating in the century-late exoneration of a man who, Gross argues, was framed for murder.

Most of all, the story of Tabbs, the Philadelphia woman who left the torso by the pond in the first place—and of Wakefield Gaines, her victim and much-younger lover, and George Wilson, the “weak-minded” 18-year-old she accused of the crime – is an encapsulation of issues that resonate today, of racial bias in policing, coerced confessions, and unreliable eyewitnesses.

“Tabbs’ story sheds this unprecedented light,” Gross said, “into just how long these issues around urban crime and police brutality have been around in our society.”

Gross, 43, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin, began the work eight years ago, while she was living in Philadelphia. (She attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and taught at Drexel University.)…

…In uncovering the story, she shed light on the tense race relations of the time: Tabbs’ vulnerable place under the law as a black woman, and Wilson’s still-more-tenuous status as a light-skinned interracial man.

“People were very concerned about black people infiltrating white society. Wilson is really the sum of all fears,” Gross said. “Police home in on him despite the fact he had no real motive.”

Wilson, known to be “dim” and impressionable, was beaten in custody—until, Gross concludes, he made a false confession. (He was sentenced to 12 years in solitary confinement.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Ordinary Yet Infamous: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2016-02-16 00:59Z by Steven

Ordinary Yet Infamous: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso

Not Even Past: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner
2016-02-01

Kali Nicole Gross, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies
University of Texas, Austin

Adapted from Kali Nicole Gross’s new book: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America (Oxford University Press, 2016).


Rogues’ Gallery Books (1887) Courtesy of the Philadelphia City Archives.

The discovery of a headless, limbless, racially ambiguous human torso near a pond outside of Philadelphia in 1887, horrified area residents and confounded local authorities. From what they could tell, a brutal homicide had taken place. At a minimum, the victim had been viciously dismembered. Based on the circumstances, it also seemed like the kind of case to go unsolved. Yet in an era lacking sophisticated forensic methods, the investigators from Bucks County and those from Philadelphia managed to identify two suspects: Hannah Mary Tabbs, a black southern migrant, and George Wilson, a young mulatto that Tabbs implicated shortly after her arrest. The ensuing trial would last months, itself something of a record given that most criminal hearings wrapped up in a week or so. The crime and its adjudication also took center stage in presses from Pennsylvania to Illinois to Missouri

Read the entire article here.

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