What is Racial Passing?

Posted in Economics, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2019-03-03 03:59Z by Steven

What is Racial Passing?

Digital Studios: Origin of Everything
PBS Digital Studios
Public Broadcasting Service
Season 2, Episode 13 (First Aired: 2019-02-27)

Danielle Bainbridge, Host, Writer, and Postdoctoral Fellow
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

What motivates someone to disguise their race, gender, religion, etc.? Today Danielle explores the complicated history of passing in the United States.

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A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight against White Supremacy

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2016-05-09 01:03Z by Steven

A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight against White Supremacy

University of North Carolina Press
2016-05-02
464 pages
9 halftones, notes, bibl., index
6.125 x 9.25
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4696-2795-3

Carolyn L. Karcher

During one of the darkest periods of U.S. history, when white supremacy was entrenching itself throughout the nation, the white writer-jurist-activist Albion W. Tourgée (1838-1905) forged an extraordinary alliance with African Americans. Acclaimed by blacks as “one of the best friends of the Afro-American people this country has ever produced” and reviled by white Southerners as a race traitor, Tourgée offers an ideal lens through which to reexamine the often caricatured relations between progressive whites and African Americans. He collaborated closely with African Americans in founding an interracial civil rights organization eighteen years before the inception of the NAACP, in campaigning against lynching alongside Ida B. Wells and Cleveland Gazette editor Harry C. Smith, and in challenging the ideology of segregation as lead counsel for people of color in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. Here, Carolyn L. Karcher provides the first in-depth account of this collaboration. Drawing on Tourgée’s vast correspondence with African American intellectuals, activists, and ordinary folk, on African American newspapers and on his newspaper column, “A Bystander’s Notes,” in which he quoted and replied to letters from his correspondents, the book also captures the lively dialogue about race that Tourgée and his contemporaries carried on.

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Plessy v. Ferguson Re-Argument

Posted in Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2015-12-30 22:41Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson Re-Argument

C-SPAN: Created by Cable
Program ID: 71350-1
1996-04-20

Hosted by Harvard University

Distinguished jurists heard a re-argument of Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court case in which the Court found that Louisiana did not discriminate against Homer A. Plessy when it refused to let him sit in the white only section of a passenger train. In this decision, the Court established the legal doctrine of “separate, but equal,” which governed discrimination cases until the 1954 decision of Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The participants had access only to the facts and case law available in 1896 for their arguments. Following the arguments, the “Court” deliberated in public and unanimously reversed its original 6-1 decision.

Watch the video (02:31:49) here.

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One thing we often forget about that case is that Homer Plessy’s argument was that he was white!

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-07-01 21:19Z by Steven

One thing we often forget about that case is that Homer Plessy’s argument was that he was white! He got bounced from the white section because the conductor said he was black. The question wasn’t that all train passengers should be able to sit together, rather Plessy said, “No, I’m a white person, actually.” The court admitted that it was very important to be able to determine who was white and who was not, and that having the ability to be white is a form of property, that it’s valuable, extremely valuable, in 1896.

Brian Jones, “The Social Construction of Race,” Jacobin, June 25, 2015. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/06/racecraft-racism-social-origins-reparations/.

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Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-07 19:00Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
2002

Richard Wormser, Series producer, Co-writer

Jim Crow was not a person, yet affected the lives of millions of people. Named after a popular 19th-century minstrel song that stereotyped African Americans, “Jim Crow” came to personify the system of government-sanctioned racial oppression and segregation in the United States.

In June 7, 1892, 30-year-old Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the “White” car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Plessy could easily pass for white but under Louisiana law, he was considered black despite his light complexion and therefore required to sit in the “Colored” car. He was a Creole of Color, a term used to refer to black persons in New Orleans who traced some of their ancestors to the French, Spanish, and Caribbean settlers of Louisiana before it became part of the United States. When Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, legally segregating common carriers in 1892, a black civil rights organization decided to challenge the law in the courts. Plessy deliberately sat in the white section and identified himself as black. He was arrested and the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Plessy’s lawyer argued that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case and held the Louisiana segregation statute…

Read the entire article here.

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Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Monographs, United States on 2013-08-22 02:12Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America

University Press of Kansas
April 2012
224 pages
5-1⁄2 x 8-1⁄2
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1846-0
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1847-7

Williamjames Hull Hoffer, Associate Professor of History
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey

Six decades before Rosa Parks boarded her fateful bus, another traveler in the Deep South tried to strike a blow against racial discrimination—but ultimately fell short of that goal, leading to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. Now Williamjames Hull Hoffer vividly details the origins, litigation, opinions, and aftermath of this notorious case.

In response to the passage of the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890, which prescribed “equal but separate accommodations” on public transportation, a group called the Committee of Citizens decided to challenge its constitutionality. At a pre-selected time and place, Homer Plessy, on behalf of the committee, boarded a train car set aside for whites, announced his non-white racial identity, and was immediately arrested. The legal deliberations that followed eventually led to the Court’s 7-1 decision in Plessy, which upheld both the Louisiana statute and the state’s police powers. It also helped create a Jim Crow system that would last deep into the twentieth century, until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and other cases helped overturn it.

Hoffer’s readable study synthesizes past work on this landmark case, while also shedding new light on its proceedings and often-neglected historical contexts. From the streets of New Orleans’ Faubourg Tremé district to the justices’ chambers at the Supreme Court, he breathes new life into the opposing forces, dissecting their arguments to clarify one of the most important, controversial, and socially revealing cases in American law. He particularly focuses on Justice Henry Billings Brown’s ruling that the statute’s “equal, but separate” condition was a sufficient constitutional standard for equality, and on Justice John Marshall Harlan’s classic dissent, in which he stated, “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens.”

Hoffer’s compelling reconstruction illuminates the controversies and impact of Plessy v. Ferguson for a new generation of students and other interested readers. It also pays tribute to a group of little known heroes from the Deep South who failed to hold back the tide of racial segregation but nevertheless laid the groundwork for a less divided America.

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SOCI 395-005: Plessy to Martin: Race and Politics

Posted in Course Offerings, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-25 17:13Z by Steven

SOCI 395-005: Plessy to Martin: Race and Politics

George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia
Fall 2013

Rutledge M. Dennis, Professor of Sociology

This course examines the issues, individuals, and groups central to the intersectionality of race, culture, and politics in American life. We will begin with the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case which solidified and legitimized the nation’s “separate and equal” racial policy until Brown v. Board of Education. A critique of this case allows us to understand the intricate relations between the nation’s racial theories and policies and its public politics and culture. These racial, political, and cultural issues will provide the background from which we analyze the individuals and groups whose actions and positions presented challenges and counter-challenges to America’s image of itself as a free and democratic society. As a consequence, we will examine how racial and cultural politics were driving forces in the public debates and controversies surrounding such cases as the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama, Robert Williams in North Carolina, Emmett Till in Mississippi, Medgar Evers in Mississippi, Martin Luther King in Georgia, Angela Davis in California, O. J. Simpson in California, Rodney King in California, and currently, Trayvon Martin in Florida. The central questions in the cases presented above focus on why, and in what ways, did racial feelings, fears, and animosities surface as they did, how were intragroup and intergroup relations affected by such attitudes and behavior, and what were the short and long-term societal consequences of these attitudes and behavior.

For more information, click here.

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‘Plessy v. Ferguson’: Who Was Plessy?

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-10 21:54Z by Steven

‘Plessy v. Ferguson’: Who Was Plessy?

The Root
2013-06-10

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor of History
Harvard University

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: Learn about the man whose case led to decades of legal segregation.

Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 35: Who was the Plessy in the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case that established the separate-but-equal policy for separating the races?

‘How many mysteries have begun with the line, “A man gets on a train … “? In our man’s case, it happens to be true, and there is nothing mysterious about his plan. His name is Homer Plessy, a 30-year-old shoemaker in New Orleans, and on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 7, 1892, he executes it perfectly by walking up to the Press Street Depot, purchasing a first-class ticket on the 4:15 East Louisiana local and taking his seat on board. Nothing about Plessy stands out in the “whites only” car. Had he answered negatively, nothing might have.

Instead, as historian Keith Weldon Medley writes, when train conductor J.J. Dowling asks Plessy what all conductors have been trained to ask under Louisiana’s 2-year-old Separate Car Act—”Are you a colored man?”—Plessy answers, “Yes,” prompting Dowling to order him to the “colored car.” Plessy’s answer started off a chain of events that led the Supreme Court to read “separate but equal” into the Constitution in 1896, thus allowing racially segregated accommodations to become the law of the land.

Here’s what happens next on the train: If a few passengers fail to notice the dispute the first or second time Plessy refuses to move, no one can avoid the confrontation when the engineer abruptly halts the train so that Dowling can dart back to the depot and return with Detective Christopher Cain. When Plessy resists moving to the Jim Crow car once more, the detective has him removed, by force, and booked at the Fifth Precinct on Elysian Fields Avenue. The charge: “Viol. Sec. 2 Act 111, 1890” of the Louisiana Separate Car Act, which, after requiring “all railway companies [to] provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored races” in Sec. 1, states that “any passenger insisting on going into a coach or compartment to which by race he does not belong, shall be liable to a fine of twenty-five dollars, or in lieu thereof to imprisonment for a period of not more than twenty days in the parish prison.”

It takes only 20 minutes for Homer Plessy to get bounced from his train, but another four years for him to receive a final decision from the United States Supreme Court. He is far from alone in the struggle. The 18-member citizens group to which Plessy belongs, the Comité des Citoyens of New Orleans (made up of “civil libertarians, ex-Union soldiers, Republicans, writers, a former Louisiana lieutenant governor, a French Quarter jeweler and other professionals,” according to Medley), has left little to chance.

In fact, every detail of Plessy’s arrest has been plotted in advance with input from one of the most famous white crusaders for black rights in the Jim Crow era: Civil War veteran, lawyer, Reconstruction judge and best-selling novelist Albion Winegar Tourgée, of late a columnist for the Chicago Inter-Ocean who will oversee Plessy’s case from his Mayville, N.Y., home, which Tourgée calls “Thorheim,” or “Fool’s House,” after his popular novel, A Fool’s Errand (1879). Even the East Louisiana Railroad, conductor Dowling and Detective Cain are in on the scheme.

Critically important to the legal team is Plessy’s color—that he has “seven eighths Caucasian and one eighth African blood,” as Supreme Court Justice Henry Billings Brown will write in his majority opinion, an observation that refers to the uniquely American “one drop rule” that a person with any African blood, no matter how little, is considered to be black. That Plessy’s particular “mixture of colored blood” means it is “not discernible” to the naked eye is not the only thing misunderstood about his case…

Read the entire article here.

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The Case for Cablinasian: Multiracial Naming From Plessy to Tiger Woods

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-04-02 02:58Z by Steven

The Case for Cablinasian: Multiracial Naming From Plessy to Tiger Woods

Communication Theory
Volume 22, Issue 1 (February 2012)
pages 92–111
DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2011.01399.x

LeiLani Nishime, Assistant Professor of Communication
University of Washington, Seattle

This article advocates for the interdisciplinary use of critical race theory and critical rhetorical theory in communication to analyze racialized language and to evaluate the cultural and political significance of new racial discourses in the United States. The article examines the dissenting opinion in Plessy v Ferguson (1896) and the congressional hearings on the Tiger Woods Bill (1997), two key instances of public debate over multiracial categories. The article then turns to Tiger Woods’ term “Cablinasian” and the possibilities of an alternative and contestory multiracial nomenclature, shifting the critique away from Woods’ celebrity or politics and toward the legal history and rhetorical potential of the word itself.

In 1996, Oprah Winfrey, on her U.S. television show, asked Tiger Woods how he racially identified. He famously responded by saying he made up his own word, “Cablinasian,” combining the words Caucasian, Black, Indian, and Asian. His comments stirred so much passionate response Winfrey scheduled another show dedicated to the issue. At the center of the debate was the perception that Woods was advocating for his own racial exceptionalism, an exceptionalism that endeared him to many in the multiracial movement and alienated him from many African American activists (DaCosta, 2007; Spencer, 2003; Squires, 2007; Weisman, 2001; Williams, 2006; Wu, 2002). He was roundly criticized in the popular press for buying into the historical social elevation of multiracial African Americans and rejecting a communal African American identity (Black America and Tiger’s Dilemma, 1997; Nordlinger, 2002).

His supporters, such as conservative republican Thomas Petri, sponsor of the so-called Tiger Woods Bill (1997), did not help Woods’ reputation with civil rights groups. The bill called for the inclusion of a “multiracial” category on the census and was opposed by organizations such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium. They argued that the new category would undercount legally recognized racial groups resulting in less political power and fewer resources for those groups. The debate, now aligned along a left-right axis, deepened the divide between a conservative, colorblind, embrace of the term Cablinasian and a race-conscious, civil rights-based, rejection of Woods.

Academic treatments of Woods have also been highly critical of his use of the term Cablinasian. Whether primarily grounding their arguments in the public policy implication of the term (Hernandez, 2003; Spencer, 2003; Wu, 2002) or in media representations of both Woods and the controversy (Billings, 2003; Cashmore, 2008; Dagbovie, 2007; Houck, 2006; Palumbo-Liu, 1999; Yu, 2003), they argue that the term ultimately concedes to a colorblind worldview. The media critics point out Woods’ own apolitical indifference to social issues and document the ways in which his celebrity persona affirms the liberal individualist ideology of a U.S. society “beyond race.”

Rather than reiterate arguments about the way Woods represents and reflects prevailing views of race, a topic that has been covered so convincingly and so well by the scholars cited above, I propose an alternative framing of the issue. Conceived as a complement to rather than a replacement of more traditional communication approaches to the Tiger Woods phenomenon, this analysis will center on the term Cablinasian. It argues for the possibilities of an alternative and contestatory language of multiracial nomenclature, shifting the critique away from Woods’ celebrity or politics and toward the legal history and rhetorical potential of the word itself.

Contextualizing the term within a longer history and broader social context makes clear the relationship between colorblind rhetoric, multiracial naming, and the race-based inequalities often hidden by both. Through a comparative reading of two attempts to legally define racial categories, the dissenting opinion of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and the congressional hearings on the failed Tiger Woods Bill (1997), I trace the rarely acknowledged exploitation of Asians in constructions of both multiraciality and colorblindness in the United States. The deliberate choice of two unsuccessful bids to alter racial language highlights challenges the bills posed to prevailing racial norms. Neither became law, but in their moment of rupture with a “common sense” racial order, they enable us to perceive race as an order.

This article, therefore, is a case study of the term Cablinasian linking together early and more current narratives of multiraciality and makes a case for Cablinasian as a method of critique. For the purpose of this article, the term functions as an exemplary approach to multiracial naming rather than an idiosyncratic solution. Its significance is not as a singular and specific word but in the possibilities it presents for reconceiving the way we name racial allegiances and understand racial identities. When used as a critical tool, Cablinasian presents a challenge to racial categories by making visible multiple racial allegiances rather than reverting to a celebration of colorblindness…

Read or purchase the article here.

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We as Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2012-02-26 21:35Z by Steven

We as Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson

Pelican Publishing Company
2003
176 pages
5½ x 8½
20 photos – Notes – Index
ISBN: 1-58980-120-2
EAN: 978-1-58980-120-2 hc

Keith Weldon Medley

In June 1892, a thirty-year-old shoemaker named Homer Plessy bought a first-class railway ticket from his native New Orleans to Covington, north of Lake Pontchartrain. The two-hour trip had hardly begun when Plessy was arrested and removed from the train. Though Homer Plessy was born a free man of color and enjoyed relative equality while growing up in Reconstruction-era New Orleans, by 1890 he could no longer ride in the same carriage with white passengers. Plessy’s act of civil disobedience was designed to test the constitutionality of the Separate Car Act, one of the many Jim Crow laws that threatened the freedoms gained by blacks after the Civil War. This largely forgotten case mandated separate-but-equal treatment and established segregation as the law of the land. It would be fifty-eight years before this ruling was reversed by Brown v. Board of Education.

Keith Weldon Medley brings to life the players in this landmark trial, from the crusading black columnist Rodolphe Desdunes and the other members of the Comité des Citoyens to Albion W. Tourgee, the outspoken writer who represented Plessy, to John Ferguson, a reformist carpetbagger who nonetheless felt that he had to judge Plessy guilty.

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