Walter F. White: The NAACP’s Ambassador for Racial Justice

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Social Justice, United States on 2018-10-09 04:04Z by Steven

Walter F. White: The NAACP’s Ambassador for Racial Justice

West Virginia University Press
January 2019
468 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-946684-62-2
eBook ISBN: 978-1-946684-63-9

Robert L. Zangrando, Professor Emeritus of History
University of Akron

Ronald L. Lewis, Stuart and Joyce Robbins Chair and Professor Emeritus of History
West Virginia University

Walter F. White of Atlanta, Georgia, joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1918 as an assistant to Executive Secretary James Weldon Johnson. When Johnson retired in 1929, White replaced him as head of the NAACP, a position he maintained until his death in 1955. During his long tenure, White was in the vanguard of the struggle for interracial justice. His reputation went into decline, however, in the era of grassroots activism that followed his death. White’s disagreements with the US Left, and his ambiguous racial background—he was of mixed heritage, could “pass” as white, and divorced a black woman to marry a white woman—fueled ambivalence about his legacy.

In this comprehensive biography, Zangrando and Lewis seek to provide a reassessment of White within the context of his own time, revising critical interpretations of his career. White was a promoter of and a participant in the Harlem Renaissance, a daily fixture in the halls of Congress lobbying for civil rights legislation, and a powerful figure with access to the administrations of Roosevelt (via Eleanor) and Truman. As executive secretary of the NAACP, White fought incessantly to desegregate the American military and pushed to ensure equal employment opportunities. On the international stage, White advocated for people of color in a decolonized world and for economic development aid to nations like India and Haiti, bridging the civil rights struggles at home and abroad.

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The Prisms of Passing: Reading beyond the Racial Binary in Twentieth-Century U.S. Passing Narratives

Posted in Dissertations, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-04-30 00:40Z by Steven

The Prisms of Passing: Reading beyond the Racial Binary in Twentieth-Century U.S. Passing Narratives

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2011
217 pages

Amanda M. Page

A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

In “The Prisms of Passing: Reading beyond the Racial Binary in Twentieth-Century U.S. Passing Narratives,” I examine a subset of racial passing narratives written between 1890 and 1930 by African American activist-authors, some directly affiliated with the NAACP, who use the form to challenge racial hierarchies through the figure of the mulatta/o and his or her interactions with other racial and ethnic groups. I position texts by Frances E.W. Harper, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter White in dialogue with racial classification laws of the period—including Supreme Court decisions, such as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and immigration law, such as the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924—to show how these rulings and laws were designed to consolidate white identity while preventing coalition-building among African Americans and other subordinate groups.

In contrast to white-authored passing narratives of the time, I argue that these early African American passing narratives frequently gesture toward interracial solidarity with Native American, European immigrant, Latina/o, or Asian American characters as a means of
challenging white supremacy. Yet, these authors often sacrifice the potential for antiracist coalitions because of the limitations inherent in working within the dominant racial and nativist discourses. For example, in Iola Leroy (1892), Harper, despite her racially progressive intentions, strategically deploys white nativist discourse against Native Americans to demonstrate the “Americanness” of her mulatta heroine and demand recognition of African American assimilation. Though later African American passing narratives, such as Johnson‘s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and White‘s Flight (1926), began to reflect a collaborative global approach to civil rights as the century progressed, these strategies of domestic antagonism and/or international solidarity with groups outside of the black-white binary ultimately worked in service to a specifically African American civil rights agenda.

This study concludes with an examination of a contemporary passing narrative by an Asian American author. Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son (2001) revises the form to challenge the continued marginalization of Latina/os and Asian Americans and thus suggests the need for a reconsideration of how we approach civil rights activism to accommodate new racial dynamics in the post-civil rights era.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Incognegro: Renaissance Author Mat Johnson Talks About Living a Black Life With Skin That Can Look White

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-02-20 03:12Z by Steven

Incognegro: Renaissance Author Mat Johnson Talks About Living a Black Life With Skin That Can Look White

Comics
Gizmodo
2018-02-12

Charles Pulliam-Moore


Dark Horse

In Dark Horse’s Incognegro: Renaissance, Zane Pinchback—a young black journalist and New York transplant by way of Tupelo, Mississippi—finds himself smack dab in the middle of Harlem at the height of its Renaissance during the 1920s. Zane, like Incognegro: Renaissance creator Mat Johnson, is a black man with a light enough complexion that people are sometimes unsure or entirely unaware of his race.

To those who know him, Zane’s identity isn’t a question, but for many of the new people he encounters in New York—particularly the white ones—Zane is able to pass as white, and thus move through certain spaces that other black people can’t. Drawn by Warren Pleece, Incognegro: Renaissance opens on a very taboo and illegal book party in Harlem where black and white people co-mingle as the champagne flows freely.

When a black guest suddenly turns up dead of an apparent suicide, the authorities show up on the scene to shut the gathering down, but have zero interest in investigating whether the death may be a homicide because the man is black. Realizing that his ability to pass (and willingness to do work others won’t) might allow him to dig deeper into the potential crime, Zane sets out on a mission to uncover the truth.

When I spoke with Johnson recently about his inspiration for the new series, he explained that much of the core premise is based on his own experiences and a life-long love of Walter Francis White, the civil rights activist who was the head of the NAACP from 1931 to 1955. But what Johnson really wants readers to get out of the series, he said, was a better understanding of the fact that identity in all its forms is fluid…

Read the entire interview here.

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Walter White and the Atlanta NAACP’s Fight for Equal Schools, 1916–1917

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-04-08 02:07Z by Steven

Walter White and the Atlanta NAACP’s Fight for Equal Schools, 1916–1917

History of Education Quarterly
Volume 7, Issue 1 (April 1967)
pages 3-21
DOI: 10.2307/367230

Edgar A. Toppin (1928-2004), Professor of History
Virginia State College

In 1917 a delegation of negroes went before the Board of Education in Atlanta, Georgia, to demand equal facilities for colored school children. This marked the beginning of the work in Atlanta of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The youthful branch secretary who sparked this drive, Walter Francis White, called this “our first fight and our first victory and … we have only begun to fight.” Despite his enthusiasm, Atlanta moved at a glacial pace toward parity in the dual school systems.

Read or purchase the article here or here.

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October 29, 1949

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-10-30 20:48Z by Steven

October 29, 1949

Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers
2016-10-29

Matthew F. Delmont, Professor of History
Arizona State University

On October 29, 1949, the Chicago Defender published Walter White’s review of Elia Kazan’s film Pinky. The film, a drama about racial passing starring Jeanne Crain and Ethel Waters, was the top-grossing film of 1949. White, who led the NAACP from 1931 until his death 1955, wrote, “I have never in all my life wanted so much to like a moving picture as much as I did ‘Pinky.’ As I bought tickets at the Rivoli Theatre in New York I hoped fervently that the praise of most of the New York critics and friends of mine, both colored and white, would be justified…Unhappily for me, I have to say that, as far as my judgement is concerned, [producer Darryl] Zanuck has failed. Some new ground have been broken but they are mere scratches in the vast field of human relationships the picture sought to plow. Southern white police brutality and lechery are vividly and courageously exposed. But one would never know, unless he had other sources of information, that Negroes, even in the most backward areas of Mississippi are not resigned to their ‘place’ and are not only working but making progress against the kind of conditions portrayed in ‘Pinky.'” This review of this film about racial passing is particularly interesting because Walter White was very light skinned, and sometimes passed as white while working as a civil rights investigator in the South…

Read the entire article here.

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Who Are We, Really?

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-10-08 01:05Z by Steven

Who Are We, Really?

View from Rue Saint-Georges
The American Scholar
2016-09-21

Thomas Chatterton Williams


Detail from The Redemption of Ham by Modesto Brocos y Gómez (1895)

Lately, as I’ve been working on my second book, a meditation on the absurdity of sorting human beings into metaphorical color categories, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of passing. In his 1948 autobiography, A Man Called White, the pale-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed former NAACP leader, Walter White, observed, “Many Negroes are judged as whites. Every year approximately twelve-thousand white-skinned Negroes disappear—people whose absence cannot be explained by death or emigration.” Or as Henry Louis Gates Jr. has tabulated more recently, “How many ostensibly ‘white’ Americans walking around today would be classified as ‘black’ under the one-drop rule? Judging by the last U.S. Census, 7,872,702. To put that in context, that number is equal to roughly 20 percent, or a fifth, of the total number of people identified as African American in the same census count!”…

Read the entire article here.

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Can I Call My Nonbiological Twins Black Because My Husband Is?

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Philosophy, Social Science, United States on 2016-01-27 22:02Z by Steven

Can I Call My Nonbiological Twins Black Because My Husband Is?

The Ethicist
The New York Times Magazine
2016-01-27

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy, Law
New York University


Illustration by Tomi Um

I’m a Caucasian woman married to an African-American man. Shortly after we married, I discovered that I couldn’t conceive my own biological children. We opted to ‘‘adopt’’ two embryos. (Couples who have successfully undergone in-vitro fertilization and don’t wish to have more children can donate remaining embryos to other couples.) I was soon pregnant and gave birth to twins. Based on the records of the fertility clinic, we know that our children are genetically mixed Hispanic and Caucasian. I am not comfortable being open about the origin of my children, except with family and close friends, until they are old enough for me to explain it to them. However, several times in the last three years, I’ve been asked about their race, most recently on a pre-K school application form. On this form, there is no option of ‘‘mixed race’’ or ‘‘other.’’ Therefore, I identified my children as black. Was this the right choice? Name Withheld, Chicago

Ethics generally commends telling the truth. But in a situation in which our ordinary ways of thinking are at odds with reality, there can be no easy truth to be had. When it comes to race, confusion is the most intellectually defensible position. Let’s try to sow some. If your children were your biological children, many people in our society would say that they were African-American, because we have a tradition, going back before emancipation, of treating people with one black parent as black . . . or Negro or colored or whatever the favored term was at various times in American history. That’s the ‘‘one-drop rule,’’ so called because consistent application of it would mean that anyone with any African ancestry at all was black. (Of course, unbeknown to those who started this system, we all have African ancestry in the long run, which shows how much our thinking is shaped by our lack of knowledge.)…

As it happens, millions of Americans are black according to the one-drop rule but don’t have any of the features that people associate with African ancestry. Lots of them ‘‘pass’’ for white. Many don’t, though. Walter White, the early-20th-century leader of the N.A.A.C.P., was able to travel the South investigating lynchings because, although his parents were ex-slaves, he ‘‘looked white.’’ His autobiography begins: ‘‘I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.’’ (In a bio­pic, he could have been played by, oh, Bryan Cranston.) ‘‘ ’Cause it’s swell to have a leader/That can pass for white,’’ wrote Langston Hughes, who with his ‘‘copper-brown skin and straight black hair’’ — his description — was himself taken for white during a trip to Africa and could have passed for Indian if he troubled himself to do so…

Read the entire article here.

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The Surprising Story of Walter White and the NAACP

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-01 01:54Z by Steven

The Surprising Story of Walter White and the NAACP

Time
2015-07-01

Jennifer Latson

July 1, 1893: Walter Francis White, head of the NAACP for more than 20 years, is born

In the last few weeks, Rachel Dolezal—the Spokane, Wash., NAACP leader who recently left her post after being outed as white though saying that she identified as black—led many to examine the relationship between skin color and racial-justice activism. Writing for TIME, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar noted that, despite her ethnic background, Dolezal “has proven herself a fierce and unrelenting champion for African-Americans politically and culturally.”

Regardless of what one thinks of Dolezal, whose story only grew increasingly complicated, there’s plenty of historical evidence that looks aren’t the most important thing when it comes to championing equality. For proof, look no further than Walter Francis White, who was born on this day, July 1, in 1893. White ushered the NAACP into the Civil Rights era, serving as its leader more than 20 years, from 1931 until his death in 1955

Read the entire article here.

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Walter White, 61, Dies in Home Here

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-07-31 20:36Z by Steven

Walter White, 61, Dies in Home Here

The New York Times
1955-03-22

Walter White, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, died last night of a heart attack at his home at his home, 242 East Sixty-eighth Street. He was 61 years old.

Last October he twice entered the New York Hospital for treatment for a heart ailment that had caused him to take a leave of absence from his duties.

Recently he had returned from a month’s leisurely visit in Haiti and Puerto Rico. Yesterday he spent two hours at his office.

Mr. White, the nearest approach to a national leader of American Negroes since Booker T. Washington, was a Negro by choice.

Only five-thirty-seconds of his ancestry was Negro. His skin was fair, his hair blond, his eyes blue and his features Caucasian. He could easily have joined the 12,000 Negroes who pass the color-line and disappear into the white majority every year in this country.

But he deliberately sacrificed his comfort to publicize himself as a Negro and to devote his entire adult life to completing the emancipation of his people…

Read the entire obituary here.

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Before Rachel Dolezal, there was Walter White

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-16 17:24Z by Steven

Before Rachel Dolezal, there was Walter White

The Christian Science Monitor
2015-06-15

Randy Dotinga

The man known as ‘Mr. NAACP’ was blonde, blue-eyed and 5/32nd black, all of which provoked an outcry similar to that over contemporary NAACP official Rachel Dolezal.

Walter White, known as “Mr. NAACP,” didn’t look black. He had blue eyes and blonde hair, and his enemies sought to smear him as an opportunist who lied about his race and couldn’t possibly understand the black experience. But the secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People persevered through much of the 20th century and left a stunning if tarnished legacy.

White energized the refined halls of the NAACP, brought together literary stars of the Harlem Renaissance, and helped craft the partial demise of segregation. He battled lynching, convinced politicians to kill the Supreme Court nomination of a racist and hobnobbed with the famous. Sixty years after his death, White is eclipsed in modern memory by other civil-rights leaders. Few know about his remarkable struggle to be seen as the genuine article by other African-Americans, and his vicious battles with fellow leaders like W. E. B. DuBois.

But this month, the ever-bubbling issue of blackness – who has it, who doesn’t, and why it matters – is on tongues across the country amid the roaring debate over Rachel Dolezal, a NAACP official in Spokane, Wash. White’s story resonates as Dolezal, who may not be black as she’s claimed, faces a national storm.

Here are 5 Things to Know about Walter White and Racial Identity, gleaned from his crisply written 1948 memoir A Man Called White and author Thomas Dyja’s perceptive and often-critical 2008 biography Walter White: The Dilemma of Black Identity in America

Read the entire article here.

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