Painter Ellen Gallagher’s tragic sea tales: How African slaves went from human to cargo on the Atlantic

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2017-12-27 21:13Z by Steven

Painter Ellen Gallagher’s tragic sea tales: How African slaves went from human to cargo on the Atlantic

The Los Angeles Times

Carolina A. Miranda

An installation view of Ellen Gallagher’s painting “Aquajujidsu” at Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles. (Fredrik Nilsen / Hauser & Wirth)

On first glance, the painting that greets visitors to the South Gallery at Hauser & Wirth in downtown Los Angeles looks like a crab quietly resting on the bottom of an ocean floor. But look again and that crab morphs into the fragmented face of a person, its myriad pieces coming undone in a watery deep.

In her first solo show in Los Angeles, painter Ellen Gallagher broaches the history of the Middle Passage in ways that are both poetic and surprising — rendering underwater scenes that seem perfectly innocent at first glance, but that on second, third and fourth viewing, quietly evoke the terrible tragedies that occurred in the Atlantic Ocean during the roughly four centuries of the slave trade.

“These are history paintings,” she says thoughtfully, as she settles into a sleek chair in a small lounge at Hauser & Wirth. “It’s this portrait of this space in between, this space where you are dead and alive at the same time.”

Artist Ellen Gallagher. Ellen Gallagher / Hauser & Wirth

The artist, who divides her time between New York and Rotterdam, and whose work resides in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, has long explored questions of history and power in works that straddle the gray area between figurative and abstract…

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Corinne Bailey Rae on her nomadic lifestyle, racial identity and pregnancy

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-12-27 02:32Z by Steven

Corinne Bailey Rae on her nomadic lifestyle, racial identity and pregnancy


Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff

photography Kiran Gidda

If you’re a voracious reader, you’ll know something about being drawn into worlds that aren’t your own. It’s a tantalising prospect, especially for introverts. What I discovered earlier this year, is that singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae has the same magical quality as an enchanting novel. It’s a strange idea but bear with me, because if you’re lucky enough to meet her and spend time with her, to listen to her music, you’ll understand what I mean. Her world, soundtracked by sweet, soulful vocals, a picked guitar and stretching across oceans thanks to her nomadic lifestyle, has just a pinch of magic – black girl magic. She’s created it in her image.

Bailey Rae was part of the soundtrack of my youth (her debut came out when I was 12), but thanks to her ageless looks it’s difficult to believe she’s not just a couple of years older. Growing up in Scotland as a mixed-race girl amongst a blisteringly white population, she offered something that I didn’t realise I needed. Her image was attainable and aspirational. Here was a black, mixed-race British woman making beautiful music with her hair in natural curls, and the type of expressiveness that made her immediately relatable. I sang three of Bailey Rae’s songs (‘Like a Star’, ‘Till it happens To You’ and ‘Choux Pastry Heart’) from her eponymous debut album Corinne Bailey Rae for my music exams – A*’s you know – and, like everyone else during the summer of 2006, had her huge hit ‘Put Your Records On’ playing on repeat for months…

…From earlier conversations I know that Bailey Rae is interested and articulate on the topic of race. She was enamoured by the Kerry James Marshall exhibition in LA and recommends to me a book by Nell Irvin Painter, on the history of white people. “My dad had come from the Caribbean, but he didn’t talk to me a lot about racism which I think was a deliberate thing because he wanted to protect us,” she says about her childhood. “He didn’t want to suggest this sort of inherent thing […] And then my mum was very engaged. I learnt about South Africa and apartheid.”

Although she admits that she and her sisters would “pick the peas out of our rice and peas”, and didn’t necessarily know their black Caribbean nana’s culture “as well as we should have done”, it’s clear that she is very in touch with her blackness. When she performs at AFROPUNK London a few weeks after our interview, a festival which loudly celebrates black culture, Matthew Morgan, the founder of AFROPUNK, tells me that Bailey Rae had been very keen to play. “She approached me multiple times,” he says. On stage she tells the crowd: “I wish this community had been here for me when I was 15.” I’m at the front of the audience, screaming every lyric back at her like an embarrassing “stan” (mega fan).

There are mixed race people on both sides of Bailey Rae’s family – she has “brown cousins” on her mum’s English side as well as her dad’s. When she comments on her cousin’s shades, it reminds me that I’ve read that the term she prefers to use to describe herself is “brown” too. “At first we were brown and then we were half-caste and then mixed-race and then dual-heritage and then it was ok to just be black,” says Bailey Rae, obviously aware of the debate around how mixed-race people should define themselves, but disparaging. “I feel like I don’t really have a term if I’m really honest. That’s why I say it [brown] in like an almost silly way. As it’s almost like I’ve been labelled so many different things in the past 38 years that none of them feel familiar or satisfying.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Southerner For Miscegenation

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2017-12-27 01:53Z by Steven

Southerner For Miscegenation

The Denver Star (Source: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers)
Denver, Colorado
Saturday, 1913-07-05
page 1, columns 1-2

(New York Age.)

Prof. H. E. Jordan, a Southern white man, of the University of Virginia, advances an opinion which means that miscegenation will be the ultimate solution of the Negro problem. He makes the assertion in an article in The Popular Science Monthly for June in which occurs the remarkable statement that the mulatto is the leaven with which to lift the Negro race.

Prof. Jordan does not hold to the commonly accepted accepted opinion that half-breeds are inferior to the race of either parent. On the contrary he thinks that the half-breed is usually a better and more useful citizen than the man of pure race.

He believes that the solution of the Negro problem is facilitated instead of complicated by the presence of the mulatto, and claims that the breed has been proved most effective in some other lands notably in the English island colony of Jamaica. In Jamaica there are about 50,000 mulattoes in a population of 700,000, and it is noted he says, that the mulattoes contribute the artisans, the teachers, the business and professional men. “They are the very backbone of wonderful Jamaica.”

There Will Be More Mulattoes.

There are now two million mulattoes in-the United States and there will be more, says Prof. Jordan, if statements are worth anything, He claims that the prevalence of defective half-breeds is due to mating of inferior types of the black and white races but that a Negro-white cross does not inherently mean degeneracy.

Discussing this phase of the question, he says:

“I admit the general inferiority of the black-white offspring. Defective half-breeds are too prevalent and obtruding to permit denying the apparently predetermined result of such crosses. But I emphatically deny that the result is inherent in the simple fact of cross breeding. There are not a few very striking exceptions among my own acquaintances. Absolutely the best mulatto family I have ever known traces its ancestry back on both the maternal and paternal side to high grade white grandfathers and pure type Negro grandmothers. The reason for the frequently inferior product of such crosses is that the better elements of both races under ordinal conditions of easy mating with their own type feel an instinctive repugnance to intermarriage. Under these usual circumstances a white man who stoops  to mating with a colored woman or a colored woman who will accept a white man, are already of quite inferior type. One would not expect inferior offspring from such parents if it concerned horses or dogs.

Why should we expect the biologically impossible in the case of man? If the parents are of good type, so will be the offspring. And even with the handicap of frequently degraded white ancestry, the mulatto of our country forms the most intelligent and potentially useful element of our colored population.

Negro-White Cross Does Note Mean Degeneracy.

The fact, then, is established beyond all possibility of disproof, it seems to me that a Negro-white cross does not inherently mean degeneracy; and that the mulatto, measured by present day standards of Caucasian civilization, from economic and civic standpoints, is an advantage upon a pure Negro. In further support of the potency of even a relative remote white ancestor may be cited the almost unique instance of the Moses of the colored race, Booker T. Washington. As one mingles day by day with colored people of all grades and shades one is impressed with the significance of even small admixtures of Caucasian blood. What elements of hope or menace lie hidden in these mulatto millions? How can they help to solve or confuse the ‘problem’?”

Prof. Jordan asserts that the Negro cannot undergo mental development beyond a certain maximum, and that it is possible to approximate a “pure” mulatto race combining the best elements of black and white. We can approach it, he holds, by education and the fostering of Negro racial pride. He says further:

“The point seems clear that in the presence of 2,000,000 mulattoes, steadily increasing in number, we have a key to the solution of our problem, The mulatto is the leaven with which to lift the Negro race. He serves as our best lever for Negro elevation.”

The mulatto does not feel the instinctive mental nausea to Negro mating. He might even be made to feel a sacred mission in this respect. Possibility of marriage with mulatto would be a very real incentive to serious efforts for development on the part of the Negro. The logical conclusion may follow in the course of the ages. At any rate, from present indications our hope lies in the mulatto.

A wise statesmanship and rational patriotism will make every effort to conserve him, and imbue him with his mission in the interests of brotherhood of a better man. The problem seems possible of solution only as the mulatto will undertake it, with the earnest help of the white.

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Toeing The Race Line — What I Am And What I Am Not

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-12-26 23:51Z by Steven

Toeing The Race Line — What I Am And What I Am Not


Kristie De Garis
Edinburgh, Scotland

I think often of my mum’s choice to change her name from Mohammed. How she must have felt when she accepted that she and her children would be safer without that name. What she had to give up within herself to change it. Growing up I loved to spell it out over and over again. M-O-H-A-M-M-E-D. To me it was a beautiful word that felt full and strong in my mouth. I had no idea of its power beyond that. The fact is, my life as ‘Kristie Mohammed’ would have been a very different life to the one I have lived as Kristie Kelbie and then after marrying my first husband, Kristie De Garis.

People are interested in my current name, ‘De Garis’. I get many compliments on how ‘exotic’ it is and how it’s an asset to have such an unusual name. When I tell people that my name could have been ‘Mohammed’, the most common response I get is ‘Whoa!’ and a pained facial expression. My western names mean my looks are accepted as western too because my name provides people with a false context. Throw ‘Mohammed’ into the mix and my intriguing appearance (‘Are you part Spanish or something?’) takes on a different context. A less desirable context…

Read the entire article here.

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Imitation of Life

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-12-26 23:30Z by Steven

Imitation of Life

Charisse L’Pree, Ph.D.: The Media Made Me Crazy

Charisse L’Pree, Assistant Professor of Communications
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

Written during the dismal conditions of the Great Depression, Fannie Hurst’s novel, Imitation of Life, was adapted to film in 1934 and 1959. It tells the story of two widowed mothers, one white and one black, raising their daughters amidst a climate of capitalism and racism. Despite the drastic changes in the movie industry and culture, both versions met great success. Using the conventions of female melodrama, the story foregrounds the dilemmas of motherhood while commenting on capitalism, racism and image. In this paper, I will address how this story manages to transcend a generation and how the narrative was changed to accommodate a postwar audience. I will also discuss how the movie industry affected the production and marketing of Imitation of Life at the cusp of the tumultuous 1960s.

Released in 1932, Hurst tells the story of Bea Pullman, a young widow looking to sell her deceased husband’s excess of maple syrup and take care of her daughter, Jessie. She hires Delilah Johnson as a sleep-in housemaid who brings her remarkably light skinned daughter, Peola, to complete the family. After eating Delilah’s pancakes, Bea decides to go into business selling pancakes on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. The story then follows as the business becomes successful, Bea falls in love with Steve and the daughters begin to grow up and begin to develop their own lives. Hurst was a close friend of acclaimed author Zora Neale Hurston and Hurst’s descriptions of the black American experience are remarkably detailed and fitting for the time…

…The year before America’s famed sixties, Imitation of Life was released in theaters. Sirk’s story was different from Hurst’s or Stahl’s. Bea Pullman was renamed Lora Meredith, an aspiring actress struggling in New York City with her daughter, Susie. On the beach, they meet Annie Johnson and her daughter, Sarah Jane, who are currently between residences. In a moment of heartfelt sympathy, Lora invites the Johnsons to spend the night at her small apartment. The next morning, Annie tends to the housework while Lora sleeps in, securing the new family dynamic. With Annie’s domestic assistance, Lora becomes a famous Broadway actress. Meanwhile, Annie tries to raise her light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane, who desperately wants to be white. This version travels deeper into the issues of Sarah Jane’s internalized oppression; it takes the audience to the seedy nightclubs where she works after running away from home and inserts a scene where her white boyfriend beats her in an alley after learning that she is black. True to form, Imitation of Life (1959) still addresses issues of motherhood, capitalism and racism but does so through the eyes of an acclaimed, German-born, melodramatic director…

Read the entire review here.

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Review: To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-12-26 03:11Z by Steven

Review: To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus

Estruch Notebook: Website of Sarala Estruch, Writer and Poet

Sarala Estruch
London, England

To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus
Published by Outspoken Press, London, 2017
49pp. £8.

To Sweeten Bitter, Raymond Antrobus’ third pamphlet, is a deeply moving and important collection. Within these twenty-one poems, Antrobus deftly interweaves personal grief and the individual struggle to reclaim a sense of identity after his father’s death with postcolonial grief and the continued struggle for a sense of identity among persons of dual heritage living in a postcolonial world.

‘In the Supermarket’ describes the poet attempting to reclaim his deceased father by purchasing ‘everything [he] used to see in his house’. In this poem, inanimate objects are deployed to simultaneously conjure up the character of the deceased father, the character of the bereaved son, and the nature of grief itself.

I would be holding
on too hard
to my humming father
who is wind and mirror
and West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce

Read the entire review here.

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Race, Sex And the Supreme Court

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-12-26 02:54Z by Steven

Race, Sex And the Supreme Court

The New York Times

Anthony Lewis


OVER the last decade, the legal foundations of racial discrimi­nation in this country have been washed away in the Supreme Court. One after another, state and local laws drawing lines between hu­man beings on the basis of their color have been found in conflict with the 14th Amendment’s promise of “the equal protection of the laws.”

Only one area in the law of race relations has escaped this judicial scrutiny, and that is the most sensi­tive of all—sex. During the decade, the Supreme Court strained to avoid passing on the constitutionality of the network of laws forbidding the sexual relations between the races in the South and some other states.

Now the time for decision appears to be at hand. The Court has heard argument this term in a case chal­lenging a Florida law against inter­racial cohabitation—a case which threatens to stir again the deepest Southern racial fears.

Even those who are ordinarily most skeptical of psychological generalisa­tions are likely to agree with the view of many social scientists that sex is a fundamental factor in Southern racial attitudes.

“Would you like to have your daughter marry a Negro?”

Twenty years ago, Gunnar Myrdal observed that this question was the automatic response of the Southern man on the street “to any plea for social equality” among whites and Negroes. Anyone who has argued the issues of racial discrimination has heard the question in one form or another, again and again…

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White House photographer’s book a powerful portrait of Obama’s presidency

Posted in Articles, Arts, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-12-26 02:02Z by Steven

White House photographer’s book a powerful portrait of Obama’s presidency

The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Sheila Stroup, The Times-Picayune

When 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia wonders if his hair is like Barack Obama’s, the president offers him an opportunity to judge for himself. (Photo by Pete Souza, The White House)

I didn’t mean to read “Obama: An Intimate Portrait.” I was only going to look at a few of the pictures before I wrapped it up for Christmas. I’ve always felt it was cheating to read a book you’re giving as a gift.

I knew I wanted to give the book of photographs to our daughter Shannon and our grandchildren, Cilie and Devery, as soon as I heard Terry Gross interview Pete Souza, President Barack Obama’s Chief Official White House Photographer, on NPR’sFresh Air.” It sounded fascinating, and I wanted them to see that a person with skin the color of theirs could be president of our country.

Shannon adopted Cilie and Devery when they were babies. There was never any doubt they were hers, and nobody could love them more than she does.

Cilie is 8 now, and Devery is almost 6, and I know they must have questions about why their skin is a different color from their mom’s and their grandparents and their other relatives. I know they must get questions from other children.

I’ve never forgotten what happened one day when I took Devery to his swimming lesson a few years ago. There was a young dad there whose skin was the same beautiful tone as his, and he looked at Devery and said, “Oh, he’s going to get questions.”…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Twisting herself into all shapes’: blackface minstrelsy and comic performance in Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2017-12-25 20:23Z by Steven

‘Twisting herself into all shapes’: blackface minstrelsy and comic performance in Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig

European Journal of American Studies
9-1 | 2014 : Spring 2014

Elizabeth Boyle, Lecturer
Department of English
University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom

Figure 1: Caroline Fox Howard as ‘Topsy’ in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, c. 1854.

This article argues that the practical jokes running throughout Wilson’s novel Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859) are evidence of a deliberate and sophisticated comic strategy that exploits the spectacular body’s potential for subversive performance and works against the alienating conditions of social and political marginalisation experienced by African Americans in the antebellum period. Initially utilising the crude humour of minstrelsy, Wilson deliberately capitalised on her readers’ laughter in order to defamiliarise the ‘spectacle’ of blackness in both popular performance culture and indentured servitude. Using movement, costume and material props, Wilson imagines new ways to present her protagonist’s body through the minstrel stereotypes of Topsy, Jim Crow, Zip Coon and Jasper Jack. Wilson then turns the joke on her white readers, ultimately demonstrating that whiteness, like blackness, is a performative identity. Taken as a whole, Wilson’s comic strategy, with its ‘embodied insurgency’, aligns her with the period’s most politically racial African American performers.

1. Introduction

The idea for this article sprang from a seemingly simple question: why are there so many practical jokes played in Harriet Wilson’s novel, Our Nig (1859)? Although the novel—generally recognised as the first to be published in the United States by an African American—centres on the tragic story of a young, mulatto indentured servant mistreated by her Northern mistress, the narrative consistently undermines its mid-nineteenth century sentimental framework by including short comic sketches performed by the supposedly tragic protagonist, who nevertheless ‘was ever at some sly prank’, and would often ‘venture far beyond propriety’ in entertaining herself and those around her (Wilson 38). Are these comic interruptions evidence of narrative inconsistency? Or, is Wilson’s persistent inclusion of the figure of the black comic performer in fact a shrewd exploration of a powerfully resonant theatrical tradition and its manifold racial discourses? And what does it mean for a female African American author writing at the crux of the ‘slavery question’ in the run-up to the Civil War—and near the peak of blackface minstrel popularity—to delve into the complex social meanings behind popular comic performances of blackness? Why these pranks, in this manner, at this time?…

Read the entire article here.

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The case against ‘Latinx’

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2017-12-23 04:24Z by Steven

The case against ‘Latinx’

The Los Angeles Times

Daniel Hernandez

“Latinx,” is has been argued, is a less determinist and more inclusive term than “Latino” for males and “Latina” for females. (Illustration by Wes Bausmith / For The Times)

This year, Fusion and MiTú each posted videos earnestly explaining to their millennial viewers why “Latinx” is the new term everyone should use to refer to people of Latin American descent.

The argument is that “Latinx” is a less determinist, more inclusive form of the words it replaces — “Latino” for males and “Latina” for females. These gendered identifiers, the thinking goes, impose a binary, give preference to the male over the female, and leave out those who don’t consider themselves either.

Although the target audiences for the MiTú and Fusion videos were mainstream consumers in their 20s — a demographic thought to be on board with “Latinx” — the comment sections of both videos were flooded with negative reactions, with some calling the term “ridiculous,” “stupid” and “offensive” to the Spanish language. “Please stop trying to force feed some millennials hipster buzzword,” one commenter said.

Not everyone is on board with the term. And yet “Latinx” — pronounced “La-teen-ex” in English — continues its march into more news outlets and magazines amid our growing public awareness of transgender and non-binary gender identities. The term is even used officially at some UC campuses and is being considered for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Like many of its awkward predecessors, “Latinx” does not work. Its experimental “x” opens too many linguistic floodgates. And why is this kind of label necessary at all?…

Read the entire article here.

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