The Strange and Ironic Fates of Jefferson’s Daughters

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2016-09-18 18:14Z by Steven

The Strange and Ironic Fates of Jefferson’s Daughters

The Daily Beast
2016-09-17

Sally Cabot Gunning


Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast

Martha Jefferson was Virginia elite. Her half-sister Harriet, though seven-eighths white, was deemed a slave at birth. No one could have predicted their fates.

Martha Jefferson was born in 1772, just as Monticello was rising above her, promising a life surrounded by beauty, luxury, and pampering. For the first ten years of her existence this promise held, but in 1782 Martha’s mother died, leaving a father incapacitated by grief, but still a father in pursuit of his daughter’s future happiness. He set out a stringent regimen of study which included reading, writing, literature, languages, music, art, and dance.

Two years later, Martha and her father traveled to France, joined later by Martha’s younger sister and her enslaved maid, Sally Hemings. In France Martha boarded at a convent school and received a formal education few other American women of the day would acquire in their lifetimes. At her father’s Paris residence, she received another kind of education, conversing with world leaders and learning, among other things, that there are countries where slavery was illegal. “I wish with all my soul that the poor Negroes were all freed,” she wrote her father from school. She listened eagerly as her father and his secretary, William Short, talked of plans to set up their slaves as free tenant farmers when they returned to Virginia. But the 17-year-old Martha listened eagerly to William Short for another reason—she had fallen in love and her father had taken note; he abruptly took Martha, her sister, and Sally Hemings—who was pregnant with Thomas Jefferson’s child—back to Virginia.

There the realities of the Virginia way of life and her father’s new preoccupations with Monticello, politics, and dare she imagine it—Sally—convinced Martha it was time to claim a life for herself.  After three short months at home, with her father’s whole-hearted blessing, Martha married her distant cousin, Thomas Randolph, a man determined to make his way in Virginia “without dependency” on the institution of slavery…

Read the entire article here.

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Black as We Wanna Be

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-18 17:45Z by Steven

Black as We Wanna Be

The Nation
2016-09-15

Matthew McKnight, Assistant Literary Editor


Frederick Douglass, February 21, 1895. (National Park Service, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington, DC)

Stauffer, John, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (New York: Liveright, 2015)

Fields, Karen E., and Barbara J. Fields, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (Brooklyn: Verso, 2012)

Trying to remedy racism on its own intellectual terrain is like trying to extinguish a fire by striking another match. The fiction must be unbelieved, the fire stamped out.

In her 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag explored some questions about the ever-evolving technology of photography and what it does to us, particularly when it’s used to capture moments that would normally make us avert our eyes. “Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order,” Sontag wrote, “are those who could do something to alleviate it—say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken—or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” Sontag spends much of the book discussing war photography; scant pages mention images and cruelties closer to home.

In the modern American context, there remains perhaps no more insidious cruelty than the belief—constantly manipulated and reinforced—that race is a natural and constant thing, something that should have any bearing on how we choose to organize our society and our lives. And though the convergence of racism and the photographic impulse isn’t new, the recent pictures and videos of killings by police officers have given renewed life to the questions that Sontag explored—and those she didn’t. Indeed, these images raise fewer questions about the act of looking at them than about the ways in which we view ourselves.

To modern eyes, the photographic portraits of Frederick Douglass are not so remarkable. Douglass was almost always photographed seated, wearing a dark suit, alternately staring directly into the camera and looking off to one side. As he abided by the portrait conventions of the era, only his skin color would have made these portraits remarkable in Douglass’s own time. The real joy of Picturing Frederick Douglass (2015)—a collection of 60 portraits, taken between 1841 and 1895; his four speeches on his theory of photography; and a critical essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr.—is to study his constancy. The changes in Douglass’s facial expressions across all of the portraits are mostly imperceptible: He looks serious, defiant, and proud.

The final portrait of Douglass was taken on February 21, 1895. He’d died the day before. That image shows him lying on his bed in Washington, DC. It is mostly a spectral gray-white. His hair and beard, his clothes, the bed linens, and the wall in the background all appear to be about the same color. There’s a faint outline of his profile, and with his hands crossed over his abdomen, he looks as dignified as ever…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-09-16 20:30Z by Steven

Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union

Camden Review
2016-09-15

Angela Cobbinah


Elizabeth Anionwu

THE early years of one’s life normally follow a predictable path with any unexpected twists and turns suitably documented for posterity.

But it was not until she was in her 60s that Elizabeth Anionwu, one of the country’s most senior nurses, was able to discover why she ended up spending the best part of her childhood in the care of Roman Catholic nuns.

The revelations came in the form of a thick blue dossier containing almost 60 documents handed over to her from a Catholic children’s home in Birmingham.

“It consisted mainly of letters dating back to my time in my mother’s womb to when I left care, and the words that jumped out of the pages took my breath away,” recalls Elizabeth. Up until then I had a few bits of oral history passed down, but literally only bits.”

Her mother, the darling daughter of devout Irish Catholics living in Liverpool, had fallen pregnant while studying classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. The frantic back and forth correspondence between the family and the reverend in charge centred on concealing the pregnancy and whether the baby should eventually be adopted.

“There was a great deal of stigma surrounding illegitimacy in those days but this was only the start of the drama – at this stage, my grandparents were unaware that my father was from Nigeria.”.

Despite their renewed shock, they supported her mother’s desire to keep the baby but insisted that Elizabeth be placed in a children’s home at the age of six months so she could resume her studies. But, as her mother reveals in further correspondence, she planned to marry her father, who was also studying at Cambridge, and bring her baby home again.

What happens next is told in Elizabeth’s forth­coming autobiography, Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union, how she did not get to live with her mother until she was nine, but then only briefly because of her step­father’s hostility, and only met her father at the age of 24…

Read the entire article here.

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Unwinding a Lie: Donald Trump and ‘Birtherism’

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-09-16 18:50Z by Steven

Unwinding a Lie: Donald Trump and ‘Birtherism’

The New York Times
2016-09-16

Michael Barbaro

It was not true in 2011, when Donald J. Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in television interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.

It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”

It was not true in 2014, when Mr. Trump invited hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’”

It was never true, any of it. Mr. Obama’s citizenship was never in question. No credible evidence ever suggested otherwise.

Yet it took Mr. Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender, finally on Friday, to reality after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president…

Read the entire article here.

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Trump Drops False ‘Birther’ Theory, but Floats a New One: Clinton Started It

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-09-16 18:43Z by Steven

Trump Drops False ‘Birther’ Theory, but Floats a New One: Clinton Started It

The New York Times
2016-09-16

Maggie Haberman

Alan Rapperport

Donald J. Trump publicly retreated from his “birther” campaign on Friday, tersely acknowledging that President Obama was born in the United States and saying that he wanted to move on from the conspiracy theory that he has been clinging to for years.

Mr. Trump made no apology for and took no questions about what had amounted to a five-year-long smear of the nation’s first black president. Instead, he claimed, falsely, that questions about Mr. Obama’s citizenship were initially stirred by the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, in her unsuccessful primary contest with Mr. Obama in 2008.

Still, Mr. Trump’s brief remarks, tacked onto the end of a campaign appearance with military veterans at his new hotel in downtown Washington, amounted to a sharp reversal from a position he has publicly maintained, over howls of outrage from all but the far-right extreme of the political spectrum, since 2011.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” Mr. Trump said. “Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

Mr. Trump’s refusal to disavow the birther issue helped drive his standing among black voters to historically low levels, with some public opinion polls showing him supported by zero percent of African-Americans…

…Mr. Trump made no apology for and took no questions about what had amounted to a five-year-long smear of the nation’s first black president. Instead, he claimed, falsely, that questions about Mr. Obama’s citizenship were initially stirred by the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, in her unsuccessful primary contest with Mr. Obama in 2008…

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Profile: Damien Shen

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Oceania on 2016-09-14 23:37Z by Steven

Profile: Damien Shen

The Adelaide Review
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
2014-09-08

Jane Llewellyn


Damien Shen

While Damien Shen was on a two-week trip exploring Australia’s major galleries, it occurred to him that art is about telling stories.

“Creating art is not just about technical ability, it’s about the story and it’s also about how you express the story… if you can pull all those things together you can reach the next level,” Shen explains.

To reach the next level, Shen is looking at his own story and drawing on it in his work. As he nears 40 years of age, Shen is approaching his practice with a newfound maturity that wasn’t available to him before.

“It’s been such a rapid progression,” he says.

“It was almost meant to happen this late. If it happened any earlier I would have been too immature.”…

…In the midst of the course, Shen’s Aboriginal grandmother passed away and he started considering his family history – he is Chinese/Aboriginal – and decided he wanted to document it. From there things happened quickly for Shen. He started drawing again, held his first exhibition (Drawing on the Heroes Who Shape Us at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Artspace Gallery), and won the NAIDOC South Australian Artist of the Year award…

Read the entire article here.

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Colin Kaepernick and the Question of Who Gets to Be Called a ‘Patriot’

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-14 21:17Z by Steven

Colin Kaepernick and the Question of Who Gets to Be Called a ‘Patriot’

First Words
The New York Times Magazine
2016-09-12

Wesley Morris, Critic-At-Large

Citizenship is citizenship, until appearances get in the way. The world now knows, for instance, that Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, is protesting racial injustice — all because of a routine photo, taken during the singing of the national anthem before a preseason game. The photographer, Jennifer Lee Chan, tweeted the image last month, writing, “This team formation for the national anthem is not Jeff Fisher-approved.” Fisher is the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, who, in an episode of the reality football show “Hard Knocks,” told his team that standing for the anthem was sacrosanct: “It’s an opportunity to realize how lucky you are.” Yet here was Kaepernick, sitting down.

Kaepernick’s sitting was, it emerged, a stance. Two days later, he took reporters’ questions, including one about whether he was concerned that his actions could be taken as an indictment of law enforcement. His answer had teeth. “There is police brutality — people of color have been targeted by police,” he said. Then: “You can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

That’s one rejoinder to the unconditional gratitude — the compulsory expression of thankfulness for a nation that prides itself on freedom of expression — that the Jeff Fishers of the world demand. If you’re a black man, as Kaepernick is, your ambivalence about patriotic rituals may be a way of asking the same question Fisher raised: How lucky are we, exactly?…

Read the entire article here.

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American Segregation Started Long Before the Civil War

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-09-14 14:08Z by Steven

American Segregation Started Long Before the Civil War

What It Means to Be American: A National Conversation Hosted by The Smithsonian’s and Zócalo Public Square
2016-09-12

Nicholas Guyatt, University Lecturer in American History
Cambridge University

How the Founders’ Revolutionary Ideology Laid the Groundwork

Segregation remains an intractable force in American life, more than 60 years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawed racial separation in America’s schools. The Government Accountability Office recently estimated that more than 20 million students of color attend public schools that are racially or socioeconomically isolated. This figure has increased in recent decades, despite a raft of federal and state initiatives.

Major cities like New York and Chicago struggle with high levels of residential segregation, especially at the neighborhood level. The entrenched correlation between race and poverty is partly to blame, but segregation catches even affluent people of color. A recent study found that, while only 9 percent of white Americans earning $100,000 or more lived in poor areas, 37 percent of African-Americans on the same income level lived in poorer neighborhoods.

If we want to understand why racial segregation still exists in America, we should start by understanding its origins…

…And then there was the prospect of racial amalgamation, which scrambled the moral compasses of even the most progressive whites. Of all the European empires in the New World, British North America was the most squeamish on the question of amalgamation. But while the science and religion of the European Enlightenment suggested no barrier to intermarriage, even white Americans who embraced “all men are created equal” struggled with the practical application of that phrase. The preacher David Rice, who tried valiantly to outlaw slavery in the Kentucky constitutional convention of 1792, admitted that his own prejudices against intermarriage were hard to shake; but he was determined, he told his fellow delegates, not to allow irrational feelings to “influence my judgment, nor affect my conscience.”

Alas, many others who spoke in the abstract against slavery failed to follow Rice’s example; or, like Thomas Jefferson, they compartmentalized their private and public lives. It’s now widely accepted that in the 1790s and 1800s, Jefferson secretly fathered six children with Sally Hemings, a multi-racial slave in his household, while insisting in public on his “great aversion” to “the mixture of color.”

It soon became apparent that the realization of “all men are created equal” required more than an abstract recognition of black or Native humanity; it required the surrender of what we now call white privilege. When even the most liberal whites struggled to meet this challenge, they developed an alternative plan that might deliver the United States from the guilt of slavery and oppression without obliging white people to live alongside people of color: perhaps blacks and Indians could be persuaded to move elsewhere…

Read the entire article here.

Nicholas Guyatt teaches American history at the University of Cambridge in England. He is the author of Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (Basic Books).

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The love story that shocked the world

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-09-14 13:29Z by Steven

The love story that shocked the world

BBC News
2016-09-14

When an African prince and a white middle-class clerk from Lloyd’s underwriters got married in 1948, it provoked shock in Britain and Africa.

Seretse Khama met Ruth Williams while he was a student at Oxford University. After his studies, he was supposed to go home to the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and marry someone from his own tribe, but his romance with Williams changed everything.

His family disapproved and Khama was forced to renounce his claim to the throne. The British government came under pressure to show its disapproval and Khama was exiled from his homeland.

He later became the first president of Botswana when it became an independent country.

Witness spoke to Ruth Williams’s sister about the love that conquered prejudice.

Watch the interview here.

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Racism faced by black nuns in America called ‘dangerous memory’

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States, Women on 2016-09-13 21:04Z by Steven

Racism faced by black nuns in America called ‘dangerous memory’

Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse
2016-08-18

Andrew Nelson, Catholic News Service

In early American history black women could be accepted into orders of nuns only if they could “pass for white,” and later they faced significant racial prejudice. Despite all that, they became role models for the black community in America and served as spiritual leaders.

ATLANTA – Black women desiring to serve a life devoted to the Catholic faith were not welcomed by religious communities with anti-black acceptance requirements from the early 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, said historian Shannen Dee Williams.

Those who could gain admittance faced discrimination from their fellow sisters, she added.

“Black sisters matter, but they constitute a dangerous memory for the church,” said Williams, assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

She was joined by Sister Anita Baird, a Daughter of the Heart of Mary, and Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, general superior of the Sisters of Providence, on an Aug. 12 panel discussing racism in religious life at the assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in Atlanta.

Williams’ upcoming book is called “Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Long Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America.” It was the subject of her doctoral dissertation at Rutgers University…

Read the entire article here.

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