Black Journalist T. Thomas Fortune Prophetically Predicts Today’s Political Climate

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-09-26 01:14Z by Steven

Black Journalist T. Thomas Fortune Prophetically Predicts Today’s Political Climate

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)
2016-09-24

Shawn Leigh Alexander, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and Director of the Langston Hughes Center
University of Kansas

Newspaper editor and former slave T. Thomas Fortune formed the National Afro-American League, heralded as the first major all-black civil rights organization.

Civil rights activist and journalist T. Thomas Fortune was one of the most eloquent and instrumental voices of black America from 1880 to 1928. In 1883 Fortune, who was born into slavery in Florida, relocated to New York and became the lead editor of the New York Globe (subsequently named the Freeman and the Age), which quickly became the most widely read black paper of the era.

Using the paper as his pulpit he became a prominent outspoken critic of southern racism, a promoter of racial solidarity and race pride, and an uncompromising advocate for civil and political rights of African Americans. He was also the mastermind behind the creation of the nation’s first national civil rights organization, the Afro-American League, which provided the framework for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

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Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians by Angela Pulley Hudson (review)

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Religion, United States on 2016-09-26 00:00Z by Steven

Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians by Angela Pulley Hudson (review)

The Journal of the Civil War Era
Volume 6, Number 3, September 2016
pages 439-442
DOI: 10.1353/cwe.2016.0058

Adam Pratt, Assistant Professor of History
University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania

Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians. By Angela Pulley Hudson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. Pp. 270. Paper $29.95.)

Angela Pulley Hudson’s Real Native Genius traces the lives of two individuals who, in the 1840s, convinced thousands of Americans that they were Native Americans. Calling themselves Okah Tubbee and Laah Ceil, the couple toured the Northeast as musicians who performed for large audiences and, later, offered medical cures. Hudson argues that audiences took the couple’s Indianness seriously and offers a host of cultural factors, such as the market revolution and religious revivalism, that explain their success. What she finds is that the Indian portrayals by Warner McCary, a mixed-race former slave from Mississippi, and Lucy Stanton, a Mormon from New York, tapped into Americans’ perceptions of Native people. Their performances lacked authenticity, but they were readily believable to an eastern, white audience that shared the same misconceptions about Native beliefs and practices. When evangelicals or early Mormons spoke in tongues, they were thought to be “talking Injun” (49); likewise, remedies hocked by charlatans were called “Indian cures” (124). These widely held ideas about a singular Native culture and identity, one that was widely constructed by white popular culture, allowed the couple to don identities believable enough to American audiences desperate for Native authenticity.

Born a slave in Natchez, Mississippi, around 1810, Warner McCary had a sad childhood. His purported mother, a slave, and her other children were manumitted, while he was not. McCary long disputed the idea that his owner was his father and instead claimed a Choctaw father. Although McCary lacked a sense of belonging from his family, he found respite in the fact that, starting at a young age, he could please people by playing them music. By 1839, he had run away to New Orleans, where he became something of a renowned musician and fashioned a new identity for himself as a performer. Urged to travel to widen his audience, in 1843 he met Lucy Stanton, a divorcée with three children, whose life had been spent with the nascent Mormon Church. Because Native Americans “were seen as an essential part of the faith’s millenarian promise,” they played a vital role in Mormon theology (45). Mormonism, according to Hudson, was instrumental when it came to the couple’s adoption and perpetuation of ideas about Indians.

In early 1846, the couple married and soon thereafter moved to Cincinnati, where they attempted to convert followers. McCary claimed to be both an Indian and a resurrected Christ, which caused several raised eyebrows. The local press portrayed McCary as “a unique sort of pied piper, leading followers to ruin and relieving them of their dollars” (72). This was the couple’s first foray into being “professional Indians,” an antebellum phenomenon that capitalized on “audiences’ desires for trivia on the vanishing race” (74–75). However, by early 1847 they had joined the Mormons at Winter Quarters, where they soon found themselves in trouble. It appeared that McCary had been seducing Mormon women with the help of his wife. McCary’s behavior, combined with lingering questions about his race, led to his being forced out of town by angry neighbors. By the fall of 1847, McCary and Stanton had traveled east and become professional Indians.

Unlike so many Americans who chased their fortunes in the west, Okah Tubbee and Laah Ceil understood that their brand could succeed only in the East. Impersonating Indians could work only where Indians no longer existed and where misconceptions were widespread. In the East, Tubbee demonstrated his “native genius” when he performed renditions of “La Marseillaise,” a way to show that he was untaught and that he possessed natural gifts because of his heritage. After several years of touring, Tubbee became embroiled in controversy when he married another woman who was unaware of the fact that he already had a wife. As public opinion turned against him, he vanished, lost to the historical record.

Laah Ceil made a name for herself in Buffalo, where she sold medicines until the 1860s. Her…

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Becoming Creole, Becoming Black: Migration, Diasporic Self-Making, and the Many Lives of Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2016-09-21 01:43Z by Steven

Becoming Creole, Becoming Black: Migration, Diasporic Self-Making, and the Many Lives of Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena

Women, Gender, and Families of Color
Volume 4, Number 2 (Fall 2016)
pages 171-195
DOI: 10.5406/womgenfamcol.4.2.0171

Courtney Desiree Morris, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Pennsylvania State University

This article examines the complex life of one of the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s most charismatic but undertheorized figures, Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena. Relegated to the footnotes of UNIA history, the existing version of de Mena’s biography identifies her as an Afro-Nicaraguan immigrant who rose to the upper echelons of the UNIA. After years of serving as assistant international organizer and electrifying audiences throughout the hemisphere, she eventually assumed control of all the North American chapters of the UNIA, the editorship of the Negro World, and acted as Marcus Garvey’s representative in the United States and globally. Recently uncovered archival materials reveal that de Mena was actually born in St. Martinville, Louisiana, in 1879. How could such a prominent UNIA figure vanish from the historical record only to reappear and be so misunderstood? Part of the dilemma lies in the fact that de Mena appears to have intentionally altered the key elements of her biography to reflect her changing personal life and political commitments. This article maps de Mena’s shifting racial and political subjectivities as a transnational proto-feminist, moving through the landscapes of the U.S. Gulf South, Caribbean Central America, the U.S. Northeast, and preindependence Jamaica. It provides a critical corrective to de Mena’s existing biography and examines how black women moved through transnational political and cultural movements of the early twentieth century, authoring themselves into existence through intimate and public acts of diasporic self-making.

Read the entire article here.

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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…

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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…

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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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Toronto Film Review: ‘Barry’

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-11 19:40Z by Steven

Toronto Film Review: ‘Barry’

Variety
2016-09-10

Owen Gleiberman, Chief Film Critic


Devon Terrell in Barry. Courtesy of TIFF

Set in 1981, a canny and absorbing drama paints a highly convincing portrait of Barack Obama when he was a 20-year-old college student in New York, still piecing together who he was.

In the movie world, there is often a fine line between coincidence and karma. It’s not really all that hard to fathom how two filmmakers, within a year of each other, could each come up with the notion of making a kind of snapshot biopic about the young Barack Obama. Yet the fact that both movies are emerging near the tail-end of the Obama presidency is surely no accident. The time has come to take stock, and Obama, at the twilight of his leadership, with eight years of policy and scrutiny, controversy and (yes) celebrity behind him, is ripe for the kind of mythological intimacy that the movies, perhaps uniquely, can provide.

Southside With You,” the Sundance hit that was released into theaters just two weeks ago, is a deft and observant talkathon that turns Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date into a touching political spin on “Before Sunrise.” The Barack of that movie, which is set on a single day in 1989, is still finding his way, but he’s already a precocious young version of the Obama we know: impeccable and confident, a fusion of insight and arrogance and clarity and empathy, speaking in those rolling information-age cadences.

The Barack Obama we meet in “Barry,” on the other hand (a movie set eight years earlier), is a very different sort of cat, a young man you feel you scarcely know at all, because he doesn’t totally know himself — which turns out to be the theme of the movie. As played by the canny Australian actor Devon Terrell, he’s not even Barack yet, he’s just Barry, rolling with the punches, a slightly gawky handsome angular dude with a fringe of Afro and a way of falling into pensive trances when he’s chain-smoking. Terrell nails the clipped vibe of awareness, and a youthful version of the stare, to an uncanny degree. His Barry is reasonably self-possessed, with a lot of ideas, but he doesn’t have a clue as to how they fit together. He’s not the talkative lawyer-professor we’re used to. He’s tentative, his brashness weighed down by hidden doubts…

Read the entire review here.

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Herriman: Cartoonist who equalled Cervantes

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-09-09 19:56Z by Steven

Herriman: Cartoonist who equalled Cervantes

The Telegraph
2007-07-07

Sarah Boxer

Sarah Boxer marvels at the world of George Herriman, the creator of the ludicrously imaginative comic strip Krazy Kat

We call him “Cat,” We call him “Crazy” yet is he neither. – George Herriman on the title character of Krazy Kat

There is no comic strip simpler, on the face of it, than Krazy Kat. In its 31-year run (from 1913 to 1944) the plot never changed much. Ignatz Mouse, sadist supreme, aims to bean the beribboned Krazy Kat, soulful innocent, with a brick, and usually succeeds. Krazy Kat takes the brick, even seeks it out, as a missile of love. And Krazy’s secret admirer, the police dog Offissa Bull Pupp, throws the errant mouse in jail. All’s well.

Yet despite the repetition, Krazy Kat is endlessly perplexing, energetic, deep and playful.

In Krazy Kat, George Herriman made everything indeterminate. He set the strip among the rocky outcroppings of Monument Valley, opening up the funnies to vast, abstract spaces. (Yes, he beat John Ford there.) He made the trees, rocks and moons shift shape from frame to frame for no apparent reason. His free-floating page design, with its mad array of wheels, zigzags and frames within frames, kept changing…

…In 1971, however, the Krazy world changed. While researching an article on Herriman for the Dictionary of American Biography, the sociologist Arthur Asa Berger got a copy of Herriman’s birth certificate. Although Herriman died Caucasian, in Los Angeles in 1944, the very same George Herriman, the son of two mulatto parents, was born “colored” in New Orleans in 1880…

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Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey

Posted in Biography, Books, Family/Parenting, History, Louisiana, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2016-09-07 21:12Z by Steven

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey

University Press of Mississippi
January 2017
208 pages
25 b&w illustrations, 1 map, chronology, bibliography, index
6 x 9 inches
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1496810083

Melissa Daggett

Modern American Spiritualism blossomed in the 1850s and continued as a viable faith into the 1870s. Because of its diversity and openness to new cultures and religions, New Orleans provided fertile ground to nurture Spiritualism, and many séance circles flourished in the Creole Faubourgs of Tremé and Marigny as well as the American sector of the city. Melissa Daggett focuses on Le Cercle Harmonique, the francophone séance circle of Henry Louis Rey (1831–1894), a Creole of color who was a key civil rights activist, author, and Civil War and Reconstruction leader. His life has so far remained largely in the shadows of New Orleans history, partly due to a language barrier.

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans focuses on the turbulent years between the late antebellum period and the end of Reconstruction. Translating and interpreting numerous primary sources and one of the only surviving registers of séance proceedings, Daggett has opened a window into a fascinating life as well as a period of tumult and change. She provides unparalleled insights into the history of the Creoles of color and renders a better understanding of New Orleans’s complex history. The author weaves an intriguing tale of the supernatural, of chaotic post-bellum politics, of transatlantic linkages, and of the personal triumphs and tragedies of Rey as a notable citizen and medium. Wonderful illustrations, reproductions of the original spiritual communications, and photographs, many of which have never before appeared in published form, accompany this study of Rey and his world.

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On Being a Black Female Math Whiz During the Space Race

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-06 02:48Z by Steven

On Being a Black Female Math Whiz During the Space Race

The New York Times
2016-09-05

Cara Buckley, Culture Reporter


Katherine Johnson, left, and Christine Darden, two of the former NASA mathematicians in the book “Hidden Figures.”
Credit:  Chet Strange for The New York Times

HAMPTON, Va. — Growing up here in the 1970s, in the shadow of Langley Research Center, where workers helped revolutionize air flight and put Americans on the moon, Margot Lee Shetterly had a pretty fixed idea of what scientists looked like: They were middle class, African-American and worked at NASA, like her dad.

It would be years before she learned that this was far from the American norm. And that many women in her hometown defied convention, too, by having vibrant, and by most standards, unusual careers.

Black and female, dozens had worked at the space agency as mathematicians, often under Jim Crow laws, calculating crucial trajectories for rockets while being segregated from their white counterparts. For decades, as the space race made heroes out of lantern-jawed astronauts, the stories of those women went largely untold.

Four of them are the subjects of Ms. Shetterly’s first book, “Hidden Figures,” a history being released on Tuesday by William Morrow. The book garnered an early burst of attention because its movie version, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, is scheduled for a year-end release and set for an Oscars run. The movie rights were snapped up weeks after Ms. Shetterly sold her book proposal in 2014, and well before she started writing the book in earnest, a disorientingly fast, if exhilarating, turn…

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