The Joshua Generation

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-01 23:07Z by Steven

The Joshua Generation

The New Yorker

David Remnick, Editor

Race and the campaign of Barack Obama.

Barack Obama could not run his campaign for the Presidency based on political accomplishment or on the heroic service of his youth. His record was too slight. His Democratic and Republican opponents were right: he ran largely on language, on the expression of a country’s potential and the self-expression of a complicated man who could reflect and lead that country. And a powerful thematic undercurrent of his oratory and prose was race. Not race as invoked by his predecessors in electoral politics or in the civil-rights movement, not race as an insistence on tribe or on redress; rather, Obama made his biracial ancestry a metaphor for his ambition to create a broad coalition of support, to rally Americans behind a narrative of moral and political progress. He was not its hero, but he just might be its culmination.

In October, 2005, two months after Hurricane Katrina, Rosa Parks died, at the age of ninety-two, in Detroit. Her signal act of defiance on the evening of December 1, 1955, her refusal to vacate her seat near the front of the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery, Alabama—what Martin Luther King, Jr., called the ultimate gesture of “I can take it no longer”—was the precipitating act of the city’s bus boycott and the civil-rights movement. For two days, her body lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda, in Washington—an honor accorded only twenty-nine times before. Then, on November 2nd, in Detroit, there was a funeral service at the Greater Grace Temple Church. Thousands lined the streets to wave farewell and sing the old anthems and hymns. Four thousand packed the sanctuary. The service lasted seven hours.

“That funeral was so long that I can hardly remember it!” Bishop T. D. Jakes, the pastor of the Potter’s House, a Dallas church of thirty thousand congregants, said. “Everyone was there!” Jesse Jackson, the Clintons, Al Sharpton, Aretha Franklin, and a phalanx of preachers all paid tribute to Parks. Bill Clinton reminisced about riding segregated buses in Jim Crow Arkansas—and then feeling the liberating effect of Parks’s act. On the street, a marine played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, and the congregants sang “She Would Not Be Moved.”

Obama, the sole African-American member in the United States Senate, had also been invited to speak. As he sat in the pews awaiting his turn, he writes in his book “The Audacity of Hope,” his mind wandered back to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina: the news footage from New Orleans of a body laid near a wall, of shirtless young men, “their legs churning through dark waters, their arms draped with whatever goods they had managed to grab from nearby stores, the spark of chaos in their eyes.” A week after the hurricane, Obama had accompanied Bill and Hillary Clinton and George H. W. Bush to Houston, where they visited the thousands of refugees from New Orleans who were camped out at the Astrodome and the Reliant Center. One woman told Obama, “We didn’t have nothin’ before the storm. Now we got less than nothin’.” The remark was a rebuke, Obama felt, to Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush Administration officials who had given him and fellow-legislators a briefing on the federal response to the hurricane; their expressions, he recalled, “bristled with confidence—and displayed not the slightest bit of remorse.” In the church, Obama thought of how little had happened since. Cars were still stuck in trees and on rooftops; predatory construction firms were winning hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts, even as they skirted affirmative-action laws and hired illegal immigrants for their crews. Obama’s anger, which is rarely discernible in his voice or in his demeanor, ran deep. “The sense that the nation had reached a transformative moment—that it had had its conscience stirred out of a long slumber and would launch a renewed war on poverty—had quickly died away,” he wrote…

…Long before he ever had to think through the implications, racial and otherwise, of running for President, Barack Obama needed to make sense of himself—to himself. The memoir that he published when he was thirty-three, “Dreams from My Father,” explored his biracial heritage: his white Kansas-born mother, his black Kenyan father, almost completely absent from his life. The memoir is written with more freedom, with greater introspection and irony, than any other by a modern American politician. Obama introduces himself as an American whose childhood took him to Indonesia and Hawaii, whose grandfathers included Hussein Onyango Obama, “a prominent farmer, an elder of the tribe, a medicine man with healing powers.”

As a young man, Obama was consumed with self-doubt, trying always to reconcile the unsettling contradictions of his history. His parents married in 1960, when interracial marriage was still prohibited in almost half the states of the union. As Obama entered adolescence, in Hawaii, his father had returned to Africa and started a new family, but, at the same time, the boy was careful around his white friends not to mention his mother’s race; he began to think that by doing so he was ingratiating himself with whites. He learned to read unease in the faces of others, the “split second adjustments they have to make,” when they found out that he was the son of a mixed marriage.

“Privately, they guess at my troubled heart, I suppose—the mixed blood, the divided soul, the ghostly image of the tragic mulatto trapped between two worlds,” he writes, with the wry distance of the older self regarding the younger.

Obama’s mother was an earnest and high-minded idealist, “a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for the New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism.” With Barack’s father gone, she emphasized, even sentimentalized, blackness to her son. She loved the film “Black Orpheus,” which her son later found so patronizing to the “childlike” characters that he wanted to walk out of the theatre. She’d bring home the records of Mahalia Jackson, the speeches of Martin Luther King. To her, “every black man was Thurgood Marshall or Sidney Poitier; every black woman Fannie Lou Hamer or Lena Horne. To be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny, glorious burdens that only we were strong enough to bear.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The white man who pretended to be black

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-02-23 21:45Z by Steven

The white man who pretended to be black

The Telegraph

Tim Stanley

With the release of the movie Selma, a lot of Americans are asking how far race relations have really come in the United States. On the one hand, the movie depicts the success of the Sixties civil rights crusade – its victory confirmed by Barack Obama’s election in 2008.

On the other hand, the recent deaths of young black men at the hands of white cops and vigilantes, and the resulting race riots, suggest that a lot of things haven’t changed at all. Whites may ask, “Why are working-class blacks angry? They have the right to vote and an African-American president – everything Martin Luther King Jr fought for.”

But some of the apparent triumph of black civil rights is a veneer. Racism isn’t just about law but about attitudes. Attitudes that are hard to change because of the gulf of understanding between different communities.

Can a white person ever really understand how a black person sees the world? Back in 1959, six years before Martin Luther King marched for civil rights in Selma, one man tried. A white Texan writer called John Howard Griffin walked into a doctor’s office in New Orleans and asked him to turn his skin colour black. Griffin took oral medication and was bombarded with ultraviolet rays; he cut off his hair to hide an absence of curls and shaved the back of his hands. Then he went on a tour of the Deep South.

The result was a bestselling book called Black Like Me, which is still regarded as an American classic. Griffin wanted to test the claim that although the southern United States was segregated it was essentially peaceful and just – that the two races were separate but equal…

Read the entire article here.

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Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta: Celebrated California Bandit

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-02-20 20:03Z by Steven

Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta: Celebrated California Bandit

University of Oklahoma Press
1977 (Originally published in 1854 by W. R. Cooke and Company)
210 pages
5″ x 7.5″
Paperback ISBN: 9780806114293

John Rollin Ridge (1827-1867)

In 1854, a Cherokee Indian called Yellow Bird (better known as John Rollin Ridge) launched in this book the myth of Joaquín Murieta, based on the California criminal career of a 19th century Mexican bandit. Today this folk hero has been written into state histories, sensationalized in books, poems, and articles throughout America, Spain, France, Chile, and Mexico, and made into a motion picture.

The Ridge account is here reproduced from the only known copy of the first edition, owned by Thomas W. Streeter, of Morristown, New Jersey. According to it, the passionate, wronged Murieta organized an outlaw company numbering over 2,000 men, who for two years terrorized gold-rush Californians by kidnapping, bank robberies, cattle thefts, and murders. So bloodthirsty as to be considered five men, Joaquin was aided by several hardy subordinates, including the sadistic cutthroat, “Three-Fingered Jack.” Finally, the state legislature authorized organization of the Mounted Rangers to capture the outlaws. The drama is fittingly climaxed by the ensuing chase, “good, gory” battle, and the shocking fate of the badmen.

Read the entire book (Courtesy of Three Rocks Researchhere.

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Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Posted in Biography, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2015-02-18 02:57Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Yale University Press
360 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
2 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300180824

K. David Jackson, Professor of Portuguese and Director of Undergraduate Studies of Portuguese
Yale University

Novelist, poet, playwright, and short story writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839–1908) is widely regarded as Brazil’s greatest writer, although his work is still too little read outside his native country. In this first comprehensive English-language examination of Machado since Helen Caldwell’s seminal 1970 study, K. David Jackson reveals Machado de Assis as an important world author, one of the inventors of literary modernism whose writings profoundly influenced some of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century, including José Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, and Donald Barthelme. Jackson introduces a hitherto unknown Machado de Assis to readers, illuminating the remarkable life, work, and legacy of the genius whom Susan Sontag called “the greatest writer ever produced in Latin America” and whom Allen Ginsberg hailed as “another Kafka.” Philip Roth has said of him that “like Beckett, he is ironic about suffering.” And Harold Bloom has remarked of Machado that “he’s funny as hell.”

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Racial Passing in the U.S. and Mexico in the Early Twentieth Century

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, United States on 2015-02-06 21:58Z by Steven

Racial Passing in the U.S. and Mexico in the Early Twentieth Century

RSF Review: Research from the Russell Sage Foundation
Russell Sage Foundation
New York, New York

This feature is part of an ongoing RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the ongoing research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

During his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, Visiting Scholar Karl Jacoby (Columbia University) is completing a book that examines the changing race relations along the U.S.–Mexico border at the dawn of the twentieth century. Drawing on interviews, archival research, and the unique biographical details of one individual in particular, his book will analyze the distinct systems of racial classification found in the two countries despite their geographical proximity, and show how the border shapes race relations in both countries.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Jacoby discussed the growing field of “microhistory,” and detailed his current research on the elusive figure of Guillermo Eliseo (also known as William Ellis), an African American who was able to “pass” as an upper-class Mexican in the United States, and whose life’s story sheds critical insight on the racial regimes of both Mexico and the U.S. during the Gilded Age.

Q. Your current research fits into a practice that some have called “microhistory”. What is microhistory? How do we connect these highly detailed narratives to larger social issues of a given era?

There is, alas, no precise definition of “microhistory,” perhaps because it is a relatively new approach, with no professional association, no journal, no annual meeting. My preferred way of thinking about it is as a small story that helps us to rethink the large narratives that we tell about the past. Microhistorians tend to be drawn to quirky, peculiar events (Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre) or people (Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre) that simultaneously demonstrate the cultural practices that prevailed in the past and the capacity of individuals to evade or reshape these practices. My account of William Ellis / Guillermo Eliseo, for example, sketches the increasingly confining limits that segregation imposed on African Americans after emancipation as well as the ways in which the color line could often prove unexpectedly porous.

Microhistory may focus on discretely bounded subjects, but its aspirations are expansive. The underlying concept is that by immersing oneself in places or peoples one can lend precision and particularity to what can otherwise seem like unduly broad or abstract generalizations, allowing for more accurate discussions of past social issues.

Q. You have focused on the curious case of Guillermo Eliseo, or William Ellis, an African American who was freed from slavery and went on to “pass” as a Mexican businessman in the US during the Gilded Age. What enabled his passing during this era? Was Ellis mostly an aberration, or was “passing” a widespread phenomenon?

Passing is a profoundly difficult topic to research because it was such a secret practice. As a result, unsurprisingly, estimates of the numbers of passers from Black to white at the turn of the last century are all over the map. Sociologists working in the early twentieth century, comparing the actual count of African Americans in the census with the expected count, computed that some 25,000 blacks were passing every year. Walter White of the NAACP, who often passed (temporarily) to investigate lynchings in the South, estimated in the 1940s that the total was closer to 12,000. Other commentators admitted that “[n]o one, of course, can estimate the number of men and women with Negro blood who have thus ‘gone over to white,’” although they hastened to add that “the number must be large.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Passing the Line

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, United States on 2015-02-06 20:45Z by Steven

Passing the Line

Karl Jacoby

Karl Jacoby, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

Who was Guillermo Eliseo?

Such was the question that any number of people asked themselves during the Gilded Age as this enigmatic figure flitted in and out of an astonishing array of the era’s most noteworthy events—scandalous trials, unexpected disappearances, diplomatic controversies. To many, the answer was obvious. The tall, exquisitely dressed figure with the carefully coifed mustache, was an upper-class Mexican—in fact “the wealthiest resident of the City of Mexico” and “a prominent Mexican politician.”

For confirmation, one needed to look no farther than his elegant appearance and his frequent journeys south of the border. Indeed, based on his connections with Latin America, he was widely believed to be, if not a Mexican, than a “Spaniard” or “a Cuban gentleman of high degree.” At least a few observers, however, ventured a quite different answer: despite the widespread acceptance of Eliseo’s “Latin-American extraction,” he was not of Hispanic descent at all. Rather, he was just “an ordinary American mulatto” named William (or W.H.) Ellis, who had managed to play an elaborate game of racial passing

Read the entire article here.

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Pioneering African-American chemist refused to ‘pass’ for white; he sought cure for cancer

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-02-05 02:43Z by Steven

Pioneering African-American chemist refused to ‘pass’ for white; he sought cure for cancer

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis, Missouri

Michael D. Sorkin, Reporter

Lincoln I. Diuguid, then 84, in a 2001 photo. Photo by Laurie Skrivan

Growing up, Lincoln Diuguid dreamed of becoming a scientist. He shoveled coal and snow to earn room and board at college. He couldn’t afford enough to eat and lost weight. His father hocked a life insurance policy to pay for a semester at graduate school.

Although his academic adviser told him he was wasting his time, he wouldn’t give up. He finally earned a doctorate in chemistry. He had everything except a job.

Then he got an offer. A really good one. An executive at a chewing gum company in New York City offered him a coveted position as assistant research director.

There was just one catch: It was the 1940s. He had to agree to “pass” as a white man and to never hire a black man.

Diuguid (pronounced “dewgid”) was a light-complexioned African-American.

He refused — and didn’t get the job.

That made him even more determined…

..He died Tuesday (Jan. 27, 2015) at Beauvais Manor rehab center in St. Louis. He was 97 and had been diagnosed with pneumonia and the flu, his family said…

Read the entire obituary here.

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The Life and Death of Davis Knight after State vs. Knight (1948)

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Law, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, United States on 2015-02-01 23:40Z by Steven

The Life and Death of Davis Knight after State vs. Knight (1948)

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners

Victoria E. Bynum, Emeritus Professor of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

Davis Knight, the great-grandson of the infamous “Free State of Jones” guerrilla, Newt Knight, became the centerpiece of his own drama some 25 years after the death of his notorious ancestor. Although Davis was descended from Newt and his wife, Serena, both of whom were white, he was also the great-grandson of Rachel Knight, a former slave of Newt’s grandfather. And although Davis was white in appearance, because of his descent from Rachel, he was defined as black by his white neighbors. Some of those neighbors did not take kindly to Davis Knight’s marriage in 1946 to Junie Lee Spradley, a local white woman. In 1948, Davis ended up in court, accused of having married across the color line (a crime in several states until 1967). Despite a vigorous defense by Attorney Quitman Ross, a jury pronounced Davis guilty. Convicted of miscegenation, the Ellisville Court sentenced him to five years in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman prison.

Attorney Ross immediately appealed the decision on grounds the court had failed to prove that Davis had 1/8th or more African ancestry, and won his case. The Mississippi State Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision and remanded Davis’s case for retrial–a retrial that never took place. In legal terms, the High Court ruled in this important case, the “one drop rule” did not determine one’s racial identity, regardless of social custom. Davis Knight thus escaped going to prison and, for the rest of his life, lived as a white man…

Read the entire article here.

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About Hatsumi… with Toronto Director Chris Hope: Part 1 of 3

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Canada, History, Media Archive on 2015-01-26 02:43Z by Steven

About Hatsumi… with Toronto Director Chris Hope: Part 1 of 3

Discover Nikkei

Norm Masaji Ibuki

An extraordinary and beautiful film…exhaustively and passionately researched, both at the level of the filmmaker’s personal history and as an investigation into our national consciousness”

—Academy Award® Nominated Director, Atom Egoyan

Thus far in 2012, the 70th anniversary of internment, there has been no greater artistic tribute to the generation of Nikkei that survived Canadian internment than Chris Hope’s moving tribute to his grandmother, Nancy Hatsumi Okura.

It has been a very long time since we’ve had the occasion to celebrate a new feature-length film that addresses the issue of how internment continues to affect our community. The Toronto-based filmmaker’s new film, Hatsumi, is a moving testament to how his grandmother as a girl survived and triumphed over the systemic racism and discrimination that was aimed at destroying British Columbia’s Japanese Canadian community.

As such, this film is as much for the generations born after internment as it is a tribute to those who survived it. It is also a timely reminder for younger generations of all ethnic backgrounds that the fight to be recognized as “Canadian” has been and continues to be an ongoing one for many immigrant groups.

For those of Japanese descent in particular, there is something deeply personal about this film as there has been at least one “Hatsumi” in every one of our families be that a sister, mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. By telling her story, Chris helps to give voice to all of the Nikkei women who endured the betrayal of their country, rising above it all with a grace and, above all, a sense of forgiveness that this yonsei’s film honours.

Born to Marion (nee Okura) and Michael Hope (deceased 1998), his dual ethnic heritage is representative of the Nikkei community as it is evolving today. He studied Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University, during and following of which he worked as a producer at CBC for about four years. Afterwards, it was on to Osgoode Hall Law School – York University, he spent summers working on the film and one summer at the CRTC in Ottawa. Following law school, he articled with Heenan Blaikie LLP, then worked as director of business and legal affairs at Cookie Jar Entertainment for two years, then joined Alliance Films Inc., which is where he’s been ever since. He completed an Executive Masters of Business Administration at the University of Windsor while at Cookie Jar Entertainment “for the purpose of rounding out my skill set.”

“Father’s mom was born in County Cork, Ireland and father in Bristol, England. They both came to Toronto in the 1910s. I grew up referring to my parents as ‘John and Yoko’ as a result of my dad’s lineage. The generations in my family are so far spread out on my father’s side that my grandfather (as above) served as a medic during WWI. I have his medals as well as their wedding invitation and photos from, I believe, 1922. Thanks to an apparent family penchant for history, I also have original naval records on my father’s side dating back to the early 1800s, and the wooden “cubby box” my father’s great-great grandfather carried with him on sea voyages which was them full of his personal effects (many of which are still in the box!).”

“My mother’s grandfather also came in the early part of the 20th century, and her grandmother (both from Gobo City, Wakayama ken) was a picture bride. They settled in Steveston, where my great-grandfather worked as a fisherman. I have both of their citizenship photo cards from 1977, which, according to my grandmother, they prized. Kichijiro Hashimoto was my great grandfather’s name and Tami Mori, my great-grandmother’s.”…

Read part one of the entire interview here.

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U.Va. Poetry Professor Rita Dove’s ‘Sonata Mulattica’ to be Adapted for Film

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Europe, Media Archive on 2015-01-25 02:44Z by Steven

U.Va. Poetry Professor Rita Dove’s ‘Sonata Mulattica’ to be Adapted for Film

UVA Today
Charlottesville, Virginia

Anne E. Bromley, Associate

Little did poet Rita Dove know when she published her book, “Sonata Mulattica,” that it would go beyond rescuing from obscurity a 19th-century, Afro-European violin virtuoso named George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower.

Now that book of poems and a play-in-verse penned by Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, is becoming the subject of a documentary not only about Dove writing about Bridgetower, but also featuring the contemporary story of African-American violin virtuoso and composer Joshua Coyne.

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded nonprofit Stone Soup Productions an Art Works grant to help the film company, Spark Media, produce the feature-length documentary, also to be named “Sonata Mulattica.”…

Read the entire article here.

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