Josephine Baker’s Rainbow Tribe

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Women on 2014-04-21 01:46Z by Steven

Josephine Baker’s Rainbow Tribe

Slate
2014-04-18

Rebecca Onion

To prove that racial harmony was possible, the dancer adopted 12 children from around the globe—and charged admission to watch them coexist.

Beginning in 1953, almost 30 years after her first successful performances on the Paris stage, the singer and dancer Josephine Baker adopted 12 children from different countries, ranging from Finland to Venezuela. She installed what she called her “Rainbow Tribe” in a 15th-century chateau in the South of France and charged admission to tourists who came to hear them sing, to tour their home, or to watch them play leapfrog in their garden.

This little-known chapter in Baker’s life is an uncomfortable one. “I would begin to tell the story of Josephine Baker, and people would start to laugh,” says Matthew Pratt Guterl, the author of a new book on Baker’s later life, Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe. “And I would start to wonder what that laughter signified.” Guterl, a professor of Africana studies and American studies at Brown University, has in essence written two books in one: the story of Baker’s family, and a meditation on the meaning of that laughter…

Read the entire review here.

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Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject

Posted in Biography, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2014-04-04 18:10Z by Steven

Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject

Duke University Press
2010
344 pages
51 illustrations, incl. 18 in color
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4247-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-4266-3

Kirsten Pai Buick, Associate Professor of Art History
University of New Mexico

Child of the Fire is the first book-length examination of the career of the nineteenth-century artist Mary Edmonia Lewis, best known for her sculptures inspired by historical and biblical themes. Throughout this richly illustrated study, Kirsten Pai Buick investigates how Lewis and her work were perceived, and their meanings manipulated, by others and the sculptor herself. She argues against the racialist art discourse that has long cast Lewis’s sculptures as reflections of her identity as an African American and Native American woman who lived most of her life abroad. Instead, by seeking to reveal Lewis’s intentions through analyses of her career and artwork, Buick illuminates Lewis’s fraught but active participation in the creation of a distinct “American” national art, one dominated by themes of indigeneity, sentimentality, gender, and race. In so doing, she shows that the sculptor variously complicated and facilitated the dominant ideologies of the vanishing American (the notion that Native Americans were a dying race), sentimentality, and true womanhood.

Buick considers the institutions and people that supported Lewis’s career—including Oberlin College, abolitionists in Boston, and American expatriates in Italy—and she explores how their agendas affected the way they perceived and described the artist. Analyzing four of Lewis’s most popular sculptures, each created between 1866 and 1876, Buick discusses interpretations of Hiawatha in terms of the cultural impact of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha; Forever Free and Hagar in the Wilderness in light of art historians’ assumptions that artworks created by African American artists necessarily reflect African American themes; and The Death of Cleopatra in relation to broader problems of reading art as a reflection of identity.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Preface. Framing the Problem: American Africanisms, American Indianisms, and the Processes of Art History
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Inventing the Artist: Locating the Black and Catholic Subject
  • 2. The “Problem” of Art History’s Black Subject
  • 3. Longfellow, Lewis, and the Cultural Work of Hiawatha
  • 4. Identity, Tautology, and The Death of Cleopatra
  • Conclusion. Separate and Unequal: Toward a More Responsive and Responsible Art History
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin

Posted in Biography, Books, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2014-03-30 14:58Z by Steven

Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin

University of Illinois Press
December 2011
168 pages
6 x 9 in.
4 black & white photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-03657-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-252-09361-6

Jacqueline A. McLeod, Associate Professor of History and African & African American Studies
Metropolitan State College of Denver

The trailblazing work of the first African American woman judge

This long overdue biography of the nation’s first African American woman judge elevates Jane Matilda Bolin to her rightful place in American history as an activist, integrationist, jurist, and outspoken public figure in the political and professional milieu of New York City before the onset of the modern Civil Rights movement.

Bolin was appointed to New York City’s domestic relations court in 1939 for the first of four ten-year terms. When she retired in 1978, her career had extended well beyond the courtroom. Drawing on archival materials as well as a meeting with Bolin in 2002, historian Jacqueline A. McLeod reveals how Bolin parlayed her judicial position to impact significant reforms of the legal and social service system in New York.

Beginning with Bolin’s childhood and educational experiences at Wellesley and Yale, Daughter of the Empire State chronicles Bolin’s relatively quick rise through the ranks of a profession that routinely excluded both women and African Americans. Deftly situating Bolin’s experiences within the history of black women lawyers and the historical context of high-achieving black New Englanders, McLeod offers a multi-layered analysis of black women’s professionalization in a segregated America.

Linking Bolin’s activist leanings and integrationist zeal to her involvement in the NAACP, McLeod analyzes Bolin’s involvement at the local level as well as her tenure on the organization’s national board of directors. An outspoken critic of the discriminatory practices of New York City’s probation department and juvenile placement facilities, Bolin also co-founded, with Eleanor Roosevelt, the Wiltwyck School for boys in upstate New York and campaigned to transform the Domestic Relations Court with her judicial colleagues. McLeod’s careful and highly readable account of these accomplishments inscribes Bolin onto the roster of important social reformers and early civil rights trailblazers.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Her Standing in Poughkeepsie: Family Lineage and Legacy
  • 2. On Her Own: The Years at Wellesley and Yale
  • 3. Politics of Preparation: The Making of the Nation’s First African American Woman Judge
  • 4. Politics of Practice: An African American Woman Judge on the Domestic Relations Court
  • 5. Speaking Truth to Power: A View from the Benchof Judge Jane Bolin
  • 6. Persona Non Grata: Jane Bolin and the NAACP, 1931–50
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Index
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Jane Bolin, the Country’s First Black Woman to Become a Judge, Is Dead at 98

Posted in Articles, Biography, Law, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-03-26 20:10Z by Steven

Jane Bolin, the Country’s First Black Woman to Become a Judge, Is Dead at 98

The New York Times
2007-01-10

Douglas Martin

Jane Bolin, whose appointment as a family court judge by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1939 made her the first black woman in the United States to become a judge, died on Monday in Queens. She was 98 and lived in Long Island City, Queens.

Her death was announced by her son, Yorke B. Mizelle.

Judge Bolin was the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association, and the first to work in the office of the New York City corporation counsel, the city’s legal department.

In January 1979, when Judge Bolin had reluctantly retired after 40 years as a judge, Constance Baker Motley, a black woman and a federal judge, called her a role model.

In her speech, Judge Motley said, “When I thereafter met you, I then knew how a lady judge should comport herself.”.

The “lady judge” was frequently in the news at the time of her appointment with accounts of her regal bearing, fashionable hats and pearls. But her achievements transcended being a shining example. As a family court judge, she ended the assignment of probation officers on the basis of race and the placement of children in child-care agencies on the basis of ethnic background.

Jane Matilda Bolin was born on April 11, 1908, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Her father, Gaius C. Bolin, was the son of an American Indian woman and an African-American man. Her mother, the former Matilda Emery, was a white Englishwoman…

Read the entire obituary here.

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Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2014-03-08 23:55Z by Steven

Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

2Leaf Press
October 2014
300 pages
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-28-5
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-29-2

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd

Dream of the Water Children, at once a haunting collective memory and a genre-bending critical account of dominance and survival, interweaves intimate multi-family details with global politics spanning generations and continents. Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s debut work defies categorization as histories and families are intimately connected through sociological ghosts alive in the present. It is a one-of-a-kind ‘non-fiction’ inter-disciplinary evocation that will appeal to not only those interested in Black and Asian relations and mixed-race Amerasian histories, but also a wide general audience including those interested in Asian, Asian-American, Nikkei, African-American, and mixed-race identities as well as multicultural literature, history and post-colonial memoir. Those focused on academic studies such as women and gender studies, ethnic and critical mixed-race studies, social justice curriculum, political histories, memory, feminism, and militarization, etc. will appreciate the profound questions for thought that rise up from the pages. Cloyd’s book not only challenges readers to explore technologies of violence, identity, difference, and our responsibilities to the world, it will also move readers through emotional depths.

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A Breezy Chameleon, Blurring Social Borders

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2014-02-17 17:21Z by Steven

A Breezy Chameleon, Blurring Social Borders

The New York Times
2014-02-16

Jennifer Schuessler, Staff Editor

When the literary scholar George Hutchinson was in the archives at Howard University one afternoon a decade ago, he thought he knew which story of a neglected African-American woman writer he was chasing.

He was at work on a biography of Nella Larsen, whose classic Harlem Renaissance novel “Passing” was rediscovered in the 1970s. But while poking around, Mr. Hutchinson noticed a listing for the papers of Anita Thompson Dickinson Reynolds, an obscure contemporary of Larsen’s, and decided to take a look.

There, amid a jumble of letters and cassette tapes, lay an unpublished memoir breezily recounting the Zelig-like adventures of a woman who had starred in some of the first black films made in Hollywood, mingled with the Harlem Renaissance elite, been drawn by Man Ray and Matisse in Paris and touched down in Spain during its Civil War, before packing up her Chanel dresses and heading home to a more conventional life as a psychologist.

It was a story of passing stranger than anything Larsen had imagined, recounted with uncommon sexual frankness and blithe disregard for racial barriers. “I was fascinated by the way she threaded together all these different worlds, with this total nonchalance,” Mr. Hutchinson said in a recent interview. “I had never read anything like it.”

Previously, Reynolds’s name had survived mainly in a few scattered footnotes. But now, Harvard University Press is publishing her memoir, as “American Cocktail: A ‘Colored Girl’ in the World.”…

Read the entire book review here.

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Race as freedom: how Cedric Dover and Barack Obama became black

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Barack Obama, Biography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, United States on 2014-02-15 21:03Z by Steven

Race as freedom: how Cedric Dover and Barack Obama became black

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 2
pages 222-240
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2012.715661

Nico Slate, Assistant Professor of History
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Born across racial lines, Cedric Dover and Barack Obama both came to identify with the African American community. By contrasting the lives and ideas of two mixed-race individuals, one born in Calcutta and the other in Hawaii, this article examines cosmopolitanism, racial formation and the promise of the ‘post-racial’. A ‘Eurasian’ intellectual born in Calcutta in 1904, Dover developed a coloured cosmopolitanism that mirrors in revealing ways Obama’s approach to race. Both men embraced blackness while transcending the boundaries of race and nation. Dover and Obama developed a conception of race as freedom—not freedom from race or of a particular race, but the freedom to embrace race without sacrificing other affiliations.

We must be both “racial” and anti-racial at the same time, which really means that nationalism and internationalism must be combined in the same philosophy. Cedric Dover (1947, 222)

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. Barack Obama (2008)

Born a Eurasian in Calcutta in 1904. Cedric Dover died in England in 1961 a ‘coloured’ man. Born to a white mother in Hawaii in 1961 and raised partially in Indonesia. Barack Obama became the first African…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2014-02-15 03:52Z by Steven

Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe

Harvard University Press
April 2014
288 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
30 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674047556

Matthew Pratt Guterl, Professor of Africana studies and American studies
Brown University

Creating a sensation with her risqué nightclub act and strolls down the Champs Elysées, pet cheetah in tow, Josephine Baker lives on in popular memory as the banana-skirted siren of Jazz Age Paris. In Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe, Matthew Pratt Guterl brings out a little known side of the celebrated personality, showing how her ambitions of later years were even more daring and subversive than the youthful exploits that made her the first African American superstar.

Her performing days numbered, Baker settled down in a sixteenth-century chateau she named Les Milandes, in the south of France. Then, in 1953, she did something completely unexpected and, in the context of racially sensitive times, outrageous. Adopting twelve children from around the globe, she transformed her estate into a theme park, complete with rides, hotels, a collective farm, and singing and dancing. The main attraction was her Rainbow Tribe, the family of the future, which showcased children of all skin colors, nations, and religions living together in harmony. Les Milandes attracted an adoring public eager to spend money on a utopian vision, and to worship at the feet of Josephine, mother of the world.

Alerting readers to some of the contradictions at the heart of the Rainbow Tribe project—its undertow of child exploitation and megalomania in particular—Guterl concludes that Baker was a serious and determined activist who believed she could make a positive difference by creating a family out of the troublesome material of race.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
  • 1. Too Busy to Die
  • 2. No More Bananas
  • 3. Citizen of the World
  • 4. Southern Muse
  • 5. Ambitious Assemblages
  • 6. French Disney
  • 7. Mother of a Wounded World
  • 8. Unraveling Plots
  • 9. Rainbow’s End
  • Epilogue
  • Abbreviations
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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Stuart Hall obituary

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-02-12 08:44Z by Steven

Stuart Hall obituary

The Guardian
2014-02-10

David Morley and Bill Schwarz

Influential cultural theorist, campaigner and founding editor of the New Left Review

When the writer and academic Richard Hoggart founded the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University in 1964, he invited Stuart Hall, who has died aged 82, to join him as its first research fellow. Four years later Hall became acting director and, in 1972, director. Cultural studies was then a minority pursuit: half a century on it is everywhere, generating a wealth of significant work even if, in its institutionalised form, it can include intellectual positions that Hall could never endorse.

The foundations of cultural studies lay in an insistence on taking popular, low-status cultural forms seriously and tracing the interweaving threads of culture, power and politics. Its interdisciplinary perspectives drew on literary theory, linguistics and cultural anthropology in order to analyse subjects as diverse as youth sub-cultures, popular media and gendered and ethnic identities – thus creating something of a model, for example, for the Guardian’s own G2 section.

Hall was always among the first to identify key questions of the age, and routinely sceptical about easy answers. A spellbinding orator and a teacher of enormous influence, he never indulged in academic point-scoring. Hall’s political imagination combined vitality and subtlety; in the field of ideas he was tough, ready to combat positions he believed to be politically dangerous. Yet he was unfailingly courteous, generous towards students, activists, artists and visitors from across the globe, many of whom came to love him. Hall won accolades from universities worldwide, despite never thinking of himself as a scholar. Universities offered him a base from which he could teach – a source of great pleasure for him – and collaborate with others in public debate.

He was born in Kingston, into an aspiring Jamaican family. His father, Herman, was the first non-white person to hold a senior position – chief accountant – with United Fruit in Jamaica. Jessie, his formidable mother, had white forebears and identified with the ethos of an imaginary, distant Britain. Hall received a classical English education at Jamaica College in Kingston – while allying himself with the struggle for independence from colonial rule.

But he found the country’s racial and colonial restrictions intolerable and an escape presented itself when he won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University. He arrived in Britain in 1951, part of the large-scale Caribbean migration that had begun symbolically with the arrival of the Empire Windrush three years earlier. Hall recalled that when he took the train from Bristol to Paddington station in London, he saw a landscape familiar to him from the novels of Thomas Hardy.

However, if Britain was a culture he knew from the inside, it was also one he never entirely felt part of, always imagining himself a “familiar stranger”. At Merton College, studying English, he experienced this sense of displacement, his enthusiasms – for a new politics, for bebop, for a world alive to the values of human difference – incomprehensible to the cavalry-twilled former public schoolboys who surrounded him.

As his time in Britain lengthened, so his identifications with blackness deepened. Ambivalent about his relation both to his place of departure and to his place of arrival, he sought to survive the medieval gloom of Oxford by making common cause with the city’s displaced migrant minority. Out of these new attachments, and out of the political cataclysm of 1956 – marked by the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt and by the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolution – emerged the new left, in which Hall was an influential figure: it provided him with a political home. At this point he found himself “dragged backwards into Marxism, against the tanks in Budapest” – and, if his Marxism came “without guarantees”, it was nonetheless a vital part of him to the end….

Read the entire obituary here.

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San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2014-02-12 08:00Z by Steven

San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown

University of Oklahoma Press
2014
264 pages
8.5″ x 11″
Illustrations: 20 b&w and 125 color illus.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806144108

Robert J. Chandler, Retired Senior Research Historian
Wells Fargo Bank

A lavishly illustrated biography of an often overlooked artist and his work

Grafton Tyler Brown—whose heritage was likely one-eighth African American—finessed his way through San Francisco society by passing for white. Working in an environment hostile to African American achievement, Brown became a successful commercial artist and businessman in the rough-and-tumble gold rush era and the years after the Civil War. Best known for his bird’s-eye cityscapes, he also produced and published maps, charts, and business documents, and he illustrated books, sheet music, advertisements, and labels for cans and other packaging.

This biography by a distinguished California historian gives an underappreciated artist and his work recognition long overdue. Focusing on Grafton Tyler Brown’s lithography and his life in nineteenth-century San Francisco, Robert J. Chandler offers a study equally fascinating as a business and cultural history and as an introduction to Brown the artist.

Chandler’s contextualization of Brown’s career goes beyond the issue of race. Showing how Brown survived and flourished as a businessman, Chandler offers unique insight into the growth of printing and publishing in California and the West. He examines the rise of lithography, its commercial and cultural importance, and the competition among lithographic companies. He also analyzes Brown’s work and style, comparing it to the products of rival firms.

Brown was not respected as a fine artist until after his death. Collectors of western art and Americana now recognize the importance of Californiana and of Brown’s work, some of which depicts Portland and the Pacific Northwest, and they will find Chandler’s checklist, descriptions, and reproductions of Brown’s ephemera—including billheads and maps—as uniquely valuable as Chandler’s contribution to the cultural and commercial history of California. In an afterword, historian Shirley Ann Wilson Moore discusses the circumstances and significance of passing in nineteenth-century America.

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