Uncovering a Tale of Rocket Science, Race and the ’60s

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-05-22 22:33Z by Steven

Uncovering a Tale of Rocket Science, Race and the ’60s

The New York Times

Cara Buckley, Culture Reporter

Janelle Monáe, left, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures,” which is slated for release in January. Credit Hopper Stone/20th Century Fox

ATLANTA — Taraji P. Henson hates math, and Octavia Spencer has a paralyzing fear of calculus, but that didn’t stop either actress from playing two of the most important mathematicians the world hasn’t ever known.

Both women are starring in “Hidden Figures,” a forthcoming film that tells the astonishing true story of female African-American mathematicians who were invaluable to NASA’s space program in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s.

Ms. Henson plays Katherine Johnson, a math savant who calculated rocket trajectories for, among other spaceflights, the Apollo trips to the moon. Ms. Spencer plays her supervisor, Dorothy Vaughan, and the R&B star Janelle Monáe plays Mary Jackson, a trailblazing engineer who worked at the agency, too.

Slated for wide release in January, the film is based on the book of the same title, to be published this fall, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The author grew up knowing Ms. Johnson in Hampton, Va., but only recently learned about her outsize impact on America’s space race…

Read the entire article here.

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Dreaming Black/Writing White: The Hagar Myth in American Cultural History

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Religion, United States, Women on 2016-05-21 23:06Z by Steven

Dreaming Black/Writing White: The Hagar Myth in American Cultural History

University Press of Kentucky
224 pages
6 x 9 photos
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8131-2143-7

Janet Gabler-Hover, Professor of English
Georgia State University

Winner of the SAMLA 2001 Book Award

Hagar, the Old Testament Egyptian heroine who bore Abraham’s son at the behest of Sarah, was traditionally regarded as an African. Yet the literature and paintings of the nineteenth century depicted Hagar as white. During this period, she became a popular subject for writers and artists, with at least thirteen novels published between 1850 and 1913 taking Hagar as their theme. Dreaming Black/Writing White examines how, for white feminists, Hagar became a liberating symbol to empower their own rebellion against patriarchal restrictions. Hagar’s understood blackness allowed her to represent a combination of sexual passion and artistic creativity that empowered women in the process of taking on male roles of economic power in American society. Because of Hagar’s ethnic complexity, she stands as an ironically positive figure at the center of several southern proslavery women’s novels such as The Deserted Wife, Hagar the Martyr, and The Modern Hagar. Through the persona of Hagar, women novelists felt free to create heroines whose suggestive blackness allowed readers to imagine themselves in rebellion against a restrictive patriarchy, but whose recoverable whiteness provided a safety hatch through which blackness could be disavowed. By exploring these complex and often contradictory depictions, Janet Gabler-Hover contends that the figure of Hagar is central to the canonized romance of nineteenth-century New England literature. The book also affirms Toni Morrison’s claim that blackness—indeed black womanness—lies at the heart of the white literary imagination in America.

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Black Velvet: redefining and celebrating Indigenous Australian women in art

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Oceania, Women on 2016-05-19 01:47Z by Steven

Black Velvet: redefining and celebrating Indigenous Australian women in art

The Conversation (US Pilot)

Sandra Phillips, Lecturer
Creative Writing and Literary Studies, School of Media, Entertainment and Creative Arts, Creative Industries Faculty
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

*Warning: This article contains graphic language that may upset some readers, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that it may contain images, voices or names of deceased people.

With her first solo exhibition, artist Boneta-Marie Mabo has been inspired by the State Library of Queensland’s collections to create new works that speak back to colonial representations of Indigenous womanhood.

She found portraits of Indigenous women without any name, or with labels such as “black velvet” or “gin”; objects, rather than women. Men on the frontier sought to control Aboriginal lands as well as women’s bodies – with or without consent.

The 2005 documentary Pioneers of Love discusses the colonial fetish for Indigenous women.

Revered author Henry Lawson was one of the first to popularise the phrase ‘black velvet’. It described the soft, smooth skin of Aboriginal women – or ‘gins’, as they were referred to then. The men who associated with Aboriginal women were known as ‘gin jockeys’. And their children were often referred to as ‘burnt corks’. – Watch from 1:52 of this clip of the documentary.

But Boneta-Marie’s exhibition, Black Velvet: your label, is more than a response to the past. It’s also about the struggle not to let others define our identity. And it’s a celebration of Indigenous women today, including Boneta-Marie’s grandmother, activist and Order of Australia winner Bonita Mabo

Read the entire article here.

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Charlotte Brontë May Have Started the Fire, But Jean Rhys Burned Down the House

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2016-05-16 18:49Z by Steven

Charlotte Brontë May Have Started the Fire, But Jean Rhys Burned Down the House

Literary Hub

Bridget Read
Brooklyn, New York

Wide Sargasso Sea and The Limits of Bronte Feminism

In November of last year, Tin House published the text of a speech given by the author Claire Vaye Watkins, in which she spoke frankly of the various intersecting systems of privilege that affect the publishing world. Her main focus was the industry’s domination by men, their tastes and their interests, which even writers who are not men keep in mind when working toward literary success. The rousing essay ended with this call to arms: “Let us burn this motherfucking system to the ground and build something better.”

I thought of this speech this week, on the 200th anniversary of a famous literary house fire otherwise known as Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë’s novel about the eponymous “poor, obscure, plain and little” governess who quietly triumphs over several archetypal gothic adversaries: poverty, cruelty, a castle, a ghost, a brooding Byronic lover. Jane Eyre endures because it’s the story of an underdog, surely, as is the story of the author herself. Diminutive Charlotte and her sisters published their novels from their home in the Yorkshire moors, first under male pen names before being welcomed into important literary circles as women writers. Of Brontë, whose heroine notoriously requires the gruff, hot Mr. Rochester to regard her as a true partner before she will wed him, “equal—as we are,” Matthew Arnold complained in 1853: “The writer’s mind contains nothing but hunger, rebellion and rage, and therefore that is all she can, in fact, put in her book.” This, of course, is an excellent blurb for a novel in 2016, and cause to study Jane Eyre as a proto-feminist text….

There are other reasons that cultural objects get to hang around for multiple centennials, however, and rarely can a book’s radicalism alone account for its longevity in popular imagination. You might consider how Jane Eyre, not unlike the work of another famous but non-fictional Jane, in addition to being groundbreaking, is very safe. Jane E. might at first deny the hands of Rochester and her cousin St. John Rivers because they want to control her, but she does get married, eventually, all while maintaining her quiet dignity, her resilience, and her piety—meaning that her self-actualization is still in the service of morality, a Christian, patriarchal one. It is important to remember who exactly burns down the house in Jane Eyre, because it isn’t Jane. The arsonist of the novel is Bertha, Rochester’s shut-in wife, the infamous woman in the attic, and if a radical core can be found in Brontë’s work, it’s with her. Which is to say that the novel’s real potential for systemic annihilation is not the novel itself, and brings me to another anniversary, a 50th birthday, of Jean Rhys’s prequel to Jane Eyre: Wide Sargasso Sea, published in 1966…

Read the entire article here.

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Artist Turns Racist Flirtations on Tinder Into Compelling Look at Race and Sex

Posted in Articles, Arts, Europe, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-05-15 16:30Z by Steven

Artist Turns Racist Flirtations on Tinder Into Compelling Look at Race and Sex

The Root

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley

Phoebe Boswell Source: phoebeboswell.com

She Matters: Inspired by James Baldwin’sStranger in a Village,” Phoebe Boswell was interested in exploring the perceptions of black women in predominantly white spaces.

Over the weekend I swung by the 156 Art Fair, an annual exhibition of African art at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, N.Y. Among the many strong presentations on display, Phoebe Boswell’s Stranger in the Village stood out.

In April 2015 Boswell, a biracial Kenyan woman currently living in London, was temporarily situated in Gothenburg, Sweden, in a predominantly white area. Boswell set out to explore perceptions of race and sex during her stay by turning to dating app Tinder.

“I thought I might want to explore what my body might feel like living in a space that might not be very welcoming,” Boswell says.

Any black woman who has ever ventured online to look for love—a particularly painful place for black women—should be able to predict the worst of what happened to Boswell next. Reactions to Boswell ranged from microaggressions to flat-out racism. But Boswell turned her lemons into artistic lemonade. For her installation, she sketched portraits of her online suitors with a mechanical pencil and included quotes from her exchanges.

“In the space of day, I go back through microaggressions for a month,” Boswell explained. “It’s like, ‘Oh, my God!’ I’m frightened from the things that I see.” Here, she talks about the experiences on Tinder that inspired the project…

Read the entire interview here.

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Jump at de Sun

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-05-09 01:33Z by Steven

Jump at de Sun

The Nation

Kristal Brent Zook

Anthropologist, novelist, folklorist, essayist and luminary of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston dazzled her peers and patrons almost immediately upon her arrival in New York City in 1925, when she made a show-stopping grand entrance at a formal literary affair, flinging a red scarf around her neck and stopping all conversation with her animated storytelling and antics. “I would like to know her,” declared Langston Hughes. She had a “blazing zest for life,” opined celebrity writer Fannie Hurst. Annie Nathan Meyer, a founder of Barnard College, did them one better: She promptly offered Hurston entrance into Columbia University’s sister college, making her the first black student to attend Barnard.

Over the course of her life, Hurston would publish several dozen essays, short stories and poems, and seven books, including her notoriously deceptive (some would say ingeniously “dissembling”) autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road. Nine more books–essays, folklore, short stories and a play–would appear in print posthumously, following Alice Walker’s “rediscovery” of Hurston in the 1970s. According to Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters and a professor at the University of Southern California, this resurrection of the long-forgotten writer has yielded over 800 more books (including sixteen for children), articles, chapters, dissertations, reference guides and biographical essays about Hurston over the past three decades. That some 2,000 spectators showed up at Central Park last summer for a reading of her work is further evidence that Zora mania continues to be in full swing….

…On the other hand (and herein lies the rub), Hurston also believed that “all clumps of people turn out to be individuals on close inspection,” and that “black skunks are just as natural as white ones.” And she had absolutely no tolerance for the suffering protest narratives such as those offered up by novelist (and nemesis) Richard Wright. But “can the black poet sing a song to the morning?” she demanded in a 1938 essay. No, she laments, answering her own question. “The one subject for a Negro is the Race and its sufferings and so the song of the morning must be chocked back. I will write of a lynching instead.”

And there are other troubling inconsistencies. Those of us of racially mixed parentage, for example, might wonder whether we would have qualified for Hurston’s affection as “authentic” black folk. That she placed a premium on “pure” Negroness was apparent in her attacks on colorist prejudice among the light-skinned black elite (W.E.B. Du Bois was not well-loved by Hurston for his championing of the talented tenth); her disparaging remarks about “a crowd of white Negroes” on their way to Russia to make a movie about black America who had never been “south of the Mason-Dixon line”; and her “color-conscious casting” of an “authentic” Negro concert with “no mulattoes at all.” (Godmother Mason was also pleased by this banning of the “diluted ones.”)

She was a black nationalist, say some. Indeed, her complicated opposition to Brown v. Board of Education flew in the face of everything the “race leaders” of her time fought and died for. Though she was not a segregationist, Hurston found the assumption of Negro inferiority deeply insulting, according to both Boyd and Kaplan. “It is a contradiction,” as Hurston put it, “to scream race pride and equality while…spurning Negro teachers and self-association.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Gilded Years, A Novel

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Novels, Passing, Women on 2016-05-09 01:09Z by Steven

The Gilded Years, A Novel

Washington Square Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
June 2016
384 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781501110450
eBook ISBN: 9781501110467

Karin Tanabe
Washington, D.C.

Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

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At Yale, a Right That Doesn’t Outweigh a Wrong

Posted in Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States, Women on 2016-05-01 00:45Z by Steven

At Yale, a Right That Doesn’t Outweigh a Wrong

The New York Times

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V & C Vann Woodward Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

NEW HAVEN — Yale made a grievous mistake this week when it announced that it would keep the name of an avowed white supremacist, John C. Calhoun, on a residential college, despite decades of vigorous alumni and student protests. The decision to name residential colleges for Benjamin Franklin and Anna Pauline Murray, a black civil rights activist, does nothing to redeem this wrong.

It is not a just compromise to split the difference between Calhoun and Murray; there should be no compromise between such stark contrasts in values. The decision to retain the Calhoun name continues the pain inflicted every day on students who live in a dormitory named for a man distinguished by being one of the country’s most egregious racists.

To be sure, there’s something noteworthy about the contrast between these two figures who now sit across campus from each other. Although they lived in different centuries, Calhoun in the 19th, and Murray in the 20th, in many ways, she lived in — and fought against — the world that he built.

Calhoun, a Yale graduate, congressman and the seventh vice president of the United States, owned dozens of slaves in Fort Hill, S.C. Murray grew up in poverty in Durham, N. C., as the granddaughter of an enslaved woman. Calhoun championed slavery as a “positive good”; Murray’s great-grandmother was raped by her slave master. Calhoun profited immensely from the labor of the enslaved people on his plantation; Murray was a radical labor activist in Harlem during the Great Depression

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Legal Codes and Talking Trees: Indigenous Women’s Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2016-04-26 20:36Z by Steven

Legal Codes and Talking Trees: Indigenous Women’s Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946

Yale University Press
352 pages
23 b/w illus.
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Cloth ISBN: 9780300211689

Katrina Jagodinsky, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nebraska

Katrina Jagodinsky’s enlightening history is the first to focus on indigenous women of the Southwest and Pacific Northwest and the ways they dealt with the challenges posed by the existing legal regimes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In most western states, it was difficult if not impossible for Native women to inherit property, raise mixed-race children, or take legal action in the event of rape or abuse. Through the experiences of six indigenous women who fought for personal autonomy and the rights of their tribes, Jagodinsky explores a long yet generally unacknowledged tradition of active critique of the U.S. legal system by female Native Americans.

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22nd Annual David Noble Lecture featuring Robin D.G. Kelley

Posted in Biography, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2016-04-26 20:31Z by Steven

22nd Annual David Noble Lecture featuring Robin D.G. Kelley

Best Buy Theater
Northrop Auditorium
84 Church Street, SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455
Tuesday, 2016-04-26, 19:00 CDT (Local Time)

Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History & Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History
University of California, Los Angeles

The 22nd Annual David Noble Lecture will feature Robin D.G. Kelley. His talk is titled “‘A Female Candide’: U.S. Empire, Racial Cartographies, and the Education of Grace Halsell, 1952 – 1986.” Kelley’s talk focuses on Texas-born journalist Grace Halsell, who spent part of the Cold War as a foreign correspondent, including a stint in Vietnam, working as a staff writer under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and engaged in investigations into U.S. “internal colonies.” She chemically darkened her skin and lived as a black woman in Harlem and Mississippi, resulting in her book, Soul Sister; she published Bessie Yellowhair about living as a Navajo and working as a housekeeper; and The Illegals, a book about passing as an undocumented worker from Mexico. In the course of her travels and experiments in racial passing, the worlds she encountered undermined the conceits she grew up with. Halsell’s world view, schooled in Cold War liberalism, Southern paternalism & white supremacy, and domesticity, begins to unravel especially after her stint in Vietnam, and even more so when she turns her attention to the U.S., its ghettos, reservations, borders and finally to Palestine. So in some ways, this is a classic loss of innocence story.

For more information, click here.

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