“The Double Curse of Sex and Color”: Robert Purvis and Human Rights

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-12-17 18:59Z by Steven

“The Double Curse of Sex and Color”: Robert Purvis and Human Rights

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 121 [CXXI], Number 1-2, January/April 1997
pages 53-76

Margaret Hope Bacon (1921-2011)

In 1869 A NATIONAL WOMAN’S SUFFRAGE convention was held for the first time in Washington, D.C. The Fourteenth Amendment had recently been ratified and the Fifteenth was about to be introduced into Congress. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other women present used the opportunity to object to black men receiving the vote before women, both black and white, were enfranchised. Their arguments were countered by those of Frederick Douglass, Edward M. Davis, Dr. Charles Burleigh Purvis, and others, who maintained that the Southern black male needed the shield of suffrage to protect him from the reign of terror being visited upon him by former slave owners.

A tall slender man with fair skin and white hair rose at his seat and began to speak. Elizabeth Stanton invited him to come forward and address the convention from the platform. Robert Purvis of Philadelphia said that he was willing to wait for the vote for himself and his sons and his race until women were also permitted to enjoy it. It was important to him that his daughter be enfranchised, since she bore the double curse of sex and race. He chided his son, Dr. Charles Purvis, for holding a narrow position, and reminded him that his sister Hattie also deserved to be enfranchised.

Alone among the black men who had supported women’s rights in the antislavery movement, Robert Purvis remained an advocate of suffrage for women throughout the period of debate and schism over the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. In 1888 he was honored by Susan B. Anthony at the International Council of Women, meeting in Washington, D.C., for his courageous stand in 1869 in opposition to his own son.

Purvis’s advocacy of women’s rights was rooted in his deeply held convictions on human rights. He believed strongly that the struggle for equality for blacks could not be separated from that of women, of American Indians, of Irish nationalists demanding home rule, of all minorities. He objected to all associations based on color alone and rejected the term “African-American.” ‘There is not a single African in the United States,” he told a Philadelphia audience in 1886. “We are to the manner born; we are native Americans.”

Purvis’s position on human rights undoubtedly stemmed in part from his own mixed-race background. His grandmother, Dido Badaracka, was born in Morocco. Purvis described her as a “full-blooded Moor of magnificent features and great beauty. She had crisp hair and a stately manner.” In approximately 1766, at the age of twelve, she was captured by a slave trader along with an Arab girl. The two had been enticed to go a mile or two out of the city where they lived to see a deer that had been caught. They were seized, loaded on the backs of camels, and carried to a slave market on the coast. Here they were loaded onto a slaver and transported to Charleston, South Carolina. At the slave market in Charleston, Dido was bought by a kind white woman, named Day or Deas, who educated her, treated her as a companion, and left instructions that she was to be freed when the woman died, nine years later, in 1775…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Female Slaves and the Law

Posted in History, Law, Slavery, United States, Videos, Women on 2014-12-08 21:16Z by Steven

Female Slaves and the Law

C-SPAN: Created by Cable
Lectures in History

Martha S. Jones, Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Associate Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies
University of Michigan

Professor Martha Jones talked about the mid-19th century court case of Celia, a female slave who killed her master after repeated sexual assaults. Topics included what options Celia may have had, and the involvement of her fellow slaves and her master’s white neighbors in her court case.

View the lecture here (01:21:40). See also, “Celia, A Slave, Trial (1855): An Account” by Douglas O. Linder (2011).

Tags: , , ,

Dr. Rainbow Johnson: Tracee Ellis Ross and Mixed Race on Black-ish

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-11-18 20:13Z by Steven

Dr. Rainbow Johnson: Tracee Ellis Ross and Mixed Race on Black-ish

Kaleido[scopes]: Diaspora Re-imagined
Williams College Student Research Journal

Michelle May-Curry, Contributing Writer

Mixed race women. The tragic mulatta, the jezebel, the code-switcher, the new millennium mulatta, and the exceptional multiracial are terms and ideas that audiences subconsciously pull from to index mixed race identity. Some of these tropes are centuries old – the tragic mulatta calls to mind a woman who cannot find a home in either of her identities and as such meets her downfall through racelessness. Other terms like the “new millenium mulatta” are new, and describe a woman who constantly seeks to transcend her blackness and climb the racial hierarchy. But these terms do not quite begin to describe who Dr. Rainbow Johnson is on ABC’s new show Black-ish. What role Rainbow plays within the black experience, however, is a question that Black-ish might not know the answer to just yet.

Tracee Ellis Ross, the mixed race actress of Girlfriends fame, plays Rainbow (Bow for short), a 21st century working mother of four. As the show might imply, Ross’ character is black…ish. Bow is a self identified mixed race woman and the matriarch to an upper class black family in the suburbs. The product of hippie parents, as her rather eccentric name might suggest, Bow’s upbringing was progressive and far less “traditionally” black compared to her husband’s, who grew up in Compton. As for Ross, the actress is a self-identified black woman who simultaneously acknowledges both her black and white identities. Ross’ identity is rather abnormal for a mixed woman of her generation- most mixed race people born before the 1980′s recount stories of how black was the natural and only identity choice they had to make. The most famous example we can look to today who shares this opinion is our president, Barack Obama

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

The Pose as Interventionist Gesture: Erica Lord and Decolonizing the Proper Subject of Memory

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-11-17 17:35Z by Steven

The Pose as Interventionist Gesture: Erica Lord and Decolonizing the Proper Subject of Memory

Decolonial Gesture, Volume 11, Issue 1, 2014

Colleen Kim Daniher
School of Communication
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

This article investigates the decolonial politics of the pose in the photographic and installation work of mixed-race Native Alaskan artist Erica Lord. Refiguring the pose as decolonial gesture, I argue that Lord’s poses can be understood as decolonial labor because of the ways in which they employ messy genealogies of colonial space and time in order to disrupt the linear unfolding of white settler colonial history. In the act of posing, Lord intervenes in a visual and historical archive that positions both Native and mixed race subjects—especially women—as particularly vulnerable subjects to the ongoing Western imperial project of assimilationist inclusion. Lord’s photographic poses enact a literal seizure of time that resists both the presumed past-ness of the Native American and the presumed futurity of the racially-ambiguous, mixed race woman. In so doing, she revises the temporal politics of both, critically calling into question “the proper” subject of memory.

And it is always exciting, then and now, to realize that you are not a person or a voice that stands alone […] There’s this quote that I repeat to myself all the time, I put it on the starter slide for just about every presentation I give, and I think about it often…

Erica Lord, in interview with Dasha Shleyeva

and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent we are still afraid
so it is better to speak
we were never
meant to survive

Audre Lorde from Litany for Survival

A woman, hair bleached blond and eyes rimmed with kohl, gazes directly into the camera. She is naked, save for a banana-lined skirt and piles of necklaces cascading down her bare breasts. Back arched, her hands wrapped around her exposed stomach, the woman’s feet are planted firmly on the ground, yet her long legged stance suggests the latent possibility of movement, of dance. We have seen this image, differently, before. Behind her, a double shadow, as if in flight, splays against the obvious studio backdrop. Moving between darkness and light, stillness and movement, presence and absence, the photograph conjures the ghost of Josephine Baker only to refract it, multiplying different trajectories of space and time both into the past and into the future.

The image is multimedia artist Erica Lord’s 2005 self-portrait, Danse Sauvage, and it features the artist in costume and in character as Baker. Lord is a self-identified mixed-race Native Alaskan of Athabascan (interior Alaska), Inupiat (North and Northwest Alaska), Finnish, Swedish, English, and Japanese descent. She has described the work as being “a direct response to the feeling of being seen as exotic,” explaining that she: “tried looking back in history, at other mixed women, or other Native women who sort of owned that power [of exoticism] […] The photograph sort of grew from this desire to emulate or embody that sort of force or power that she [Josephine Baker] had” (Shleyeva 2010). Although some might object to Lord’s proximate staging of North American Indigenous and Black diasporic histories, this essay seizes upon Lord’s identificatory “look back in history” in order to examine the ways in which such a gesture critically addresses the overlapping but sometimes fraught relationship between decolonizing and antiracist epistemological stances. Bonita Lawrence and Enakshi Dua have characterized this antagonism as an issue of historical memory: critical race and postcolonial theory systematically erases Aboriginal peoples and decolonization from the construction of knowledge about ‘race,’ racism, racial subjectivities, and antiracism…the exclusion of Aboriginal peoples from the project of antiracism erases them from history. (Lawrence and Dua 2005, 132)…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Q&A with Dorothy Roberts

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Interviews, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Women on 2014-11-17 00:32Z by Steven

Q&A with Dorothy Roberts

Penn Current: News, ideas and conversations from the University of Pennsylvania

Greg Johnson, Managing Editor

When Dorothy Roberts was 3 months old, she moved with her parents from Chicago to Liberia, where her mother, Iris, had worked as a young woman after leaving Jamaica.

It was the first of Dorothy’s many trips abroad, and one during which her father, Robert, took a bunch of photographs and filmed home movies with his 16-millimeter camera. The Roberts family moved back to Chicago when Dorothy was 2, and she can recall weekly screenings of the 16-milimeter reels from Liberia in he living room.

“I had a very strong interest in learning about other parts of the world from when I was very little,” says Roberts, the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor. “My whole childhood revolved around learning about other parts of the world and engaging with people from around the world.”

Robert was an anthropologist and Iris was working on her Ph.D. in anthropology when Dorothy was born. They raised their daughters as citizens of the world in a home filled with a wealth of books and ethnographies about different cultures, places, and people. The Roberts home stayed connected with the international community, hosting foreign-exchange students and living overseas.

Five-year-old Dorothy had already decided she was going to be an anthropologist—as her parents expected—and would sneak into her father’s office and spend hours reading his books. The family spent two years in Egypt when she was a teenager, reinforcing her status as a global citizen.

Twenty-one-year-old Dorothy, after finishing her undergraduate studies at Yale, including a year in South America, decided she wanted to be a lawyer, and enrolled at Harvard Law School.

“I got a law degree and went into legal practice because I thought that was the best tool for doing social justice work,” says Roberts, who has joint appointments in the Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology in the School of Arts & Sciences and Penn Law School. Her work focuses on gender, bioethics, health, and social justice issues, specifically those that affect the lives of children, women, and African Americans.

Roberts began her legal career with one of the icons of the Civil Rights Movement, Judge Constance Baker Motley, for whom she clerked in the early 1980s. After practicing law in the private sector, she started her teaching career in 1988 at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, an institution known for its history of social justice advocacy. She was a professor at Northwestern School of Law before joining Penn in 2012.

The Current sat down with Roberts in Penn Law’s Golkin Hall for a conversation about her globetrotting, her influential parents, racism in the child welfare system, the degradation of black bodies, the resurgence of race in science, and controversial decisions by the United States Supreme Court

…Q.Your most recent book, ‘Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century,’ examines the resurgence of biological concepts of race in genomic science and biotechnologies. What is it about?

A. Biological explanations have historically been a powerful way of convincing people that social inequality is natural and, therefore, does not require social change. To me, that is what the eugenics movement, which was prominent in the United States from the 1920s until World War II, was all about. Mainstream science in the United States promoted biological explanations for social inequality, claiming it resulted from differences in people’s inherited genetic traits. That basic ideology continues to this day in what is seen as cutting-edge and sophisticated scientific research. You can tie together all of my work from ‘Killing the Black Body’ to ‘Fatal Invention’ as uncovering the ways in which that basic philosophy—disguising social inequalities as biological ones—continues to fuel unjust social policies and legitimize very brutal practices against the most marginalized people in this country, blaming them for their own disadvantaged status. How can you blame the least powerful people for creating powerful systems of inequality in the United States? But the biological explanation for inequality deludes people into thinking that is possible—that it’s natural for black infants to die at two or three times the rate of white infants; it’s natural for black people to be incarcerated at many times the rate of white people; it’s natural for black children to have lower graduation rates than white children; it’s natural for black people to have a fraction of the wealth white people have. Americans who don’t want to explain these glaring inequities as stemming from institutionalized racism find comfort in explaining them as stemming from a natural order of human beings…

…What are you currently working on? I understand you are continuing a research project that was originally started by your father.

A. I’m working on a book using about 500 interviews of black/white couples that my father conducted in Chicago from 1937 to 1980. He was working on a book on interracial marriage my whole childhood but he never wrote it. My father was white and my mother was black. I want to take advantage of this extraordinary archive to study the relationship between the experiences and views of these couples and the intensifying challenge to the racial order that occurred during that period. How did they understand their own marriages in terms of changing race relations and politics in Chicago? I’m very interested in the role interracial marriage has played in perpetuating and contesting racial inequality.

While my father believed that interracial marriage could be a key strategy for overcoming racism, I neither glorify nor ignore its political significance. I am investigating interracial marriage from the perspective of black-white couples without assuming an inherently problematic or progressive role in the advancement of racial equality. And I’m very excited to explore what the interviews reveal.

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , ,

Growing Up “Too Black” In Trinidad

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2014-11-10 19:50Z by Steven

Growing Up “Too Black” In Trinidad

The New Local: Think Global, Read Local

Malaika Crichlow
Miami, Florida

I grew up in Trinidad in the 80s and 90s as a black girl child. To be black in a country that idealizes the curly hair and mixed ethnicity aesthetic is rough to say the least. Although I shared the same parental genes as my sister, who is considered mixed or “red,” what I embodied physically was dark skin and “kinky” hair. It didn’t matter that my heritage included French, Scottish, East Indian and African; I was black to everyone who saw me, which wouldn’t bother me if I wasn’t treated as less than because of it.

I was the daughter of a dark-skinned man who, as a man, couldn’t comprehend my female self-esteem struggles. He didn’t know that his unabashed preference of my light-skinned sister could truly fuck me up. As my primary example of the male gender and my only other dark skinned counterpart in our immediate family, he didn’t understand that not loving me as much as my red sister could damage my mind and sense of self for years.  I was also the daughter of a light-skinned mother who, similarly, couldn’t fully understand my dark-skinned complex because like my sister, she had gotten the red woman’s preferential treatment her whole life…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Skin I’m In – At the Korean Sauna

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-11-10 19:40Z by Steven

The Skin I’m In – At the Korean Sauna

Ms. Food Queen: Cooking Across Difference
November 2014

Christine Gregory

I am lying naked on a padded linoleum table while a heavyset Korean ajumma (middle aged woman) scrubs every inch of my body.  I catch a glimpse of the tiny rolls of dead skin left behind on her pink washrag. I see more bits on the table and all over the floor. Mortified, I shut my eyes.  My mind is racing.  I’m at a Korean sauna in Palisades, New Jersey with my mother and her dear friend.  We have all paid for a body scrub and a massage.  I am supposed to be relaxing, but instead I am silently freaking out. Bits of my brown skin are everywhere and I am worried about being judged.

I’m the only black woman in here.  The bath area is filled with Korean women of all ages and shapes.  It is a beautiful, communal space.  Not so much because of the décor, more because of how lovely it is to bare everything without judgment or shame. And yet I cannot seem to enjoy the moment…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2014-11-09 17:52Z by Steven

Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

University of Illinois Press
May 2014
176 pages
6 x 9 in.
23 black & white photographs

Ethelene Whitmire, Associate Professor of Library & Information Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The life of a groundbreaking librarian and Harlem Renaissance figure

The first African American to head a branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL), Regina Andrews led an extraordinary life. Allied with W. E. B. Du Bois, Andrews fought for promotion and equal pay against entrenched sexism and racism and battled institutional restrictions confining African American librarians to only a few neighborhoods within New York City.

Andrews also played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance, supporting writers and intellectuals with dedicated workspace at her 135th Street Branch Library. After hours she cohosted a legendary salon that drew the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Her work as an actress and playwright helped establish the Harlem Experimental Theater, where she wrote plays about lynching, passing, and the Underground Railroad.

Ethelene Whitmire’s new biography offers the first full-length study of Andrews’ activism and pioneering work with the NYPL. Whitmire’s portrait of her sustained efforts to break down barriers reveals Andrews’s legacy and places her within the NYPL’s larger history.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis

Posted in Autobiography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2014-11-09 17:42Z by Steven

Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis

University of South Carolina Press
May 2014
280 pages
9 b&w illus.
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61117-352-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61117-353-6

Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Assistant Professor of Communication and African and African American Studies
Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore

A rare glimpse into the thoughts and experiences of a free black American woman in the nineteenth century

In Notes from a Colored Girl, Karsonya Wise Whitehead examines the life and experiences of Emilie Frances Davis, a freeborn twenty-one-year-old mulatto woman, through a close reading of three pocket diaries she kept from 1863 to 1865. Whitehead explores Davis’s worldviews and politics, her perceptions of both public and private events, her personal relationships, and her place in Philadelphia’s free black community in the nineteenth century.

Although Davis’s daily entries are sparse, brief snapshots of her life, Whitehead interprets them in ways that situate Davis in historical and literary contexts that illuminate nineteenth-century black American women’s experiences. Whitehead’s contribution of edited text and original narrative fills a void in scholarly documentation of women who dwelled in spaces between white elites, black entrepreneurs, and urban dwellers of every race and class.

Notes from a Colored Girl is a unique offering to the fields of history and documentary editing as the book includes both a six-chapter historical reconstruction of Davis’s life and a full, heavily annotated edition of her Civil War–era pocket diaries. Drawing on scholarly traditions from history, literature, feminist studies, and sociolinguistics, Whitehead investigates Davis’s diary both as a complete literary artifact and in terms of her specific daily entries.

From a historical perspective, Whitehead re-creates the narrative of Davis’s life for those three years and analyzes the black community where she lived and worked. From a literary perspective, Whitehead examines Davis’s diary as a socially, racially, and gendered nonfiction text. From a feminist studies perspective, she examines Davis’s agency and identity, grounded in theories elaborated by black feminist scholars. And, from linguistic and rhetorical perspectives, she studies Davis’s discourse about her interpersonal relationships, her work, and external events in her life in an effort to understand how she used language to construct her social, racial, and gendered identities.

Since there are few primary sources written by black women during this time in history, Davis’s diary—though ordinary in its content—is rendered extraordinary simply because it has survived to be included in this very small class of resources. Whitehead’s extensive analysis illuminates the lives of many through the simple words of one.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The “Dear White People” syndrome: Why movies are obsessed with light-skinned black characters

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-11-05 19:11Z by Steven

The “Dear White People” syndrome: Why movies are obsessed with light-skinned black characters


Morgan Jerkins

This isn’t the first film to relegate dark-skinned actors to the sidelines — but it may be the most frustrating

For Princeton University’s recent Black Alumni Conference, an advance screening of “Dear White People” took place at the town’s Garden Theater, and I was one of many who could not wait to see it. Throughout the film, I could hear many black alums scoff at some of the micro-aggressions that we’ve all experienced and heard about, or laugh at all the things that we’ve all wanted to say in response to white people when these experiences occur but may have never had the gall to do so. The film is a bold attempt. But I could not help wondering why a light-skinned biracial woman was the lead female protagonist, the champion of civil rights on the fictitious Winchester University’s campus.

Frankly, as a light-skinned African-American female, I am tired of seeing women who look like myself presented as the epitome of complexity when it comes to setting forth the many different layers of the black experience for a mainstream audience. Yet we all know why this happens. A lighter-skinned black person is more marketable to an overwhelmingly white-dominated space. Not to mention, white appeal equals more marketability. The brown skin with a yellow undertone is the color “nearest [to] the light,” as Goethe once wrote, or in this case, to whiteness. White moviegoers want to see their reflections. Film is a form of escapism tinged with a dash of possibility from this perspective. A white character can be a villain or a hero while exemplifying a wide variety of emotions, and for a light-skinned black character with a name as equally “safe” as Samantha White, it all makes sense. She was able to show her radical and revolutionary side while effortlessly switching to her vulnerable side, via teary eyes, deliberate hesitations in speech, and even hairstyle changes to reflect her character development…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,