Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-23 19:55Z by Steven

Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

The Middlebury Campus
Middlebury College
Middlebury, Vermont
2014-03-19

Conor Grant, Managing Editor


Alexander Twilight Hall, a building named in honor of Alexander Twilight of the class of 1823, is just one part of the complicated legacy of America’s first black college graduate. (Courtesy/Middlebury)

Alexander Twilight Hall — the austere brick building separating the town from Middlebury College — is named for Alexander Twilight, the 1823 Middlebury College graduate who is known today as the first American black college graduate.

Today, Twilight is widely touted as an example of Middlebury’s rich legacy of inclusivity and racial diversity.

But who exactly was Alexander Twilight? Was he really the first black man at Middlebury?

The answer to that question is more complicated than it might first appear…

Read the entire article here.

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Whiteness as Property

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-10-23 15:36Z by Steven

Whiteness as Property

Harvard Law Review
Volume 106, Number 8 (June 1993)
pages 1707-1791

Cheryl I. Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
School of Law
University of California, Los Angeles

Issues regarding race and racial identity as well as questions pertaining to property rights and ownership have been prominent in much public discourse in the United States. In this article, Professor Harris contributes to this discussion by positing that racial identity and property are deeply interrelated concepts. Professor Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law. Professor Harris traces the origins of whiteness as property in the parallel systems of domination of Black and Native American peoples out of which were created racially contingent forms of property and property rights. Following the period of slavery and conquest, whiteness became the basis of racialized privilege—a type of status in which white racial identity provided the basis for allocating societal benefits both private and public in character. These arrangements were ratified and legitimated in law as a type of status property. Even as legal segregation was overturned, whiteness as property continued to serve as a barrier to effective change as the system of racial classification operated to protect entrenched power.

Next, Professor Harris examines how the concept of whiteness as property persists in current perceptions of racial identity, in the law’s misperception of group identity and in the Court’s reasoning and decisions in the arena of affirmative action. Professor Harris concludes by arguing that distortions in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whiteness and by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • I. INTRODUCTION
  • II. THE CONSTRUCTION OF RACE AND THE EMERGENCE OF WHITENESS AS PROPERTY
    • A. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Slavery, Race, and Property
      • 1. The Convergence of Racial and Legal Status
      • 2. Implications for Property
    • B. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Native American Land Seizure, Race, and Property
    • C. Critical Characteristics of Property and Whiteness
      • 1. Whiteness as a Traditional Form of Property
      • 2. Modern Views of Property as Defining Social Relations
      • 3. Property and Expectations
      • 4. The Property Functions of Whiteness
        • (a) Rights of Disposition
        • (b) Right to Use and Enjoyment
        • (c) Reputation and Status Property
        • (d) The Absolute Right to Exclude
    • D. White Legal Identity: The Law’s Acceptance and Legitimation of Whiteness as Property
      • 1. Whiteness as Racialized Privilege
      • 2. Whiteness, Rights, and National Identity
  • III. BOUND BY LAW: THE PROPERTY INTEREST IN WHITENESS AS LEGAL DOCTRINE IN PLESSY AND BROWN
    • A. Plessy
    • B. Brown I
    • C. Brown II
    • D. Brown’s Mixed Legacy
  • IV. THE PERSISTENCE OF WHITENESS AS PROPERTY
    • A. The Persistence of Whiteness as Valued Social Identity
    • B. Subordination Through Denial of Group Identity
    • C. Subjugation Through Affirmative Action Doctrine
      • 1. Bakke
      • 2. Croson
      • 3. Wygant
  • V. DE-LEGITIMATING THE PROPERTY INTEREST IN WHITENESS THROUGH AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
    • A. Corrective Justice, Sin, and Whiteness as Property
    • B. Affirmative Action: A New Form of Status Property?
    • C. What Affirmative Action Has Been; What Affirmative Action Might Become
  • VI. CONCLUSION

…Because the “presumption of freedom [arose] from color [white]” and the “black color of the race [raised] the presumption of slavery,” whiteness became a shield from slavery, a highly volatile and unstable form of property. In the form adopted in the United States, slavery made human beings market-alienable and in so doing, subjected human life and personhood—that which is most valuable—to the ultimate devaluation. Because whites could not be enslaved or held as slaves, the racial line between white and Black was extremely critical; it became a line of protection and demarcation from the potential threat of commodification, and it determined the allocation of the benefits and burdens of this form of property. White identity and whiteness were sources of privilege and protection; their absence meant being the object of property.

Slavery as a system of property facilitated the merger of white identity and property. Because the system of slavery was contingent on and conflated with racial identity, it became crucial to be “white,” to be identified as white, to have the property of being white. Whiteness was the characteristic, the attribute, the property of free human beings…

Read the entire article here.

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Season 2, Episode 6: Stanford Prof. Allyson Hobbs Talks about A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-10-22 18:23Z by Steven

Season 2, Episode 6: Stanford Prof. Allyson Hobbs Talks about A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life

The Mixed Experience
2014-10-20

Heidi Durrow, Host

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History
Stanford University

I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy of A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, a most excellent book by Stanford Professor Allyson Hobbs. She recently did a TED Talk about the role of grief in these narratives of racial crossing. The book very aptly and eloquently “examines how passing became both a strategy for survival and an avenue to loss.” You will love this interview with Allyson Hobbs as she explains the inspiration for this book, a brief discussion on the idea of “passing as black” and much much more.

Listen to the episode here. Download the episode here.

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Race and the Making of Family in the Atlantic World

Posted in Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-10-22 15:21Z by Steven

Race and the Making of Family in the Atlantic World

University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Burney Center
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, North Carolina
Thursday, 2014-10-23, 19:30 EDT (Local Time)

Daniel Livesay, Assistant Professor of History
Drury University, Springfield, Missouri

In the eighteenth-century world of slavery and the slave trade, racial prejudices were often stark and unfeeling. Emphasis on racial difference helped slave owners and the wider public justify the systematic abuse of millions of people. Yet, at the individual level, attitudes toward race were incredibly complex. This was especially true for Europeans who had relatives with some amount of African heritage. Throughout the Americas, white men slept with free and enslaved women of color. Typically, these were acts of violence, but in some cases long-term relationships could emerge, with a train of mixed-race children following. In places like the Caribbean, where individuals of color had few educational and professional opportunities, a number of white men sent mixed-race offspring to Britain to live with their families. Britons on the other side of the Atlantic had almost no interaction with individuals of African descent before they were tasked with taking care of family who were simultaneously the descendants of slaves. Subsequently, these families came to understand issues of race as subjects particularly related to kinship. By documenting the experiences of these migrants of color, more light can be shed on modern ideas of race, and the global dislocation of many families. This talk will show that the growing racial complexities at home and abroad can best be analyzed and understood through an historical examination of the family dimension of ideas about race. Notions of racial difference emerged out of debates around family composition and by taking such a perspective, we can deconstruct some of the most enduring and harmful legacies of race-based thinking.

For more information, click here.

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The many meanings of the Haitian declaration of independence

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2014-10-21 21:05Z by Steven

The many meanings of the Haitian declaration of independence

OUPblog: Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World
2014-01-03

Philippe R. Girard, Associate Professor of History
McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Two hundred and ten years ago, on 1 January 1804, Haiti formally declared its independence from France at the end of a bitter war against forces sent by Napoléon Bonaparte. This was only the second time, after the United States in 1776, that an American colony had declared independence, so the event called for pomp and circumstance. Haiti’s generals, led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, gathered in the western city of Gonaïves, where they listened to a public reading of the Declaration by the mixed-race secretary Louis Boisrond-Tonnerre. A handwritten original has yet to be found, but early imprints and manuscript copies have survived.

The declaration is well known to Haitians, who celebrate its passage every year on 1 January, Haiti’s national holiday. They mostly remember it for its fiery defiance. According the Haitian historian Thomas Madiou, its author Boisrond-Tonnerre got the assignment after promising Dessalines that he would use “the skin of a white man” as parchment, its “skull” as inkwell, and its “blood” as ink. “What do we have in common with this people of executioners [the French]?” he asked in the Declaration. “They are not our brothers, and never will be.”

But the Declaration, which historians are just beginning to study in depth, was actually a layered text whose multiple meanings were tailored for six different audiences: the French, Creoles, Anglo-Americans, Latin Americans, mixed-race Haitians, and black Haitians…

Read the entire article here.

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Confederate officer’s wartime diary decoded

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-21 17:30Z by Steven

Confederate officer’s wartime diary decoded

The Associated Press
2014-10-13

Chris Carola

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — A century and a half after Confederate officer James Malbone wrote his Civil War diary partly in code, a couple of Yankees have figured out why he took the precaution: He liked to gossip.

Sprinkled amid entries on camp recipes and casualties are encrypted passages in which Malbone dishes on such juicy topics as a fellow soldier who got caught in bed with another man’s wife.

Malbone also writes about meeting the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and describes her looks in an apparent echo of rumors at the time that she may have been of mixed race.

“That’s pretty shocking,” said Kent D. Boklan, the Queens College computer science professor and former National Security Agency cryptographer who deciphered Malbone’s code with little difficulty. “It’s a military diary and you expect military information, but you don’t expect the first lady of the Confederacy to make an appearance in this diary.”

According to Boklan, Malbone’s encrypted entry about Varina Howell Davis describes her as “dark complected” with “very very brown skin dark eyes” and “high cheek bones wide mouth.”.

Davis’ wife was a well-educated woman for her time, and as a result, was the target of “all kind of gossipy innuendos from the ladies” in Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, according to Sam Craghead of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond

Read the entire article here.

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Race, sex, and colonialism

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive on 2014-10-20 20:43Z by Steven

Race, sex, and colonialism

OUPblog: Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World
2014-10-20

Carina Ray, Associate Professor of History
Fordham University


DJ/Presenter Reggie Yates and Dr. Carina Ray review historical documents

As an Africanist historian committed to reaching broader publics, I was thrilled when the research team for the BBC’s genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? contacted me late last February about an episode they were working on that involved the subject of some of my research, mixed race relationships in colonial Ghana. I was even more pleased when I realized that their questions about shifting practices and perceptions of intimate relationships between African women and European men in the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then known, were ones I had just explored in a newly published American Historical Review article, which I readily shared with them. This led to a month-long series of lengthy email exchanges, phone conversations, Skype chats, and eventually to an invitation to come to Ghana to shoot the Who Do You Think You Are? episode.

After landing in Ghana in early April, I quickly set off for the coastal town of Sekondi where I met the production team, and the episode’s subject, Reggie Yates, a remarkable young British DJ, actor, and television presenter. Reggie had come to Ghana to find out more about his West African roots, but he discovered along the way that his great grandfather was a British mining accountant who worked in the Gold Coast for close to a decade. His great grandmother, Dorothy Lloyd, was a mixed-race Fante woman whose father — Reggie’s great-great grandfather — was rumored to be a British district commissioner at the turn of the century in the Gold Coast.

The episode explores the nature of the relationship between Dorothy and George, who were married by customary law around 1915 in the mining town of Broomassi, where George worked as the paymaster at the local mine. George and Dorothy set up house in Broomassi and raised their infant son, Harry, there for two years before George left the Gold Coast in 1917 for good. Although their marriage was relatively short lived, it appears that Dorothy’s family and the wider community that she lived in regarded it as a respectable union and no social stigma was attached to her or Harry after George’s departure from the coast…

Read the entire article here.

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The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada by Joanne Rappaport (review) [Roland review]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2014-10-20 17:50Z by Steven

The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada by Joanne Rappaport (review) [Roland review]

Journal of Latin American Geography
Volume 13, Number 3, 2014
pages 253-255
DOI: 10.1353/lag.2014.0045

L. Kaifa Roland, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of Colorado, Boulder

Joanne Rappaport, The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)

Joanne Rappaport’s The Disappearing Mestizo is an important interrogation of the sixteenth and seventeenth century archives in service of detailing the construction of an enduring socio-racial category encountered throughout Latin America. What is a mestizo, or as Rappaport challenges: when, where, and for whom was the mestizo category activated?

As students of Latin American race are aware, mestizaje is understood to describe the condition of racial mixture, usually involving European and indigenous parentage. However, Rappaport finds the question of “impure blood” that mestizaje seems to indicate moves in and out of focus at various times, depending on a variety of contexts. “But must we confine our understanding of mestizaje to the offspring of mixed unions? In the early modern period, mixture resulted not only from sexual encounters but also from other sorts of activities, both public and intimate in character. That is, mixing was not necessarily genealogical in nature” (p.18). She invokes the title trope of “the disappearing mestizo” to address the instability of the category, and expertly engages the archives to ethnographically portray several men and women to whom the contentious label was ascribed in court cases.

After introducing some of the “characters” readers will meet in the course of the book (also denoted in the appendix), Rappaport highlights her strong interdisciplinary approach, while acknowledging the limitations of working with archival data in her ethnographic construction of colonial history. She concedes that she only has information on her subjects for the fragments of time that they enter the legal archives, filling in other parts from available genealogical records in the region. Rather than forcing the evidence to fit the model, she interrogates the record and asks questions of gaps left in the wake of absent data.

The greatest strength of the book is in its storytelling and the sensitive portrayal of historic individuals labeled or contesting the label of mestizo who were encountered in the archives. In chapter one, Rappaport introduces a series of vignettes in order to dismiss the notion that the “disappearing mestizo” phenomenon is an attempt at “passing” from one racial category to another. Rather, she finds individuals contesting or reinforcing classifications associated with Spanishness or indigenousness using color, gender, religion, and status to make the case. Given this fluidity, it can be anticipated that the second chapter’s inquiry into whether mestizos constituted a community is answered in the negative. While mestizo men, in particular, often found themselves on the fringes of society given their exclusion from both Spanish and indigenous society, they often associated with other marginalized individuals—and thus became associated with marginal behaviors like assaults, rapes, and kidnapping (p.87).

While distinctions in gendered experiences are discussed throughout the book, chapter three stands out in the book for the way it highlights why it was often easier for women to transcend mestizaje than it was for men. Certainly, marriage provided mestiza-born women access to different forms of mobility than it did for men, but Rappaport also emphasizes the importance in colonial Spanish society of honor and reputation—especially so in the New World where noble lineages were established through more diverse means than in the Old World. Whereas women could largely be absorbed into Spanish or indigenous communities without upsetting the system too much, men had to be categorized by their particular role in the tribute system. In trying to determine why mestizo men found themselves excluded from sites of power, Rappaport may rely too much on the question of bloodline and biological relationships given her earlier arguments about how mestizaje also took account of issues of cultural mixture like how one comports oneself in public or marriage pairings.

Chapter four turns the attention from mestizos contending with their elite Spanish heritage, to mestizos fighting to be recognized among the chiefly indigenous cacique class. Rappaport introduces readers to two men who try to use their mestizo status to their advantage—arguing their Catholic religion and Spanish practices would help them better “civilize” their indigenous subjects. Their quest is complicated, however, by the position they take in defending the indigenous from unfair tributes, such that they find anti-mestizo opposition from the various groups who benefit from the tribute…

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The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2014-10-20 15:18Z by Steven

The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

Duke University Press
2014
368 pages
6 illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5629-5
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-5636-3

Joanne Rappaport, Professor of Anthropology, and Spanish and Portuguese
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Much of the scholarship on difference in colonial Spanish America has been based on the “racial” categorizations of indigeneity, Africanness, and the eighteenth-century Mexican castas system. Adopting an alternative approach to the question of difference, Joanne Rappaport examines what it meant to be mestizo (of mixed parentage) in the early colonial era. She draws on lively vignettes culled from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century archives of the New Kingdom of Granada (modern-day Colombia) to show that individuals classified as “mixed” were not members of coherent sociological groups. Rather, they slipped in and out of the mestizo category. Sometimes they were identified as mestizos, sometimes as Indians or Spaniards. In other instances, they identified themselves by attributes such as their status, the language that they spoke, or the place where they lived. The Disappearing Mestizo suggests that processes of identification in early colonial Spanish America were fluid and rooted in an epistemology entirely distinct from modern racial discourses.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Author’s Note on Transcriptions, Translations, Archives, and Spanish Naming Practices
  • Introduction
  • 1. Mischievous Lovers, Hidden Moors, and Cross-Dressers: Defining Race in the Colonial Era
  • 2. Mestizo Networks: Did “Mestizo” Constitute a Group?
  • 3. Hiding in Plain Sight: Gendering Mestizos
  • 4. Good Blood and Spanish Habits: The Making of a Mestizo Cacique
  • 5. “Asi lo Paresçe por su Aspeto”: Physiognomy and the Construction of Difference in Colonial Santafé
  • 6. The Problem of Caste Conclusion
  • Appendix: Cast of Characters
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
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Who Do You Think You Are? [with Reggie Yates]

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Biography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Videos on 2014-10-19 21:55Z by Steven

Who Do You Think You Are? Reggie Yates [with Reggie Yates]

Who Do You Think You Are?
BBC One
Series 11: Episode 8 of 10
Running Time: 00:59:09
First Aired: 2014-09-25

Presenter and DJ Reggie Yates grew up knowing very little about his father’s side of the family. Reggie sets out on the trail of his grandfather, Harry Philip Yates. His journey takes him to Ghana, where he unravels a complex family history where Ghanaian culture and British colonialism collide.

[Features Fordham University history professor Carina Ray.]

For more information, click here.

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