On The Cherokee Rose, Historical Fiction, and Silences in the Archives

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2015-05-27 01:44Z by Steven

On The Cherokee Rose, Historical Fiction, and Silences in the Archives

Process: a blog for american history
2015-05-26

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


Martha S. Jones

Martha S. Jones is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan on the faculties in Afroamerican and African studies, history, and law. She is also a codirector of the university’s Program in Race, Law, and History. The author of the forthcoming Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America and a coeditor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), she is at work on a new book entitled “Riding the Atlantic World Circuit: Slavery and Law after the Haitian Revolution.” She is also an OAH Distinguished Lecturer.

The Cherokee Rose, the debut novel by historian Tiya Miles, caught me in the middle of a longstanding argument. I had pre-ordered the book from its publisher John F. Blair, and so it arrived unexpectedly, as if unsummoned. It was March, a busy moment in the term. Still, I stole time that Saturday, reading it nearly cover-to-cover in one sitting. I left the last chapter until the next day, just to savor the experience. Miles is my colleague at the University of Michigan, and that hints at why I’d let my email pile up just to read a work of fiction. Generally, I’m the sort that lets a stack of books accumulate for later summer reading. But there was more. As I said, I was trying to settle an argument and thought The Cherokee Rose might help.

Many of us know Miles for her award-winning works of history: Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family (University of California Press, 2006), The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (University of North Carolina Press, 2012), and Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era (also coming from UNC Press this fall). Miles’ insight into the intimate dynamics of slavery at the crossroads of Native American and African American experience has won her professional accolades and an eager readership. In this sense, while The Cherokee Rose is fiction, it is no sharp departure. Miles builds upon what she had already taught us, including her exploration of Georgia’s Chief Vann House, to provide a new vantage point from which to explain the past…

Read the entire review here.

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Crossed lines

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-05-26 15:35Z by Steven

Crossed lines

The University of Chicago Magazine
May-June 2015

Lydiayle Gibson


Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09. (Photography by Jennifer Pottheiser)

A secret in her own family led Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09, to uncover the hidden history of racial passing.

“You know, we have that in our own family too.” That was the bombshell, the offhand remark that plunged historian Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09, into a 12-year odyssey to understand racial passing in America—the triumphs and possibilities, secrets and sorrows, of African Americans who crossed the color line and lived as white. As a first-year graduate student at the University of Chicago, Hobbs happened to mention to her aunt the subject of passing, a casual curiosity sparked by the Harlem Renaissance writers she was reading in school. Her aunt responded by telling her the story of a distant cousin from the South Side of Chicago who disappeared into the white world and never returned.

That story opens Hobbs’s book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life (Harvard University Press, 2014), a lyrical, searching, and studious account of the phenomenon from the mid-19th century to the 1950s. Hobbs’s cousin was 18 when she was sent by her mother to live in Los Angeles and pass as a white woman in the late 1930s. “And our cousin—and this was the part of the story that my aunt really underscored—was that our cousin absolutely did not want to do this,” Hobbs says. “She wanted to stay in Chicago; she didn’t want to give up all her friends and the only life she’d ever known.” But her mother was resolved. And so the matter was decided.

Ten or 15 years later, her cousin got what Hobbs calls an “inconvenient phone call.” Her father was dying. And her mother wanted her to come home right away. “And she says to her mother, ‘I can’t come home. I’m a white woman now.’” She was married to a white man; she had white children. “So she never goes back,” Hobbs says.

Many threads weave through A Chosen Exile, released last fall to glowing reviews: the meaning of identity, the elusive concept of race, ever-shifting color lines and cultural borderlands. But by far the book’s most potent thread is about loss. “The core issue of passing is not becoming what you pass for,” Hobbs writes in the prologue, “but losing what you pass away from.” Historians have tended to focus on the privileges and opportunities available to those with white identities. Hobbs reckons with the trauma, alienation, and scars—not only for those who passed, but also for those they left behind. In letters, unpublished family histories, personal papers, sociological journals, court cases, anthropological archives, literature, and film, she finds “a coherent and enduring narrative of loss.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Brazilian Racial Democracy: Reality or Myth?

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2015-05-23 19:19Z by Steven

Brazilian Racial Democracy: Reality or Myth?

Humboldt Journal of Social Relations
Volume 10, Number 1, (Fall/Winter 1982/83): Race & Ethnic Relations: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
pages 129-142

Carlos Hasenbalg, Professor of Sociology
Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas do Rio de Janeiro

Suellen Huntington
University of California, Berkeley

The Brazilian claim to “racial democracy” is examined historically. and in light of the 1976 Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios data on race. class. and social mobility in Brazil. Racism is seen as limiting upward mobility for all non-white Brazilians, pointing to a potential break in Brazil’s “color—class continuum.” The interlocking social mechanisms which maintain Brazilian faith in the existence of racial democracy are briefly analyzed.

The popular Brazilian ideology of racial democracy holds that there is no prejudice or discrimination against non-whites in Brazil. certainly not when compared to the United States. This paper examines that ideology in terms of the realities of race, class, and social mobility in contemporary Brazil. We begin by briefly describing the historical background of the ideology of racial democracy as it bears on race relations in Brazil. Second, we summarize and criticize three main theoretical approaches to race relations and their Brazilian variations. Third, we discuss racism as a causal variable in social stratification and compare the evidence of social mobility for white and non-white Brazilians. Finally, we analyze the social mechanisms supponing the Brazilian belief in racial democracy and their effects on equality of opportunity in Brazil. For perspective, we note the most pertinent comparisons to the United States.

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

Brazil’s history helps explain the development of the ideology of racial democracy and its strong hold on the Brazilian popular mind. Brazil. colonized under the auspices of the Portuguese crown, remained subject to its strongly authoritarian, paternalistic, and monarchical traditions for three-hundred years. Unlike the United States where slavery was an issue from its very beginning and became a bitter point of contention in the Civil War. slavery was easily accepted by Brazil‘s Portuguese settlers whose long familiarity with slavery dates to the Moorish invasions. These differences of attitude influenced the racial compasition of their respective populations. In Brazil through the 1850, half the population was enslaved; in the United States, slaves were never more than fifteen percent of the population. The presence of this large slave population in Brazil, along with the relative absence of white women, prompted a high rate of miscegenation resulting in a large group of mixed race and mulatto slaves. In the United States, where miscegenation was both less common and illegal, all offspring of mixed unions were classified as negroes.

Brazil, the last country in the Western hemisphere to relinquish slavery, did so slowly, in a series of compromise reforms which sought to balance the needs of a plantation economy for cheap. plentiful labor against a sporadic, mostly non-violent, abolitionist movement and the force of international condemnation. When the national legislature passed an abolition law in 1888, most slaves in Brazil had been freed, partly by state legislatures acting independently, but also by county governments, by city governments, by city blocks, and by private citizens. Rather than a tumultuous emancipation, Brazilian slavery merely disintegrated. In the United States, the slavery issue was finally settled in 1865 with the Northern victory in the Civil War.

To solve the plantation labor crisis envisioned as the aftermath of abolition and to ease the transition to free labor, the Brazilian government instituted in 1885, a program promoting the importation of European workers. This program attracted 6,500 Italian laborers in 1886, 30,000 in 1887, and 90,000 in 1888, the year of offical emancipation. During the period of emancipation, immigrant labor worked side-by-side with ex-slaves, but most ex-slaves, unable to compete with the relatively more skilled, relatively more literate European workers, were soon relegated to the lowest positions—unskilled labor and domestic service, tenant farming and sharecroppingin the urban and rural workforce. In the United States, skilled black workers were replaced by whites in the post-Civil War South; in the North, they were systematically excluded from the skilled trades, from all but menial labor, and from union membership. In post-emancipation Brazil, however, the replacement of black ex-slaves by white immigrants resulted from hiring decisions by individual employers rather than from any systematic or organized opposition, thus tending to create class rather than racial antagonisms.

In addition, in the United States whites filled the intermediate positions in the occupational hierarchy, leaving blacks only the least desirable, worst paying positions. In Brazil the labor shortage, together with a prejudice in favor of light skin, caused these intermediate positions to be filled by mulattoes. This labor market preference for whites first, mulattoes second, and blacks last created a status and income continuum corresponding to the color continuum, in contrast to the caste-color line created in the United States…

Read or purchase the article here.

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That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia by Arica L. Coleman (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Virginia on 2015-05-19 01:21Z by Steven

That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia by Arica L. Coleman (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 46, Number 1, Summer 2015
pages 126-127

Kirt von Daacke, Professor of History
University of Virginia

Coleman, Arica L., That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013)

This provocative new study engages history, anthropology, ethnic studies, and English literature as it charts “the history and legacy of Virginia’s effort to maintain racial purity and the consequences of this almost four hundred-year effort for African American–Native American relations and kinship bonds” (xv). The first four chapters attempt to set the 400-year history of Native American–black interaction in the context of the development of a racist ideology privileging white over black. The final three chapters conduct three case studies of twentieth- and twenty-first century events “regarding the social interactions of Black–Indian peoples and the ways in which Virginia Indians of African descent negotiate[d] the complex terrain of race and identity” (15).

Coleman’s interdisciplinary approach provides distinctly uneven results. She never convincingly connects that pre-1865 history with the ugly period after the passage of the Racial Integrity Act in 1924. The problems arise early. For example, Coleman claims that free people of color from the West Indies emigrated to Virginia in the wake of the start of the Haitian Revolution, but she offers no evidence other than a single citation in a secondary source about a white Virginian’s complaint that slaves became more restive after interacting with the slaves of white Haitian refugees (32). How can Armstrong Archer’s 1844 antislavery pamphlet, containing second-hand recollections about his father’s experiences in the eighteenth century, provide any sort of “exceptional insights into seventeenth century Indian–White relations from the perspective of the indigenous population” (36)? Coleman also rather uncritically accepts Archer’s pamphlet as the voice of a person who self-identified first as a Native American (36).

The second chapter focuses on the “changing state of Black–Indian relations in the nineteenth century,” using Omi and Winant’s post–Civil Rights era racial-formation theory as the foundation for its argument (64). Coleman never addresses why a theoretical model explaining the process of racial formation in the late twentieth century remains an appropriate model for understanding events of the nineteenth century. This chapter is also built upon a thin evidentiary base. It may well be that “Indians continued to be bought and sold” in Virginia after 1682, but interpreting a handful of notices stating that a runaway slave “ha[d] much the look of an Indian,” that another was “attempting to inveigle away a number of negroes to the new or Indian country,” or that yet another “had on him a new Indian blanket” as clear evidence of Native Americans on the slave market remains unconvincing (75–76). Coleman cites only five judicial cases from 1772 to 1827 in arguing that in the nineteenth century, “It became increasingly difficult to sue for freedom using the American Indian ancestress defense” (77). Furthermore, citing only two Works Progress Administration interviews from a single state remains insufficient proof that “numerous slave narratives bear witness to American Indian slavery” (79).

That weak evidentiary base resurfaces frequently when Coleman references pre-1900 Virginia or when in the midst of a provocative condemnation of the Virginia Council on Indians (VCI). For example, free people of color may have often noted Indian ancestry in claiming free status, but this assertion goes completely uncited (192). Later, Coleman asserts that Nottoway tribal members in 2007 “were well aware of the VCI’s unwritten criteria of racial purity,” but she provides no compelling evidence of the unwritten criteria and no evidence about what the Nottoway tribe might have known (219).

Despite these flaws, That the Blood Stay Pure represents a bold attempt to re-conceptualize how we think about Native American racial identity in the context of both a four-century history of racism and the modern era of tribal recognition and identity politics…

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What is Systemic Racism?

Posted in History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2015-05-13 17:27Z by Steven

What is Systemic Racism?

Race Forward
2015-05-13

Rinku Sen President of Race Forward & Publisher of Colorlines introduces the “What Is Systemic Racism?” video series featuring our very own Jay Smooth.

Watch the entire video series here.

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The Color Factor: The Economics of African-American Well-Being in the Nineteenth-Century South

Posted in Books, Economics, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2015-05-11 12:56Z by Steven

The Color Factor: The Economics of African-American Well-Being in the Nineteenth-Century South

Oxford University Press
June 2015
336 Pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780199383092

Howard Bodenhorn, Professor of Economics
Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
also Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research

  • The first full-length study of how color intersected with polity, society and economy in the nineteenth-century South
  • Pulls together and expands on previous research on the connection between color and wealth and health
  • Compiles empirical economic research on how color affected plantation life, including which slaves ran away and were chased, or how color influenced entrepreneurship or education and the accumulation of human capital

Despite the many advances that the United States has made in racial equality over the past half century, numerous events within the past several years have proven prejudice to be alive and well in modern-day America. In one such example, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina dismissed one of her principal advisors in 2013 when his membership in the ultra-conservative Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) came to light. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 2001 the CCC website included a message that read “God is the one who divided mankind into different races…. Mixing the races is rebelliousness against God.” This episode reveals America’s continuing struggle with race, racial integration, and race mixing-a problem that has plagued the United States since its earliest days as a nation.

The Color Factor: The Economics of African-American Well-Being in the Nineteenth-Century South demonstrates that the emergent twenty-first-century recognition of race mixing and the relative advantages of light-skinned, mixed-race people represent a re-emergence of one salient feature of race in America that dates to its founding. Economist Howard Bodenhorn presents the first full-length study of the ways in which skin color intersected with policy, society, and economy in the nineteenth-century South. With empirical and statistical rigor, the investigation confirms that individuals of mixed race experienced advantages over African Americans in multiple dimensions – in occupations, family formation and family size, wealth, health, and access to freedom, among other criteria.

The Color Factor concludes that we will not really understand race until we understand how American attitudes toward race were shaped by race mixing. The text is an ideal resource for students, social scientists, and historians, and anyone hoping to gain a deeper understanding of the historical roots of modern race dynamics in America.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Legal constructions of race and interpretations of color
  • Chapter 2: Race mixing and color in literature and science
  • Chapter 3: The plantation
  • Chapter 4: Finding freedom
  • Chapter 5: Marriage and the family
  • Chapter 6: Work
  • Chapter 7: Wealth
  • Chapter 8: Height, health and mortality
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From Chains to Chiles: An Elite Afro-Indigenous Couple in Colonial Mexico, 1641–1688

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2015-05-05 01:25Z by Steven

From Chains to Chiles: An Elite Afro-Indigenous Couple in Colonial Mexico, 1641–1688

Ethnohistory
Volume 62, Number 2, April 2015
pages 361-384
DOI: 10.1215/00141801-2854356

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva, Assistant Professor of History
University of Rochester

This article explores the life of an elite Afro-indigenous couple in the city of Puebla de los Ángeles during the seventeenth century. Through the study of a freedman, Felipe Monsón y Mojica, and his indigenous wife, Juana María de la Cruz, I propose a new approach to the study of the African diaspora in the urban centers of New Spain (colonial Mexico). By combining an extensive corpus of notarial, judicial, and parochial records with isolated references to Puebla’s Nahuatl-language annals, this article also sheds light on city-dwelling native women who married enslaved men. I argue that formal unions of this type held enormous social, political, and commercial potential for Afro-indigenous couples to emerge as new political actors and urban patrons. In particular, the Monsón de la Cruz household rose to a position of preeminence in pardo religious and military corporations through commerce in indigenous agricultural products.

Read or purchase the article here.

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The Forgotten Supervillain of Antebellum Tennessee

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-05-01 11:31Z by Steven

The Forgotten Supervillain of Antebellum Tennessee

Narratively: Human Stories, Boldy Told.
2015-04-28

Betsy Phillips


(Photo Source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Isaac-franklin-by-wb-cooper.jpg)

In a brutal business defined by cruelty, Isaac Franklin was perhaps the worst slave trader in all of cotton country—and the richest man in the south. Yet today his heinous crimes are long forgotten.

The people of Nashville hear slave trader Isaac Franklin’s great annual parade of misery long before they see it. The rhythmic thud of 400 trudging feet carries quite a way. Then comes the sound of men singing, “Cut him down, cut him down, catch him if you can.”

There’s a river and a field and a few scattered houses between Nashville and Franklin’s coffle coming down Gallatin Pike, but once it crests the hill at what will one day be known as Eastland Avenue, everyone up on the bluff can see it. A great centipede of 200 men chained together at the waist, their hands locked behind their backs, marching toward Nashville. A hundred women and children follow behind in wagons, destined for sale. A man with a fiddle walks alongside the chained men, playing to keep them moving at the same speed.

The time is late August 1833. Nashville is a village of 5,500 people living near the crumbling remains of Fort Nashborough. Log cabins are finally giving way to wood-framed buildings and, for the rich, brick. For the past seven years, it has been the state capitol, but it still has the feel of a frontier village. Most people are related or married into each other’s families. Gossip, drinking and duels provide most of the town’s entertainment.

The only bridge into town is the old stone-pillared toll bridge. In five years, when the Cherokee are forced across this bridge, sick, starving, afraid, Nashvillians will claim they were so moved by the suffering that they tried to help the refugees, but were rebuked by the soldiers escorting them. Yet the people in Franklin’s coffle are also sick and afraid. They’ve been walking clear from Alexandria, D.C., and they’ll keep walking all the way to Natchez, Mississippi.

From historical accounts of such marches, notably George William Featherstonhaugh’sExcursion Through the Slave States” and Edward Baptist’sThe Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” the picture comes into focus. The men’s bare feet are blistered and bloody. The haunted-looking women try to keep the spirits of the children up, but every night brings new horror. People are beaten and whipped. Franklin and the three other white men traveling with him take women off into the brush. Not far enough off. Everyone hears the women pleading. Later, they hear the women crying.

Almost everyone in Nashville has known Isaac Franklin since he was born. They all know about the women he keeps trapped on his farm outside of town. And they all know that, when Franklin’s captives get to Natchez, whatever hell they’ve faced on the road — the beatings, the rapes, the forced marches — will seem like the good old days. King Cotton will grind most of these people to a bloody pulp. The ones not destined for the plantation are likely destined for the brothel.

No one rescues them. A couple of local traders come out to talk to Franklin. He doesn’t even bother to get off his horse. He’s not as imposing as you might expect such a man to be. In portraits from the period, his black hair is fine and perpetually messy. He frowns instead of smiles and his eyes are dark with some secret disappointment.

One of the traders gestures to the middle of the coffle. The dark corners of history leave us to imagine their conversation. “I’ll give you $350 for the tall one over there,” he says.

“Gentlemen,” Franklin snorts, “that’s a buying price, not a selling price.” The man will bring eight to nine hundred dollars in Mississippi.

Franklin’s victims pass briefly among the villagers and then disappear down the Natchez Trace

…Perhaps most chilling, though, is the idle chit-chat about the young women they raped and sold for sex, the “maids” and “fancy girls” — code words for light-skinned slave women. Every “your” in that phrasing — “your girl Minerva,” “your fancy girl Allice,” “your Charlottesville maid” — indicates that Isaac is teasing Ballard about his fondness for “fancy maids.” Not that Franklin saw anything wrong with that. Indeed, his disappointment at not finding the Charlottesville maid in the most recent shipment of slaves seems an admission he was hoping to get his turn.

Later letters between the two men and another nephew, James Franklin, make clear that the Charlottesville maid, a woman named Martha, was eventually raped by all three of them. This practice — not just of raping one’s slaves, but of openly bragging and joking about raping them — was so widespread that in his essay “‘Cuffy,’ ‘Fancy Maids,’ and ‘One-Eyed Men’: Rape Commodification, and the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States,” Edward E. Baptist maintains that “coerced sex was the secret meaning of the commerce in human beings.” In other words, this wasn’t some moral failing of a few rotten men. This was an important privilege of slave ownership.

Franklin and Armfield were making a lot of money specifically from selling women to men so that the men could rape them. White men were especially eager to pay for young, light-skinned women. Ethan Andrews wrote of the practice, “[M]ulattoes are not so much valued for field-hands, they are purchased for domestics, and the females to be sold for prostitutes…no objection seems to be felt to keeping in one’s house female slaves, who have been guilty of crimes for which a white female would forfeit her life.”

As Franklin noted in his letter, he was getting $800 to $900 for the kind of slave usually considered the most expensive — a strong male field hand — and the same for unskilled “fancy maids.” He thought a “fancy maid” who could also sew would bring more than that: $1,000. The letters the traders sent each other are peppered with references to “the fancy white maid” and “the fair maid” and “our white Caroline.” But Isaac’s letter hints at the cost of this abuse to the women. He couldn’t sell Minerva because she had become “a caution,” an old term for a woman who is too difficult to deal with.

What became of Minerva isn’t clear from the letter. A slave suitable for sex work must be somewhat compliant. If Isaac couldn’t break her will, likely she would have been be sold as a field hand. That Minerva hadn’t already been sold as such is surprising, unless Franklin was keeping her for his own pleasure. The traders had their favorite fancies, which they alternately shared with each other and held back for their own use…

Read the entire article here.

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“A Chosen Exile” by History Professor Allyson Hobbs, has won two prizes from the Organization of American Historians

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-04-28 01:54Z by Steven

“A Chosen Exile” by History Professor Allyson Hobbs, has won two prizes from the Organization of American Historians

Stanford University Department of History
Palo Alto, California

2015-04-20

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life” by History Professor Allyson Hobbs has won two prizes from the Organization of American Historians: the Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best first book in American history and the Lawrence Levine Award for best book in American cultural history.

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On Slave Ownership, Privilege and One Drop

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-04-25 23:09Z by Steven

On Slave Ownership, Privilege and One Drop

One Drop of Love: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father’s Racial Approval
2015-04-21

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Writer, Performer and co-Producer

For just a little over two years I have traveled across the United States performing the one-woman show I wrote and produce, One Drop of Love. One Drop is about history and family, race, class, gender, privilege. One of the central themes – which I express decisively in the closing monologue – is the importance of having the courage to confront painful pasts in order to heal, and to help make real change in the present.

One of the reasons I’m invited to perform across the country – besides that One Drop resonates with a large cross-section of people – is that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are also producers. I met both when we were young (Matt in elementary school and Ben in high school), and we became fast friends because we shared a strong interest in theater. We spent many hours after school and on summer vacations in rehearsals and performing together. They have supported me – and many people from our community and others – in pursuing dreams, and sharing our interests and skills with others.

My heart sank when I learned of the leaked Sony e-mail revealing Ben’s actions upon learning of his family’s history of slave ownership…

Read the entire article here.

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