White Savior, Rape and Romance?

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-28 01:41Z by Steven

White Savior, Rape and Romance?

The New York Times
2016-06-27

Charles M. Blow

The movie “Free State of Jones” certainly doesn’t lack in ambition — it sprawls so that it feels like several films stitched together — but I still found it woefully lacking.

The story itself is quite interesting. It’s about Newton Knight, a white man in Mississippi during and after the Civil War, who organizes and mounts a somewhat successful rebellion against the Confederacy. He falls in love with a mixed-race slave named Rachel, and they establish a small community of racially ambiguous relatives that a book of the same title calls “white Negroes.”

It is easy to see why this story would appeal to Hollywood executives. It has a bit of everything, with eerie echoes of modern issues.

It comes in the wake of “12 Years a Slave,” at a time when slave narratives are en vogue, only this story emphasizes white heroism and centers on the ally instead of the enslaved.

It tries desperately to cast the Civil War, and specifically dissent within the Confederacy, as more a populism-versus-elitism class struggle in which poor white men were forced to fight a rich white man’s war and protect the cotton trade, rather than equally a conflict about the moral abhorrence of black slavery.

Throughout, there is the white liberal insistence that race is merely a subordinate construction of class, with Newt himself saying at the burial of poor white characters, “somehow, some way, sometime, everybody is just somebody else’s nigger.”

And, by extension, there is the lingering suggestion of post-racialism because, as the author Victoria E. Bynum writes in the book’s preface, the relationship between Newt and Rachel “added the specter of interracial intimacy to the story.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Free State of Jones: The Incredible True Story of Newton Knight and His Private Rebellion Against the Confederacy

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-26 23:35Z by Steven

Free State of Jones: The Incredible True Story of Newton Knight and His Private Rebellion Against the Confederacy

People Magazine
2016-06-24

Michael Miller

Free State of Jones brings to life one of the Civil War’s most extraordinary and counterintuitive episodes, in which a Confederate deserter overthrew his former commanders and established a free “state” in his native corner of southeast Mississippi.

Newton Knight, played by a ragged, yellow-toothed Matthew McConaughey, was a poor farmer who, incensed by a new law that allowed landowners to swap 20 slaves for their military service, abandoned his company to lead his own rebellion.

“He looked around at all of his yeoman farmer buddies and said, ‘Do you own any slaves?’ They were like, ‘No.’ He goes, ‘Me neither. I’m not fighting this war. It’s a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. I’m out of here,’ ” McConaughey tells PEOPLE of his character…

Read the entire article here.

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Matthew McConaughey Can’t Stop Being a Badass White Savior in The Free State of Jones

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-26 17:48Z by Steven

Matthew McConaughey Can’t Stop Being a Badass White Savior in The Free State of Jones

The Stranger
2016-06-22

Ijeoma Oluo


Watch the magical negroes heal Matthew McConaughey from his wounds that he received while badassing his way into exile.

Ever since the end of the first season of True Detective I’ve really been wanting more Matthew McConaughey in my life. That charming half-smile. That creepy, hyper-intense stare. That unmistakable yet unplaceable southern drawl. I don’t care if it’s laid-back, bongo drumming alright-alright-alright McConaughey, or if it’s riddle-speaking, indecipherable, slightly creepy, brooding McConaughey. I need more Matthew McConaughey.

You know what else I need? Black pain and suffering. I need another movie focused on the brutalization of black bodies filtered through a Hollywood lens. I need the only faces on the screen that look like mine to be crying, screaming, or slack from the noose.

It used to be that I’d have to separate these much-needed experiences of McConaughey and black pain. Dazed and Confused on Monday, The Help on Tuesday. Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past on Wednesday, 12 Years a Slave on Thursday.

But what if you could have it all? What if you could have slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, black pain, black murder, black suffering – and more Matthew McConaughey than you ever thought imaginable?

Dreams can come true. And they have come true in this 139 minute masterpiece of McConaughey-ness: The Free State of Jones

Read the entire review here.

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Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-24 14:57Z by Steven

Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

The New York Times
2016-06-23

A. O. Scott, Film Critic


Matthew McConaughey, left, and Jacob Lofland in “Free State of Jones.” Credit Murray Close/STX Entertainment

Free State of Jones” begins on the battlefield, with a flurry of the kind of immersive combat action that has long been a staple of American movies. The setting is familiar in other ways, too. As a line of Confederate troops marches across a field into Union rifle and artillery fire, a haze of myth starts to gather over the action, a mist of sentiment about the tragedy of the Civil War and the symmetrical valor of the soldiers on both sides of it. But this is a sly piece of misdirection: The rest of the movie will be devoted to blowing that fog away, using the tools of Hollywood spectacle to restore a measure of clarity to our understanding of the war and its aftermath.

Directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”) with blunt authority and unusual respect for historical truth, “Free State of Jones” explores a neglected and fascinating chapter in American history. Mr. Ross consulted some of the leading experts in the era — including Eric Foner of Columbia University, whose “Reconstruction” is the definitive study, and Martha Hodes of New York University, author of a prizewinning study of interracial sexuality in the 19th-century South — and has done a good job of balancing the factual record with the demands of dramatic storytelling. The result is a riveting visual history lesson, whose occasional didacticism is integral to its power.

The hero of this tale is Newton Knight, a poor farmer from Jones County, Miss., who led a guerrilla army of white deserters and escaped slaves against the Confederacy during the war. Afterward, he tried to hold this coalition together as a political force in the face of Ku Klux Klan terror. As played by Matthew McConaughey, Newton is an ordinary man radicalized by circumstances. His hollow cheeks and wild whiskers suggest a zealous temperament, but the kindness in his eyes conveys the decency and compassion that lie at the heart of his moral commitment…

…“Free State of Jones” is careful not to suggest that the conditions endured by disenfranchised white and enslaved black Mississippians were identical. The system may be rigged against both, but in different ways. Especially after the war, the alliance proves fragile, as white supremacy reasserts itself with renewed brutality. Its persistence is emphasized by a subplot that takes place 85 years after the war in a Mississippi courtroom, where Davis Knight (Brian Lee Franklin), a descendant of Newton’s, is on trial for breaking the state’s law against interracial marriage…

Read the entire review here.

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Blacks & Jews Entangled

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2016-06-24 00:35Z by Steven

Blacks & Jews Entangled

The New York Review of Books
2016-07-14

Darryl Pinckney

Oreo by Fran Ross, with a foreword by Danzy Senna and an afterword by Harryette Mullen, New Directions, 230 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Google wasn’t around when Oreo was first published in 1974. You are hit with Greek mythology and Yiddish right away and just the look of the pages of Fran Ross’s novel about an Afro-Jewish girl’s quest to find her white father can discourage or intimidate. Oreo, by an African-American writer who died in 1985, promises a degree of difficulty; the chapter titles, paragraph titles (“Helen and Oreo shmooz”), different font sizes, a graph showing shades of blackness, letters, an elaborate five-page menu of a daughter’s homecoming meal, footnotes, and mathematical equations say this is no naturalistic tale of two ghettoes. The protagonist is called “Oreo” not because of the cookie—i.e., because she is mixed-race or reluctantly black, as in black on the outside but white on the inside. Her black grandmother had been trying to give Oreo the nickname “Oriole,” but couldn’t make herself understood to the family.

In addition to Greek myth and Yiddish, Ross makes use of black slang, popular culture of the time, puns, raunch, her own made-up words—but this is not vernacular, not jive. Ross’s voice is literary, and thrilled with itself, joking about Villon or Bellow, totally into what it takes to get up to outrageous parody. Nothing about the narrative is restful; you have to stay on the alert. Oreo is quick, obscure, sly, and every line is working hard, doing its bit. Ross makes Oreo relentless in her shtick. “Oreo was soon engrossed in ‘Burp: The Course of Smiling Among Groups of Israeli Infants in the First Eighteen Months of Life,’ the cover story in Pitfalls of Gynecology.”

In fractured, short chapters, Oreo decides arbitrarily that she has fulfilled a given task and therefore deserves another cryptic clue from her father. Ross gives us not a send-up of Theseus’s journey of labors, but her appropriation of his battles as her structure, her frame for her provocative urban picaresque…

Read the review here.

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On The Free State Of Jones

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-20 22:47Z by Steven

On The Free State Of Jones

The Huffington Post
2016-06-20

Steven Hahn, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of History
University of Pennsylvania

Three quarters of a century ago, “Gone with the Wind,” a film that mythologized an Old South of wealthy planters and obedient slaves, premiered in Atlanta amidst great fanfare and public interest. This week, a very different sort of film about the South of the Civil War and Reconstruction era – “Free State of Jones” — will have its premiere, and as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the War and Reconstruction and struggle through our own time of social and racial divisiveness, the public would do very well to take the film’s measure.

That is because “Free State of Jones,” challenges our many misconceptions of the Civil War and Reconstruction and can promote a dialogue about what may have been possible more than a century ago – and what is very much possible in our own day. “Free State of Jones” is based on a true story of interracial resistance to the Confederacy in Civil War Mississippi. It is the story of how a white farmer from humble origins named Newton Knight came to see how the Confederacy favored the rich planters at the expense of men and women like himself and chose to organize a rebellion aimed at establishing a terrain of freedom, a “free state,” in the county of Jones

…But Newton Knight eventually went further still. The strongest resistance to the Confederacy came, not from poor white folk, but from those who were destined to be its main victims: the slaves. In Mississippi and elsewhere in the Confederate South, they took the opportunity of the War to flee their plantations and farms, head to Union lines, or form maroons in swamps and remote woodlands, denying slaveholders the labor and submission that had been expected. During his own battles with the Confederacy in rural Jones County, Knight forged alliances with African Americans, most specifically a slave named Rachel with whom he developed an intimate relationship and eventually raised a family…

Read the entire article here.

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The Myth of Race: The Troubling and Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2016-06-14 20:00Z by Steven

The Myth of Race: The Troubling and Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 49, Number 3, Spring 2016
pages 740-741

Robert J. Cottrol, Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law and Professor of History and Sociology
George Washington University

The Myth of Race: The Troubling and Persistence of an Unscientific Idea. By Robert Wald Sussman (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. 374 pp. $35.00).

With The Myth of Race, Robert Sussman gives us a comprehensive history of the idea of race and particularly the rise and not total fall of scientific racism Drawing on the intellectual history of his own discipline, physical anthropology, Sussman takes the reader on a journey from the role of race in the religious persecutions of the fifteenth century Spanish inquisition to an examination of the development of the eugenics movement, that movement’s link to Nazi ideology and practice, and the role of Franz Boaz and his disciples in combating scientific racism and establishing the dominance of culturally based explanations for racial and ethnic differences. The Myth of Race takes us to our uneasy present. The scientific racists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been vanquished in the minds of the scientific communities and educated public more generally, but there are still holdouts, in some places influential holdouts, asserting the validity of earlier views positing that racial differences are real, inherited and largely immutable.

The introduction provides something of a primer on race from the point of view of physical anthropology for the uninitiated. From the biological perspective, Sussman informs us, even using the term race to discuss the variations in the human species is suspect. But Sussman’s purpose is not to provide a thumbnail sketch of the biology of race, but to explore race as an intellectual construct along with a history of its uses and misuses. Race’s development as a concept was prompted by large scale European contact with new and different peoples in Africa and the Americas, a by-product of European expansion. The Church, however imperfectly, stressed the unity of humanity, the product of a single act of creation. But others, repelled by difference, or attracted by the possibility that those who were different and more vulnerable could be readily exploited, fashioned explanations to both account for differences and to insure the dominance of Europeans. Some theories accounted for difference by attributing human variation to separate creations with Africans and the indigenous populations of the Western Hemisphere being something other and something less than children of the Biblical Adam and Eve. Others were willing to stipulate to the unity of human origins, but nonetheless asserted that those strange people who were not white, not European and not Christian were the products of a degeneration that also highlighted their inferiority and the need for them to be brought under the control of their betters. Sussman is particularly strong in presenting this history and in reminding readers that moral and political philosophers like Locke and Kant more generally thought of as advocates of political liberty and just governance played a significant role in implanting notions of racial hierarchy in European thought.

But it is in his discussion of the origins and career of eugenics as a concept where Sussman makes his strongest contribution. Sussman links the origins of eugenics to concepts of scarcity and need first articulated by Malthus. These concepts when coupled with the extension of Darwinian thought beyond basic biology would provide a basis for a school of human science that reached its logical conclusions with Nazi racial science. The Myth of Race provides a chilling look at the popularity and power of the American eugenics movement. Sussman’s discussion of the influence that American eugenicist Madison Grant’s Passing of the Great Race had on Nazi racial policies is particularly instructive.

We all, to some extent, know how the story comes out, at least to date. In the inter-war years, anthropologist Franz Boaz through his meticulous research and the influence of his disciples helped defeat the scientific racists who dominated the debate before the First World War. Boaz’s research played a pivotal role in persuading educated people that culture and not biology accounted for group differences. The horrors of the Nazi holocaust played a significant role in discrediting scientific and not so scientific racism among the public at large after the Second World War

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Great Lakes Creoles A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750-1860 by Lucy Eldersveld Murphy (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2016-06-08 22:55Z by Steven

Great Lakes Creoles A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750-1860 by Lucy Eldersveld Murphy (review)

Ohio Valley History
Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2016
pages 81-83

Margo Lambert, Assistant Professor of History
Blue Ash College, University of Cinicinnati

Lucy Eldersveld Murphy. Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750-1860. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 326 pp. 25 b/w illus. 6 maps. 7 tables. ISBN: 9781107052864 (cloth), $94.99; 9781107674745 (paper), $34.99

Lucy Murphy adroitly focuses her lens on the complex tale of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, a community peopled by Native Americans, French-Canadian fur traders, British soldiers, and eventually Americans (and even a few African Americans) after the American Revolution. Europeans first entered the native world slowly, inter-marrying and establishing a multi-ethnic Creole community only to face further change when Anglo-Americans took control and eventually became the community’s majority. For Native American historians (and others) looking for a deeper glimpse into this world, Murphy’s probing analysis of the mixed multitudes of one small fur-trading community delivers. And, if that were not enough, Murphy adds another layer to her study: she compares this borderland to that of the American Southwest after the Mexican-American War—where the community’s pioneers became the political minority—and to that of the Métis culture that developed on the western Canadian border in the late nineteenth-century—there probing why that culture developed a clear indigenous ancestry, whereas south of the border in the Great Lakes area a similar culture never arose.

Murphy begins in the 1750s, tracing the community’s transition from Native American Meskwaki village to fur-trade enclave. By the early nineteenth-century the Meskwakis had relocated, although some remained behind, having intertwined their lives with European-descended fur traders and borne them children. With the establishment of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the final showdown of the War of 1812, the United States government began to assert its control of the town. Government officials courted the Creole community they found there, recognizing Creole support would only aid United States’ control, legitimizing America’s domination and opening of the West to Anglo-American settlers. The most vital point, Murphy argues here, was that this courtship prompted the United States government to identify the Creole community as white.

Next, Murphy assesses the shifting political structure as Prairie du Chien came under United States’ control. Because of the region’s multi-ethnicity, U.S. officials—as a minority—had to tread carefully, identifying Creoles as white, evidenced by their voting and serving on juries. Native Americans were deliberately left out of this process, but even Creoles with Metis status and Metis wives still fell into the white political categorization. Murphy shows that Creoles exerted much agency politically in the early days, defending themselves against what they deemed inappropriate newcomer behaviors that did not mesh with their established ways. As American control solidified and relegated Creoles to minority status, the town’s Creoles managed to hold some strength within the new legal system, despite their mixed-race realities. However, the rising Anglo tide reduced Creole influence considerably by the 1830s. But Creoles’ “white status” labelled them to identify culturally rather than racially: as French, rather than Métis. Here was why most mixed Native American groups south of the border diverged from their northwestern neighbors in Canada.

Perhaps one of Murphy’s most striking contributions to Native American studies is her work on gender. The chapter “Public Mothers” describes a different gender world denied to Anglo women but open to the town’s Creoles. Many of the town’s Creole women managed to position themselves as cultural mediators, explaining Creole and Native ways to incoming Euro-Americans, especially via marriage, adoption, and traditional gender roles in areas of charity, hospitality, midwifery, and the like. Whereas Creole men were increasingly denied a political voice as American numbers rose, Creole women managed to meet on a middle ground with American women. They served as public mothers, Murphy asserts, mediating between the various ethnic groups and succeeding in connecting Creoles, Native Americans, African Americans, and Euro-Americans by shared women’s activities that aided both private and public spheres, the latter sought by traditional “female” activities noted above. Their mediation, Murphy argues, further solidified Creoles as “whites” in the…

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Filling in Gaps in the Historical Record: Accuracy, Authenticity, and Closure in Ann Rinaldi’s Wolf by the Ears

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-06-08 00:51Z by Steven

Filling in Gaps in the Historical Record: Accuracy, Authenticity, and Closure in Ann Rinaldi’s Wolf by the Ears

Children’s Literature
Volume 44, 2016
pages 21-60
DOI: 10.1353/chl.2016.0018

Brian Dillon, Professor of English
Montana State University-Billings

Ann Rinaldi, Wolf by the Ears, (New York: Scholastic, 1993).

This novel, narrated by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings’ daughter, includes four historical inaccuracies: they contribute to a pitiful view of the slave-owning president. Determining authenticity requires a more subjective interpretive response: the depiction of Harriet Hemings’ life at Monticello and her decision to leave and pass for white does achieve a convincing degree of authenticity.

Read or purchase the review here.

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Book Review: Mixed-race youth and schooling: the fifth minority

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Teaching Resources, United States on 2016-06-04 01:12Z by Steven

Book Review: Mixed-race youth and schooling: the fifth minority

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Published online: 2016-06-01
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2016.1190852

Remi Joseph-Salisbury
University of Leeds

Mixed-race youth and schooling: the fifth minority, by Sandra Winn Tutwiler, Abingdon, Routledge, 2016, xv + 241 pp., £29.95 (paperback), ISBN-13 978-1138021938

Mixed-race youth and schooling offers a welcome contribution to a sparse area of academic inquiry. Making the case that as a group mixed-race individuals are constitutive of the ‘fifth minority’ in the United States, the book is interested in the schooling of children of ’minority/non-minority’ and ‘minority/minority’ parents.

With a primary target audience of school teachers and educationalists, the book of nine chapters is divided into three sections. Section one considers how race constitutes a determinant factor in lived experiences in the United States, and how this implicates mixed-race individuals particularly. In section two, Winn Tutwiler turns to look at how mixed-race children interact with their families, peers, communities and schools and how these interactions impact upon schooling experiences. The third and final section of the book focuses on how mixedness is constructed in the school, and by teachers. This section concludes by outlining how schooling environments can be supportive of mixed-race students.

Chapter one looks at the emergence and permanence of race, white supremacy, and the racial stratification of society. The chapter refutes notions that race is reducible to class before beginning to probe how mixedness impacts upon race discourse and stratification.

Building on this, the second chapter considers how, historically, white supremacist power structures have responded to the potential challenges mixed-race people present to ’societies wanting uncomplicated divisions by race’ (28). This chapter considers different responses to mixedness and explores interesting distinctions between different mixed-race groups. Winn Tutwiler shows that white America has a deep-rooted and abiding moral aversion to racial mixing and historically this engendered a proliferation of anti-miscegenation laws and morals.

In Chapter three, Winn Tutwiler seeks to provide a knowledge base for educators on the processes of racial identity formation for mixed-race youth. This endeavour, Win Tutwiler explains, is essential to countering teachers’ ideas that may be based upon stereotypes and misinformation. Emphasizing the importance for the ‘social, emotional and academic well—being’ of mixed-race youth, this chapter gives an overview of some of the (predominantly) psychological literature on racial identity (57). Winn Tutwiler unpicks what she sees as some often fundamental inadequacies in the application of theories developed for monoracial identities to mixed-race children. Although perhaps understandable due to the predominance in existing literature, this chapter seems to focus heavily on Black-white mixed-race identity and thus it is unclear how widely applicable some of the cited research is to other mixed-race groups.

As the focus shifts slightly to look at how these identities are constituted and lived, chapter four considers the role of the family in the lives of mixed-race…

Read or purchase the review here.

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