Latina heroine or black radical? The complicated story of Lucy Parsons.

Posted in Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-02-20 00:16Z by Steven

Latina heroine or black radical? The complicated story of Lucy Parsons.

The Washington Post
2018-01-12

Tera W. Hunter, Professor of History and African American Studies
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Lucy Parsons occupies an unusual position in American history: a prominent woman noted as much for her acts of brilliance and bravery as for her evasiveness and contradictions.

Parsons spent most of her life in Chicago, where a park named in her honor calls her the first “Chicana socialist labor organizer.” Born circa 1853, Parsons said she was of Mexican and Indian descent and from Texas — an Aztec genealogy dating before Columbus. Elsewhere she’s been recognized as “the first Black woman to play a prominent role in the American Left.”

These differing narratives are indicative of a life that defies easy categorization and has challenged assessments of Parsons’s legacy…

…With “Goddess of Anarchy,” prize-winning historian Jacqueline Jones has written the first critical, comprehensive biography of Parsons that seeks to peel back the layers of her complex life. Jones amassed an incredible body of records — local, state and federal government documents; prolific newspapers; organizational and personal correspondence; and Lucy and husband Albert Parsons’s extant writings. Through these documents Jones uncovered evidence that Parsons was not of Mexican or Indian ancestry. Her research shows, too, that Parsons was not, as many have thought, born Lucia Eldine Gonzalez but as Lucia Carter in Virginia in 1851. Her mother was black, and her father was white (and probably her slave owner). Her family moved to Waco, Tex., during the Civil War, where Lucia worked as a cook and seamstress in the homes of white families. As a teenager, she married an older, formerly enslaved man, Oliver Benton, a.k.a. Oliver Gathings, and had a child who died as an infant…

Read the entire review here.

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Passing and Being Passed Over in the United States

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-01-30 01:27Z by Steven

Passing and Being Passed Over in the United States

Los Angeles Review of Books
2017-12-15

Kavita Das

We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America
By Brando Skyhorse, Lisa Page
Published 10.10.2017
Beacon Press
216 Pages

IN THE YEARS preceding the 2016 presidential election, the “birther” movement that had dogged Barack Obama during his initial run for president raised its ugly head once again, revived by Donald Trump, a bombastic businessman/reality-show celebrity, and one of Obama’s most outspoken critics. Using the platform afforded to him as a rich and powerful white man, Trump made claims that Obama was not an American citizen, calling for him to prove otherwise by producing his birth certificate. This claim was made — and repeated often — despite the abundance of unassailable proof to the contrary.

Trump — and the rest of the “birther” movement — essentially accused President Obama of passing as an American citizen. According to Brando Skyhorse, co-editor of the new anthology We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America, passing is the “knowing decision about hiding or omitting one’s background to obtain acceptance into a community.” Skyhorse knows whereof he speaks since he acknowledges engaging in the practice himself. The phenomenon of passing is neither new nor unique to the United States. Age-old fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid” depict young women who pass as something other than their true selves in order to meet their Prince Charmings. Despite our country’s founding documents declaring that “all men are created equal,” endowed with rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” entrenched inequalities and stigmas associated with race, class, and sexuality have helped contribute to a long history of passing in the United States: African Americans and other people of color passing as white, poor people passing as affluent, LGBTQ individuals passing as straight…

Read the entire review here.

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Jefferson’s Three Daughters — Two Free, One Enslaved

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2018-01-29 20:24Z by Steven

Jefferson’s Three Daughters — Two Free, One Enslaved

Book Review
The New York Times
2018-01-26

Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History History
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

JEFFERSON’S DAUGHTERS
Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America
By Catherine Kerrison
Illustrated. 425 pp. Ballantine Books. $28.


Martha Jefferson Randolph
Credit Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Fawn Brodie would be astonished — and gratified. In 1974, her biography “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History” contended that the third president had fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings. For this, Catherine Kerrison, a professor of American history at Villanova University, accurately notes, Brodie was “excoriated by a cadre of Jefferson experts.” A lot has changed, and largely because of the work of Annette Gordon-Reed, who took seriously Hemings family stories and, bolstered by a DNA study, convinced nearly all scholars, including Kerrison, that Brodie was correct. “Jefferson’s Daughters,” Kerrison’s beautifully written book, takes the relationship’s existence as a given.

And so, to a nuanced study of Jefferson’s two white daughters, Martha (born 1772) and Maria (born 1778), she innovatively adds a discussion of his only enslaved daughter, Harriet Hemings (born 1801). The result is a stunning if unavoidably imbalanced book, combining detailed treatments of Martha’s and Maria’s experiences with imaginative attempts to reconstruct Harriet’s life…

Read the entire review here.

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A Long Way from Home review – Peter Carey’s best novel in decades

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Oceania, Passing on 2018-01-25 04:32Z by Steven

A Long Way from Home review – Peter Carey’s best novel in decades

The Guardian
2018-01-15

Alex Preston

The acclaimed writer’s 14th novel is a nuanced story of racial identity set in postwar Australia

Writers are by nature chameleons, with each new character a new disguise to take on, a fresh skin to inhabit. It shouldn’t surprise, then, that racial passing has such a rich literary history. Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, Passing, is a near-forgotten classic, telling of two mixed-race women, Clare and Irene, who identify as white and black respectively. More recently, we’ve had Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, in which the African American Coleman Silk attempts to pass for a Jewish academic. Then there’s Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, whose concluding revelation about one of the characters’ racial identities does what all good end-of-book twists ought to, shedding new light on the entire novel.

A Long Way from Home, Peter Carey’s 14th novel, uses the story of a light-skinned Indigenous Australian who has been brought up white to address the country’s brutal history of racism. It seems strange at first that Carey – surely Australia’s greatest living novelist, even if he hasn’t dwelled there for decades – has taken so long to get around to the subject. In a recent interview in the Australian, he said that he’d always felt that it was not the place of a white writer to tell this tale. Then something changed: “You can’t be a white Australian writer and spend your whole life ignoring the greatest, most important aspect of our history, and that is that we – I – have been the beneficiaries of a genocide.”…

Read the entire review here.

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The Ineradicable Color-Line: Danzy Senna’s “New People”

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-01-23 03:57Z by Steven

The Ineradicable Color-Line: Danzy Senna’s “New People”

Los Angeles Review of Books
2017-08-01

Gabrielle Bellot, Staff Writer
Literary Hub

Danzy Senna, New People, A Novel (New York: Riverhead, 2017)

IN LONDON IN JULY, at the dawn of a new century, W. E. B. Du Bois spoke in front the Pan-African Conference about the challenges of the era to come. “[T]he problem of the Twentieth Century,” he said, in a statement that would later appear in and come to define his epochal collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, “is the problem of the color-line.” The idea of describing American antiblack racial segregation by the simple, if not even deceptively charming, term color-line, had appeared two decades earlier in the title of Frederick Douglass’s 1881 essay, “The Color Line,” but it would come to be associated particularly with The Souls of Black Folk. So seductive was the phrase for Du Bois that he used it two more times to bookend an essay in the book, “Of the Dawn of Freedom,” but it was, of course, more than a memorable line. The color-line was as explicit as it was psychic, delineated in signs, denials, and public executions as much as it was in one’s choice of path, one’s footfalls, one’s bones and dreams. Racism is merely obvious when it becomes visible; its potential existence follows us, invisibly and phantasmally, when we’ve come to expect it…

The problem of the 21st century in the United States is still the color-line, a line that extends back into prior centuries. This is the age of identity — as all ages have been, really, but the very notions of what it means to have an identity or to be something are now, more than ever, at the fore. But even as we have blurred racial lines in ways scarcely imaginable when The Souls of Black Folk appeared in 1903, we still have our clear-cut demarcations. And in many ways, lines of color, alongside the complexities of what it means to pass as one thing or another, may be what best defines Danzy Senna’s epochal — in its most literal sense — new novel, New People. Du Bois is not an explicit presence in the novel, yet his thematic and political concerns — updated, as it were, for this new era — haunt New People. These themes of passing and racial demarcations informed Senna’s first novel, Caucasia, as well. New People also explores an idea common in Percival Everett’s fiction — the two, incidentally, are married — of reclaiming and repackaging racial stereotypes as a person of color…

Read the entire review here.

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Imitation of Life

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-12-26 23:30Z by Steven

Imitation of Life

Charisse L’Pree, Ph.D.: The Media Made Me Crazy
2005-04-20

Charisse L’Pree, Assistant Professor of Communications
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

Written during the dismal conditions of the Great Depression, Fannie Hurst’s novel, Imitation of Life, was adapted to film in 1934 and 1959. It tells the story of two widowed mothers, one white and one black, raising their daughters amidst a climate of capitalism and racism. Despite the drastic changes in the movie industry and culture, both versions met great success. Using the conventions of female melodrama, the story foregrounds the dilemmas of motherhood while commenting on capitalism, racism and image. In this paper, I will address how this story manages to transcend a generation and how the narrative was changed to accommodate a postwar audience. I will also discuss how the movie industry affected the production and marketing of Imitation of Life at the cusp of the tumultuous 1960s.

Released in 1932, Hurst tells the story of Bea Pullman, a young widow looking to sell her deceased husband’s excess of maple syrup and take care of her daughter, Jessie. She hires Delilah Johnson as a sleep-in housemaid who brings her remarkably light skinned daughter, Peola, to complete the family. After eating Delilah’s pancakes, Bea decides to go into business selling pancakes on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. The story then follows as the business becomes successful, Bea falls in love with Steve and the daughters begin to grow up and begin to develop their own lives. Hurst was a close friend of acclaimed author Zora Neale Hurston and Hurst’s descriptions of the black American experience are remarkably detailed and fitting for the time…

…The year before America’s famed sixties, Imitation of Life was released in theaters. Sirk’s story was different from Hurst’s or Stahl’s. Bea Pullman was renamed Lora Meredith, an aspiring actress struggling in New York City with her daughter, Susie. On the beach, they meet Annie Johnson and her daughter, Sarah Jane, who are currently between residences. In a moment of heartfelt sympathy, Lora invites the Johnsons to spend the night at her small apartment. The next morning, Annie tends to the housework while Lora sleeps in, securing the new family dynamic. With Annie’s domestic assistance, Lora becomes a famous Broadway actress. Meanwhile, Annie tries to raise her light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane, who desperately wants to be white. This version travels deeper into the issues of Sarah Jane’s internalized oppression; it takes the audience to the seedy nightclubs where she works after running away from home and inserts a scene where her white boyfriend beats her in an alley after learning that she is black. True to form, Imitation of Life (1959) still addresses issues of motherhood, capitalism and racism but does so through the eyes of an acclaimed, German-born, melodramatic director…

Read the entire review here.

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Review: To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-12-26 03:11Z by Steven

Review: To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus

Estruch Notebook: Website of Sarala Estruch, Writer and Poet
2017-11-02

Sarala Estruch
London, England

To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus
Published by Outspoken Press, London, 2017
49pp. £8.

To Sweeten Bitter, Raymond Antrobus’ third pamphlet, is a deeply moving and important collection. Within these twenty-one poems, Antrobus deftly interweaves personal grief and the individual struggle to reclaim a sense of identity after his father’s death with postcolonial grief and the continued struggle for a sense of identity among persons of dual heritage living in a postcolonial world.

‘In the Supermarket’ describes the poet attempting to reclaim his deceased father by purchasing ‘everything [he] used to see in his house’. In this poem, inanimate objects are deployed to simultaneously conjure up the character of the deceased father, the character of the bereaved son, and the nature of grief itself.

I would be holding
on too hard
to my humming father
who is wind and mirror
and West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce

Read the entire review here.

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White House photographer’s book a powerful portrait of Obama’s presidency

Posted in Articles, Arts, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-12-26 02:02Z by Steven

White House photographer’s book a powerful portrait of Obama’s presidency

The New Orleans Times-Picayune
2017-12-24

Sheila Stroup, The Times-Picayune


When 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia wonders if his hair is like Barack Obama’s, the president offers him an opportunity to judge for himself. (Photo by Pete Souza, The White House)

I didn’t mean to read “Obama: An Intimate Portrait.” I was only going to look at a few of the pictures before I wrapped it up for Christmas. I’ve always felt it was cheating to read a book you’re giving as a gift.

I knew I wanted to give the book of photographs to our daughter Shannon and our grandchildren, Cilie and Devery, as soon as I heard Terry Gross interview Pete Souza, President Barack Obama’s Chief Official White House Photographer, on NPR’sFresh Air.” It sounded fascinating, and I wanted them to see that a person with skin the color of theirs could be president of our country.

Shannon adopted Cilie and Devery when they were babies. There was never any doubt they were hers, and nobody could love them more than she does.

Cilie is 8 now, and Devery is almost 6, and I know they must have questions about why their skin is a different color from their mom’s and their grandparents and their other relatives. I know they must get questions from other children.

I’ve never forgotten what happened one day when I took Devery to his swimming lesson a few years ago. There was a young dad there whose skin was the same beautiful tone as his, and he looked at Devery and said, “Oh, he’s going to get questions.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile : A History of Racial Passing in American Life

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-12-23 03:56Z by Steven

Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile : A History of Racial Passing in American Life

Transatlantica
2 | 2016 : Ordinary Chronicles of the End of the World

Lawrence Aje
Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Montpellier, Béziers, France

Hobbs, Allyson, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2014, 382 pp. , € 27.00, ISBN 9780674368101

The last two decades have seen a considerable increase of publications on the issue of racial passing in the United States. Some studies have examined racial passing through personal or family stories (O’Toole ; Sharfstein ; Williams). Others have sought to adopt a quantitative and synchronic approach to the phenomenon (Nix & Qian ; Mill & Stein) or to analyze how cases of racial passing were litigated in courts (Kennedy ; Gross). A number of edited volumes have recently focused on the cinematic and literary representations of racial passing in American popular culture, whereas some studies have been keen on expanding the notion by examining instances of ethnic or gender passing (Dawkins ; Gayle ; Ginsberg ; Wald ; Nerad).

Yet, in this flurry of publications, Allyson Hobbs’s A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, is a valuable contribution that distinguishes itself as the first full-length historical monograph to comprehensively tackle and complicate this sensitive and emotionally charged topic. This ambitious study is a revised version of Hobbs’s 2009 dissertation in history which she defended at the University of Chicago.

A Chosen Exile historicizes the practice of racial passing in the United States, by outlining, from the period of slavery to the early 1970s, how fair-skinned Blacks, whom the author designates as “racially ambiguous individuals”, managed to navigate the troubled waters of race undetected. In keeping with the findings of her predecessors, Hobbs confirms that the main reason that motivated racial passing was social advancement. Hobbs however differentiates herself from other scholars who have, according to her, paid far more attention to the benefits derived from passing as White instead of focusing on what she deems is a more fundamental and hitherto neglected aspect of the practice, namely, that by leaving their colored relatives or friends behind, passing translated into a loss of intra-racial sociability and, to some extent, the loss of one’s self. A Chosen Exile is underpinned by two intertwined objectives : a historical examination of the personal motivations behind racial passing and a simultaneous assessment of the consequences of rejecting one’s “black racial identity” (11) ­— an act Hobbs qualifies as being tantamount to a racial exile.

Hobbs dismisses our commonly held assumptions about a lack of archival evidence that would limit our understanding of the phenomenon of racial passing. She manages to piece together a general history of racial passing in the United States by relying on a set of disparate primary and secondary sources such as private letters, family histories, newspaper advertisements, novels, as well as correspondence between authors and their publishers. By mining such a wide array of sources, Hobbs successfully manages to shed light on a practice that was meant to remain hidden…

Read the entire review here.

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Do Not Pass

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-12-03 02:50Z by Steven

Do Not Pass

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2010-02-16

Touré

This may come as a shock to you, especially if you look at whiteness as a boon and blackness as a burden, but I have never once wished to be white. If a fairy godfather came to me and said I could switch races, I’d open the window and make him use it. I think 99 percent of black people would do the same. That’s not a knock on whiteness — it seems to be working out well for many people — it’s that I love blackness, even if passing would allow me to unhook myself from the heavy anchor called racism. It’s cool: I’ve learned how to be as quick as a Br’er Rabbit, even with the anchor attached. Still, you might argue, wouldn’t switching from a disadvantaged race to the dominant one be as liberating as a winning lottery ticket? Well, for those who’ve been able to complete the sociopolitical fantasy trip and become racial transvestites, it usually ends badly.

The character who jumps the color line is a fascinating American rogue, a self-­constructed person, a trickster who’s discovered that race is not an unscalable wall but a chain-link fence with holes big enough for some people to slip through. But once they cross the line, they’re fugitives hiding in plain sight, on the lam from themselves and their histories, cut off from their families, unchained from racism but chained to a secret whose revelation would bring an end to a life built on lies and a stolen place in the dominant culture. All that makes racial shape-shifters a fantastic opportunity for a writer: they’ve got Huck Finn’s independence, an identity in turmoil, a secret that could destroy their world, a refusal to be defined by others and a vantage on race that very few ever get to have. And in the story of a racial fugitive, there’s always a ticking bomb. It’s a corollary of the literary law that if you put a loaded rifle onstage, it has to go off: if a character shifts races, eventually he’ll be unmasked, and usually it’s painful physically or psychically or both…

Read the entire article here.

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