Tap Roots (1948): A Review of the first “Free State of Jones” movie

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-10-12 00:14Z by Steven

Tap Roots (1948): A Review of the first “Free State of Jones” movie

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners

Vikki Bynum, Emeritus Professor of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

As we await the release of The Free State of Jones, I thought it might be fun to visit an earlier movie similarly inspired by Newt Knight and the Knight band’s Civil War uprising. Tap Roots, adapted from James Street’s 1942 novel of the same name, was released by Universal International Pictures in August, 1948.

As I searched the internet, I quickly discovered that New York Times reviewer Tom Pryor had been anything but impressed by the movie. “Checking the accuracy of historical detail in Tap Roots, the romanticized Civil War drama,” he wrote, . . . “would serve no special purpose,” presumably because, he added, “clichés, oral and visual,” had produced a drama whose characters exhibited no “individuality or substance.”

Although I had read the novel Tap Roots many years ago, I had never seen the movie—until now. After viewing seven of the eight sections of Tap Roots on YouTube over the space of two days, I have to say, Pryor was correct. Moviegoers learned little to nothing about the important story of Southern Unionism in Jones County, Mississippi, from this production…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Groundbreaking New Series – ‘Mister Brau’ – Gives Afro-Brazilians Representations to Cheer Despite Flaws

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Social Science on 2015-10-11 01:54Z by Steven

Groundbreaking New Series – ‘Mister Brau’ – Gives Afro-Brazilians Representations to Cheer Despite Flaws

Shadow and Act: On Cinema Of The African Diaspora

Kiratiana Freelon

Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo

Brazilian television is very white, but most Brazilians aren’t.

Brazil’s population is more than 50 percent black, but the television news and entertainment shows rarely reflect such diversity. So when a “black” television show debuts, it’s groundbreaking. And when Brazil’s top black female and male actors star in it, it’s a miracle.

Two weeks ago Globo television premiered “Mister Brau,” a weekly comedic show starring Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo as a successful pop music couple. They are also married in real life…

…For black Americans, the union between Ramos and Araújo appears to be a perfect match. For Afro-Brazilians, it’s a match that they rarely see. For the most part, rich and successful Afro-Brazilians do not marry black people. Soccer stars marry white women. Black Brazilian models marry white men. Militant black Brazilians always debate the reasons for this. But sociologists have concluded that rich Afro-Brazilians are usually exchanging status when they marry white. They provide the high socioeconomic status in exchange for whiteness, which has a high racial status in Brazil. (See: Race in another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil)…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi review – serious issues, fairytale narrative

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-06 01:31Z by Steven

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi review – serious issues, fairytale narrative

The Guardian

Anthony Cummins

Oyeyemi, Helen, Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel (New York: Riverhead Press, 2014)

Oyeyemi’s fifth novel finds her treating the horrors of racism in 1950s America with gentle, magical style

Helen Oyeyemi, a Granta best of young British novelist, was born in Nigeria, grew up in London and has lived around Europe and North America. She specialises in unorthodox, freewheeling plots, rooted in myth and narrated in an innocent-seeming style. Her fifth novel is a historical narrative of American racism set in the 1950s and 60s.

At the start a woman named Boy Novak tells us how she ran away aged 20 from New York to escape her rat-catcher father, Frank, a drunk who beat her (her mother was absent). She pitches up in a small town in Massachusetts to marry a widowed jeweller and former historian, Arturo, who has a seven-year-old daughter, Snow, whose mother died after complications in childbirth.

The central crisis of the novel comes when Arturo has another daughter, with Boy – named Bird – and she is born dark-skinned. Arturo’s family accuse Boy of being unfaithful but the truth, as they all know, is that they have been passing for white. What follows is the painful background to that decision, as Arturo’s family recount the horrors of life in the south and their disappointed hopes for how things might improve when they moved north…

Read the entire book review here.

Tags: , ,

Emmanuelle Saada. Empire’s Children: Race, Filiation, and Citizenship in the French Colonies

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive on 2015-09-28 19:26Z by Steven

Emmanuelle Saada. Empire’s Children: Race, Filiation, and Citizenship in the French Colonies

The American Historical Review
Volume 118, Issue 2
pages 468-470
DOI: 10.1093/ahr/118.2.468

Gary Wilder, Associate Professor of Anthropology
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Emmanuelle Saada, Empire’s Children: Race, Filiation, and Citizenship in the French Colonies. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2012. Pp. xv, 339. Cloth $81.00, paper $27.50, e-book $27.50.

In this carefully researched and sharply argued analysis of disputes over the status of abandoned mixed-race children (métis) in the French Empire, Emmanuelle Saada demonstrates how gendered racial logics came to subtend French republican law. Rather than seek to understand a supposed contradiction between metropolitan republicanism and colonial racism, Saada offers a persuasive account of France as an imperial republic organized partly around a form of republican racism that operated through families on embodied subjects. Drawing masterfully on archival history, legal scholarship, and political theory, she provides a welcome critique of works that treat colonial domination as mere violence as well as those that accept republican states’ own discourses about abstract universal legality being incompatible with racial particularity and concrete communities.

Saada begins with a political dilemma that was created for colonial administrators by the 1889 Nationality Law. It held that all children born on national territory to unknown parents were accorded French citizenship. Authorities feared that if this measure were to be applied automatically in the colonies, children whose filiation was uncertain and whose ways of life were more “native” than “French” would automatically become citizens. Alternatively, they worried that if this measure was ignored, biologically and culturally “French” children would be misclassified as natives and pose a potential threat to the colonial order. She argues that the entire system of colonial domination depended on social distance between “French” and “native” and legal distinction between “citizen” and “subject.” (The book provides an indispensable genealogy of these categories in the French Empire.) Administrators believed that immersion in the native milieu could lead métis to acquire dangerous social pathologies. Even worse was the fear that they could become “declassed”—socioculturally French but legally native subjects. This non-alignment of social identity and legal status risked undermining racial “dignity” and French “prestige” in the …

Read or purchase the review here.

Tags: , , ,

Identity and Acceptance in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-09-25 02:53Z by Steven

Identity and Acceptance in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

Uncovered Classics

Melanie McFarland

“Race is a complete illusion, make-believe,” observes a central character in Danzy Senna’s debut novel Caucasia. “It’s a costume. We all wear one.”

Or, many. Over the course of our lives, those costumes change as we add and subtract details in reaction to other people’s gaze. To see the idea of race through sugar-coated Coke bottle glasses, racial and cultural differences are to be explored and celebrated. But one can just as accurately say that illusion of race creates unnecessary absurdity in our lives. It challenges our sense of acceptance.

Senna’s Caucasia doesn’t quite blast apart the fallacy of race, but it does use our culture’s obsession with it to highlight the ways in which a person creates and morphs her identity…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , ,

Three Very Rare Generations

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-14 02:12Z by Steven

Three Very Rare Generations

The New York Times

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History
Columbia University

Soul To Soul: A Black Russian American Family 1865-1992. By Yelena Khanga with Susan Jacoby. Illustrated. 318 pp. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. $22.95.

AMONG its other consequences, the demise of the Soviet Union has released an emigration of foreign-born leftists and their descendants. Along with Spanish Loyalists and exiled third-world socialists now returning to their countries of origin, this little-noticed diaspora includes Yelena Khanga, the granddaughter of a black American who had moved to the Soviet Union in 1931, along with his Polish-Jewish-American wife. “Soul to Soul: A Black Russian American Family 1865-1992” tells the remarkable story of Ms. Khanga’s family, shedding light into unfamiliar corners of both the Soviet and American pasts. Its title derives from a Russian expression for close friendship. In an American context, it also suggests encounters among blacks, and the book’s most interesting chapters recount the story of the black side of Ms. Khanga’s family tree.

Her great-grandfather, Hilliard Golden, born a slave, served on the board of supervisors in Yazoo County, Miss., during Reconstruction, and managed to become one of the areas’s largest black landowners (Ms. Khanga is not sure how). The restoration of white supremacy abruptly ended his political career, but Golden clung tenaciously to his property until 1909, when, like many other farmers in the New South, he succumbed to debt and lost his land…

…In 1931, with 15 other Americans — black agricultural specialists and their families — Ms. Khanga’s grandparents sailed for the Soviet Union to help develop cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan. The poverty and backwardness of the region, where polygamy still flourished, reinforced the Goldens’ sense of socialist mission. When their daughter, Lily, was born, they decided to remain in the Soviet Union “because they did not want to raise a racially mixed child in America.” The agricultural experiments succeeded, and Stalin then decreed that Uzbekistan should concentrate exclusively on cotton, transforming the area, ironically, into a one-crop economy bearing some resemblance to the South of Golden’s youth…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , ,

‘Negroland’ by Margo Jefferson

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-09 18:53Z by Steven

‘Negroland’ by Margo Jefferson

The Boston Globe

Donna Bailey Nurse

While a student at University High in Chicago in the early 1960s, Margo Jefferson was introduced to the essays of James Baldwin. The future New York Times drama critic and Pulitzer Prize winner was struck by passages in “Notes of a Native Son’’:

“‘One must say that the Negro in America does not really exist except in the darkness of our minds.’

‘One’: a pronoun even more adroitly insidious than ‘we.’ An ‘I’ made ubiquitous. ‘Our’: say it slowly, voluptuously. Baldwin has coupled and merged us in syntactical miscegenation.’’

Jefferson devotes the first chapters of her memoir to explaining the secret of that group’s success, which has a lot to do with the privileges their light skin bestowed. Like Betsey Keating, for example, who was freed by her master before giving birth to his five children. He died leaving money to educate his black sons, setting them up for the future.

She also tells of a biracial slave named Frances Jackson Coppin whose aunt purchased her freedom. Eventually Frances was able to work, save money, and attend Oberlin College. These mostly mixed-race blacks became teachers, writers, artisans, and abolitionists. They were careful to intermarry, establishing a color line between themselves and darker members of the race.

Jefferson herself is a descendant of slaves and slave masters from Kentucky, Virginia, and Mississippi, individuals who clawed their way into the elite milieu she calls Negroland

Read the entire book review here.

Tags: , ,

Poet’s Muse: A Footnote to Beethoven

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, History, United Kingdom on 2015-09-07 00:54Z by Steven

Poet’s Muse: A Footnote to Beethoven

The New York Times

Felicia R. Lee

Haydn almost certainly encountered him as a child in a Hungarian castle, where the boy’s father was a servant and Haydn was the director of music, and Thomas Jefferson saw him performing in Paris in 1789: a 9-year-old biracial violin prodigy with a cascade of dark curls. While the boy would go on to inspire Beethoven and help shape the development of classical music, he ended up relegated to a footnote in Beethoven’s life.

Rita Dove, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former United States poet laureate, has now breathed life into the story of that virtuoso, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, in her new book, “Sonata Mulattica” (W. W. Norton). The narrative, a collection of poems subtitled “A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play,” intertwines fact and fiction to flesh out Bridgetower, the son of a Polish-German mother and an Afro-Caribbean father.

When he died in South London in 1860, his death certificate simply noted that he was a “gentleman.” Ms. Dove imagines, as she writes in her poem “The Bridgetower,” that “this bright-skinned papa’s boy/could have sailed his fifteen-minute fame/straight into the record books.”…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Time of the Multiracial

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-09-03 17:25Z by Steven

The Time of the Multiracial

American Literary History
Volume 27, Number 3, Fall 2015
pages 549-556
DOI: 10.1093/alh/ajv026

Habiba Ibrahim, Associate Professor of English
University of Washington, Seattle

Habiba Ibrahim is the author of  Troubling the Family: The Promise of Personhood and the Rise of Multiracialism (2012). Her current book project, Oceanic Lifespans, examines how age and racial blackness have been mutually constituted.

These three recent studies all read how mixed racialism expresses and challenges the terms of US nationalism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Collectively, they account for a period when the nation developed as a global force through a series of racializing projects, implemented through intra- and international war, imperialist expansion and conquest, and the consolidation of the color line at home. Tropes such as miscegenation, tragic mulatta, and genres of mixedness such as the “racial romance” (Sheffer 3) reveal a key aspect of the cultural imagination during the turbulent era that led up to and inaugurated the “American Century.” Figures of deviant intimacy—interracial sex, incest, same-sex filiation—and figures of gender, such as the mulatto/a, and the tragic muse revealed the cultural outcomes of the unfinished project of nation building. All of these studies take racial mixedness and its correlating categories as key analytical starting points for unmasking the neutrality or invisibility of state power. Thus, they bring to mind the urgency of the current moment: what analytics can interrupt the post-ness—postracialism, postfeminism, and postidentitarianism—of the present?

1. Neoliberalism, Postidentity

Twenty years ago, mixed racialism first appealed to literary scholars because it offered a critical space in which to explore the era’s political contradictions and transitions. During the heyday of the so-called multiracial movement, key developments in the cultural politics of identity were well under way. The culture wars were still raging with neoconservative moralists and left-of-center liberals vying for influence over social and political life. At the same time, neoconservatives  and neoliberals converged around the erosion of identitarian categories as social tools for making political and historical critiques. By the neoliberal era of the 1980s and 1990s identity was increasingly viewed as the stuff of separatist and single-issue groupthink, rather than as an instrument through which to analyze the operations and historicity of power. Perhaps this explains the remarkably accelerating cultural and scholarly interest in multiracial identity by the mid-1990s. After all, what did the appearance of the multiracial indicate? Under the umbrella term “multiracialism,” subjects with competing social, political, and cultural views formulated clashing accounts of how to situate race in US discourse. As a diagnostic tool, multiracialism bore the potential to cut through the present.

2. Gender, Sexuality, Family

Twenty years later, interdisciplinary scholarship in philosophy, performance studies, literary, and cultural studies increasingly take multiracialism as a starting point for thinking historically about social identities and cultural production. Current literary scholarship retrieves unfamiliar, forgotten history in order to diagnose the present, or to reconsider our present-day relationship to the historical. Some scholars have started with how multiracialism is treated within current US discourse—as the balm of postracial transcendence on the one side, as another separatist identity on the other—to ask how we’ve arrived at these particular interpretations. This line of inquiry denaturalizes present-day meanings attached to the multiracial and clearly departs from work that vehemently argues one position or the other.

What stands out about more recent studies—Kimberly Snyder Manganelli’s Transatlantic Spectacles of Race (2012), Jolie A. Sheffer’s The Romance of Race (2013), and Diana Rebekkah Paulin’s Imperfect Unions (2012)—is the way they represent a decisive turn toward staunchly comparativist, even transnational approach to multiracial literary studies. Comparativism indicates that the field is broadening its spatial and analytical scope to pursue fuller explorations of the historical and historiographical. Such a broadened scope repositions interest in the cultural politics of gender, sexuality, and family as deep engagements with the modern.

Like Suzanne Bost’s Mulattas and Mestizas (2003), Teresa Zackodnik’s The Mulatta and the Politics of Race (2004), and Eve Allegra Raimon’s The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited (2004), Transatlantic Spectacles of Race, investigates early intersections between racial amalgamation and womanhood by exploring how the figurative feminization of racial mixedness has been instrumentalized to vie for various nationalist and counter-nationalist outcomes over the long nineteenth century. Manganelli’s unique contribution is to read the mixed-race “tragic mulatta” of the Americas alongside its heretofore-unacknowledged counterpart, the Jewish “tragic muse” of Victorian British literature, thereby positioning both blackness and Jewishness along the same…

Read or purchase the review of the three books here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Celeste Ng’s debut novel focuses on racial isolation

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-20 20:05Z by Steven

Celeste Ng’s debut novel focuses on racial isolation

The Herald & Review
Decatur, Illinois

Marylynne Pitz, Tribune News Service Writer

Celeste Ng (pronounced “ing”) spent the first nine years of her life in the Pittsburgh suburb of South Park and recalls frequent visits to Century III Mall where her parents, who were academics, shopped enthusiastically at B. Dalton’s and Waldenbooks.

“Our house was just crammed full of books,” said the writer, whose debut novel, “Everything I Never Told You,” made The New York Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2014 and was the Amazon book of 2014. Ng, 34, lives in Cambridge, Mass.

Her debut novel, set in 1977, focuses on the Lee family. There’s Marilyn, an American woman who ignored her mother’s advice and married James, who is Chinese; the couple’s two daughters, Lydia and Hannah; and a son, Nath. Members of the mixed-race family try hard to blend into the vanilla atmosphere of a college town in Ohio. But the Lees remain outsiders, and their sense of isolation is palpable.

As the story opens, Lydia Lee drowns in a lake and so does her mother’s fervent hope that her daughter will become a doctor. Among surviving family members, the death of this promising high school student dredges up intense resentment, bitter truths and harsh anger. Who knew the word kowtow was so loaded?…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,