My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-21 03:34Z by Steven

My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

The Washington Post
2017-11-20

Gail Lukasik


The author’s mother, Alvera Fredric, was born into a black family in New Orleans but spent her life passing as white. (Family photo)

I’d never seen my mother so afraid.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.

The discovery had left me reeling, confused and in need of answers. My sense of white identity had been shattered.

My mother’s visit to my home in Illinois seemed like the right moment. This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the phone.

But my mother’s fearful plea for secrecy only added to my confusion about my racial identity. As did her birth certificate that I obtained from the state of Louisiana, which listed her race as “col” (colored), and a 1940 Louisiana census record, which listed my mother, Alvera Frederic, as Neg/Negro, working in a tea shop in New Orleans. Four years later, she moved north and married my white father…

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One in Twelve

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-18 01:54Z by Steven

One in Twelve

Mary Frances Berry
2014-12-25

Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History
University of Pennsylvania

When I read in the New Orleans Times Picayune that about 12 percent of Louisiana residents who identify themselves as white have at least 1 percent African ancestry, or one African ancestor within the last 11 generations, I thought of Louis Antoine Snaer and his family. Louis Antoine was one of many New Orleans free men of color who joined the Union army in the Louisiana Native Guards, but the only one to remain an officer after the Union capture of New Orleans in 1862. The others were ejected when Union commanders decided African Americans as a race were “naturally” unfit for leadership, and could not expect white officers to respect them. But Snaer did not identify himself. He passed as “white” in silence and stayed in the service. He became a Union military hero who led troops at the Battle of Port Hudson, and retired as a decorated officer.

Snaer was later elected to political office as a “Negro” and then like other Colored Creoles moved his family to northern California after Plessy v Ferguson (1896) leaving behind their identities and their histories as Colored Creoles, and becoming white for all intents and purposes…

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Review: Identity in Passing: RACE-ING and E-RACE-ING in American and African American History

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-18 01:19Z by Steven

Review: Identity in Passing: RACE-ING and E-RACE-ING in American and African American History

The Journal of African American History
Volume 101, No. 3, Summer 2016
pages 344-355
DOI: 10.5323/jafriamerhist.101.3.0344

Thomas J. Davis, Professor of History
Arizona State University, Tempe

Passing is a long-standing theme in American and African American history.1 Indeed, because identity has been an ever-present element in history, passing has been an ever-present element in history generally. Distinguishing between and among groups and categorizing individual members has again and again prompted questions about who is who, about what exactly distinguishes one from another, and about who belongs where. But passing is about more than contested and oft-disputed categories. When it reaches to lived-experience, passing is about self and society, about individual image and imagining, about self-image and self-imagining, about social image and social change. Passing is about the scope, source, substance, and control of individual identity.

Despite its centrality, identity appears in historical narratives typically as a given, or at least as taken for granted. Except for persons cast as “others,” group labels conveniently cover flawed lines of distinction. Our focus concentrates on identity only when it becomes contested, when uncertainty or ambiguity raise doubts; when identity becomes an issue of power, when such questions as “who…

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We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family’s Search for Home Across the Atlantic World

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2017-11-18 00:56Z by Steven

We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family’s Search for Home Across the Atlantic World

Oxford University Press
2014-12-01
224 Pages
32 illustrations
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780199978335

Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History
University of Pennsylvania

This colored Creole story offers a unique historical lens through which to understand the issues of migration, immigration, passing, identity, and color-forces that still shape American society today. We Are Who We Say We Are provides a detailed, nuanced account of shifting forms of racial identification within an extended familial network and constrained by law and social reality.

Author Mary Frances Berry, a well-known expert in the field, focuses on the complexity and malleability of racial meanings within the US over generations. Colored Creoles, similar to other immigrants and refugees, passed back and forth in the Atlantic world. Color was the cause and consequence for migration and identity, splitting the community between dark and light. Color could also split families. Louis Antoine Snaer, a free man of color and an officer in the Union Army who passed back and forth across the color line, had several brothers and sisters. Some chose to “pass” and some decided to remain “colored,” even though they too, could have passed. This rich global history, beginning in Europe–with episodes in Haiti, Cuba, Louisiana, and California–emphasizes the diversity of the Atlantic World experience.

Contents

  • Preface
  • Chapter I: Becoming Colored Creole
  • Chapter II: Becoming Americans
  • Chapter III: Family Troubles
  • Chapter IV: Fighting for Democracy
  • Chapter V: Becoming “Negroes”
  • Chapter VI: Opportunity and Tragedy in Iberia Parish
  • Chapter VII: Mulattoes and Colored Creoles
  • Chapter VIII: Just Americans
  • Chapter IX: At Home or Away: We Are Who We Say We Are
  • Epilogue: Becoming “Black”
  • Notes
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“Race, Identity, and the Boundaries of Blackness”

Posted in Articles, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2017-11-16 22:55Z by Steven

“Race, Identity, and the Boundaries of Blackness”

U.S. Embassy & Consulates In Germany
2017-11-07

Thomas Chatterton Williams, fellow at the American Academy Berlin, read from his thought-provoking essay “Black and Blue and Blond” published in the Virginia Quarterly Review and anthologized in The Best American Essays 2016 which is now the basis of a book project. With journalist Rose-Anne Clermont he pursued the question where race fits in the construction of modern identity. Both reflected upon their own biographies and what it means living in Germany, France and the U.S. as a mixed-race family. The mainly young high-school age audience engaged in a lively, well informed discussion on defining and questioning identity, challenging stereotypes and expanding our notions of family and community.

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Zendaya to produce, star in thriller on Anita Hemmings, first black woman Vassar grad, passing as white to attend

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-15 17:59Z by Steven

Zendaya to produce, star in thriller on Anita Hemmings, first black woman Vassar grad, passing as white to attend

Shadow And Act
2017-11-14


Zendaya (left) and Anita Hemmings (right).

Zendaya has booked what Deadline calls a hot pitch package on the street right now.

The film is called ‘A White Lie’ and it is a film adaptation of the Karin Tanabe novel, The Gilded Years.

The novel, a psychological thriller, “built around the true story of Anita Hemmings, a light-skinned African American woman. She is the daughter of a janitor, who passed as white so she could attend Vassar at the turn of the century.” She is treated as a wealthy and educated white woman and sparks a romance with a rich Harvard student.

Zendaya will play Hemmings…

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Zendaya To Star In ‘A White Lie,’ Pitch Package From Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-15 17:43Z by Steven

Zendaya To Star In ‘A White Lie,’ Pitch Package From Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine

Deadline
2017-11-13

Mike Fleming Jr


REX/Shutterstock

The hot pitch package on the street is A White Lie, an adaptation of the Karin Tanabe novel The Gilded Years. The book is a psychological thriller built around the true story of Anita Hemmings, a light-skinned African-American woman. The daughter of a janitor, she passed as white so she could attend Vassar at the turn of the 20th century. Spider-Man: Homecoming star co-star Zendaya will play Hemmings. Monica Beletsky is writing the script, and Hello Sunshine’s Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter are producing along with Zendaya…

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Secret heritage

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-12 04:32Z by Steven

Secret heritage

The Herald-Argus
La Porte, Indiana
2017-10-26

Matt Christy, Staff Writer
Telephone: (219) 326-3870


Secret heritage
White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” is on book shelves now and available for check-out at the La Porte County Public Library.

Author tells story behind new book

Looks can be deceiving.

To look at a photograph of Alvera Frederic Kalina, you wouldn’t know the secret she was hiding. Hiding from her husband, hiding from her children, hiding from everyone but those she cut all ties to when she left her New Orleans roots far, far behind.

Alvera avoided the sun. She had no photos of her family. She was obsessed with makeup, even wearing it when she slept.

“I can’t even imagine the fear she lived with, which I later understood was why she did (those mysterious things),” said Alvera’s daughter, author Gail Lukasik.

Lukasik is a mystery writer, but her newest book “White Like Her” is a mystery of another sort. Unlike the female driven detective novels Lukasik is known to pen, “White Like Her” tells the story of a true mystery, one Lukasik — not one of her fictional protagonists — unraveled. It was the mystery her mother made her swear to carry to her grave.

It began with Lukasik wanting to know more about her mother’s father, Azemar Frederic. She knew nothing of her grandfather and when asked, her mother would only say her parents divorced when she was young and her father didn’t raise her.

“The one time I asked her if we could visit New Orleans, where she grew up, she said it would depress her to go home, so I let it go. But in the back of my mind I always wondered about Azemar Frederic. What did he look like? What did he do for a living? What kind of man was my grandfather?” she said.

The answers would shock her and would change everything she thought she knew…

Read the entire article here.

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“You’re the one with the slaves in your family”

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-11 23:31Z by Steven

“You’re the one with the slaves in your family”

Salon
2017-10-28

Gail Lukasik


(Credit: Salon/Ilana Lidagoster)

I went looking for information on my mother’s side of the family. My experience was eye-opening

Excerpted with permission from “White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” by Gail Lukasik. Copyright 2017, Skyhorse Publishing.

The windowless basement of the Buffalo Grove Family History Center had the feel of an underground bunker—fluorescent lights, cinder block walls, the musty scent of dampness. At the room’s entrance sat a gray-haired woman, birdlike and benign. With robotic precision, she meted out instructions on how to use the machines, where the microfilms were located and how to order original documents. She appeared as nondescript and gray as the walls.

I’d come to the family history center in search of my grandfather Azemar Frederic. I was between adjunct college teaching jobs, applying for tenure track teaching positions in creative writing, and working part-time as an assistant editor for a medical journal. The year before, I’d been offered a position in creative writing at a liberal arts college in Tennessee. But I turned it down. Uprooting my life at the age of forty-nine for a position that paid in the low five figures seemed foolhardy. My husband would need to obtain a Tennessee dental license to practice dentistry, and we would have to pay out-of-state tuition at the University of Illinois for our daughter Lauren. So I resigned myself to seeking positions in the Chicago area where the competition was especially rigorous and my chances for success slim.

I had time on my hands and an insatiable longing to find Azemar who over the years had become more and more unreal to me as if he never existed, was a figment of my mother’s imagination. Without a photograph of him, I had nothing physical to connect him to me. This need for a physical image of him was primal. It was an aching absence that I needed to fill…

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Passing Judgement

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-10 02:54Z by Steven

Passing Judgement

C Magazine: Palo Alto High School’s Arts and Culture Magazine
2017-10-24

Angie Cummings


Photo by Ryan Gwyn

A reflection on being white passing and the ignorance I have experienced within my community

My dad is black and my mom is white, but I have white skin. I am white passing. Racial passing is when a person who appears as though they are from one racial group actually belongs to another or multiple racial groups. Although I was aware my dad is black and my parents stressed to me that I am also African-American, up until middle school I thought of my race as white since that is the color of my skin. But now I’m not so sure it’s as simple as that. Half of my identity has gone unnoticed for many years, and over time I have begun to realize the effects on myself, family and others. This aspect of my racial identity has evolved from a burden, due to the varying reactions I have received, to a chance to educate others about an unconventional topic…

Read the entire article here.

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