309 | Passing in White America

Posted in Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Passing, United States on 2015-10-09 15:15Z by Steven

309 | Passing in White America

Chicago Humanities Festival
Karla Scherer Endowed Lecture Series for the University of Chicago
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
Film Screening Room 201
915 E 60th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Sunday, 2015-10-25; 17:30-18:30 CDT (Local Time)

Between the 18th and 20th centuries, countless African Americans passed as white, leaving behind families, friends, and community. It was, as Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs writes, a chosen exile, a separation from one racial identity and a leap into another. Her work explores the way this racial indeterminacy offered an escape from slavery in the antebellum South and helped defy Jim Crow. But in looking back at both American history and the story of her own family, Hobbs also uncovers the terrible grief, loneliness, and isolation of passing, and the ways it continues to influence our thinking about racial identity and politics.


Allyson Hobbs is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University and the author of A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. Allyson received a PhD with distinction from the University of Chicago. Allyson teaches courses on American identity, African American history, African American women’s history, and twentieth century American history. She has received numerous fellowships and teaching awards. She gave a TEDx talk at Stanford, she has appeared on C-Span and National Public Radio, and her work has been featured on cnn.com and slate.com.

For more information, Click here.

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The most famous ‘Indian’ on 1950s American TV

Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-06 01:45Z by Steven

The most famous ‘Indian’ on 1950s American TV

The Times of India

Malini Nair

Korla Pandit was the first African American to have a TV show to himself – by pretending to be an exotic Indian musician

The story is almost unbelievable. In the US of the 1940s, a light-skinned African American youth discovers his prodigious talent at playing the electric organ. The mystical Orient and all its clichés are in vogue at the time and radio shows like Chandu the Magician and films like Midnight Shadow are the rage, featuring fakirs and assorted Indian exotica. The ambitious African American, John Roland Redd, decides to reinvent himself for the TV music market – as Korla Pandit, the mysterious Indian musician.

Deeply kohled eyes fixed in a hypnotic gaze, a bejewelled turban on his head, Pandit would play the Hammond B2 organ and piano with both virtuosity and theatricality on TV shows. Around him, a stagey exotic east played out – smoky haze, play of light and shade, Oriental dancers undulating in shimmery lehengas and short dhotis.

“I was born in New Delhi, India,” he announced silkily in a TV interview with an anchor seeking the backstory to Pandit (pronounced ‘panned-it’). He was, he claimed, the son of a Brahmin priest and a French opera singer who was sent to the US to study. Pandit reached the peak of his popularity with the ’50s TV show ‘Adventures in Music with Korla Pandit’, where he appeared as some kind of Indian musician-maharajaswami. What he played on the organ and the piano was called exotica music – the closest it comes to contemporary music is trance or lounge. Before long, he came to be known as the Godfather of Exotica…

Read the entire article here.

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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.

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Rachel/Racial Theory: Reverse Passing in the Curious Case of Rachel Dolezal

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-05 17:46Z by Steven

Rachel/Racial Theory: Reverse Passing in the Curious Case of Rachel Dolezal

Transition Magazine

Damon Sajnani (AKA ProfessorD.us), Professor of African Cultural Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Rachel Dolezal has done more than break the internet and fuel Black twitter and emcee cyphers with innumerable punchlines. She has provided the first high-profile contemporary case of racial passing from white to Black.

The vast majority of responses on mainstream and social media, even those claiming attention to nuance, pretty much accept—without justification or interrogation—that her parents’ version of the story is right and that she is wrong. Specifically, both her critics and most of her sympathizers accept the following as a “fact”: Rachel was pretending to be Black when she was really white all along. My aim here is not to defend or to condemn her, but to show that this one simple “fact” is neither simple nor self-evident.

Race is a social construct. It is a social reality, not a biological one. This fact is widely acknowledged by academics but many of them misunderstand it. Often, people who claim to know that race is a social construct make statements exposing that they really do not recognize it as such.

In “The Passing of Anatole Broyard,” Henry Louis Gates Jr. recounts the details of how “Broyard was born black and became white” (181-2). Throughout American history untold numbers of light skinned Blacks assumed white identities. This phenomenon became known as “passing” in the 1920s. Some did so temporarily, as for a job open only to whites. Sometimes they were white during the work day and Black when they returned to their families in the evening. But in many other cases, such as Broyard’s, people cut themselves off from their families completely, marrying white and raising white children oblivious to their Black ancestry. If we think of race as biological, as we have been taught, then these people were living a deception their whole lives and their children were not really white. But when we understand race as a social construct, we understand that they actually became white. There is nothing more to being, or not being, a given race than the social acceptance and societal ascription of a race to a person…

Read the entire article here.

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White or black? Sometimes it’s not so clear-cut

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, United States on 2015-10-05 15:41Z by Steven

White or black? Sometimes it’s not so clear-cut

StarNews Online
Wilmington, North Carolina

Beverly Smalls

In June, as Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Wash., confused members of the NAACP as well as her family, friends and the public about her choice to identify as an African-American, new conversations began.

Dolezal was accused of being a white person trying to pass as a black person. She stepped down as head of the NAACP’s chapter in Spokane.

Ironically, Americans of mixed heritage who appeared to be white in past centuries could gain better socio-economic opportunities by relocating to regions far from relatives known to be part African or Native American.

Unlike Dolezal, they preferred the advantages of being classified as white.

A different term, “mulatto,” defined those of mixed race, often with one white and one black parent.

If it were known, one drop of Indian or African blood in a family line could propel an individual or group of people into a lifetime of forced segregation and disadvantages in a minority community.

Having pale African-American skin could have provided advantages or separations from other black people, according to a 1930s Federal Writers’ Project.

A Wilmington man known as “Uncle Jackson,” born in 1851 and interviewed for the New Deal writers’ project, reported that there were lots of “mulatto Negros” in this region. Having a father who was part Indian and a mother who was considered mulatto, Jackson said he was not allowed to even play with “common chil’en,” white or colored.

Bygone cultural identity practices in 20th century Wilmington resulted in notable memories from descendants of mixed-race families…

Read the entire article here.

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Controversial Hire Won’t Serve as Dartmouth’s Native American Program Director

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, United Kingdom on 2015-10-02 17:05Z by Steven

Controversial Hire Won’t Serve as Dartmouth’s Native American Program Director

Valley News
White River Junction, Vermont

Rob Wolfe, Valley News Staff Writer

Susan Taffe Reed stepped down as director of Dartmouth’s Native American Program. (Dartmouth College – Eli Burakian)

Hanover — Dartmouth College officials said Thursday that the school’s new Native American Program director has left that position in response to controversy over her representation of her ancestry and tribal affiliation.

“Susan Taffe Reed will no longer serve as the director of the Native American Program,” college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email Thursday. “Unfortunately, the distraction around her appointment prevents her from effectively serving in this role. It does not prevent her from contributing to Dartmouth in other ways, and we are currently exploring opportunities with her.”

She remains an employee of the college, according to Lawrence.

Taffe Reed, who says she is of Native American descent, is president of the Eastern Delaware Nations, a nonprofit group not recognized by federal or state authorities that says it represents Delawares who remained in their ancestral lands of Northeastern Pennsylvania — a claim that the federally recognized Delaware Tribe contests…

Read the entire article here.

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“Little White Lie: A Film about Dual Identity and Family Secrets” with Lacey Schwartz

Posted in Autobiography, Live Events, Passing, Religion, United States, Videos on 2015-09-27 16:42Z by Steven

“Little White Lie: A Film about Dual Identity and Family Secrets” with Lacey Schwartz

Taube Center for Jewish Studies
Stanford University
Center For Educational Research (Room 101)
520 Galvez Mall
Stanford, California
2015-10-28, 19:00 PDT (Local Time)

“Between Race and Religion: Contemporary American Jewish Life” series with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Lacey Schwartz, an American filmmaker, in conversation with Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of American History at Stanford University

Film screening followed by a lecture.

For more information, click here or here.

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Every Family Has Its Secrets: Lacey Schwartz Connects with Film Forward Audiences in Taiwan

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2015-09-27 15:58Z by Steven

Every Family Has Its Secrets: Lacey Schwartz Connects with Film Forward Audiences in Taiwan

Sundance Film Forward

Lacey Schwartz, Director Little White Lie

This Sundance Film Forward trip to Taiwan marked the Asian Premiere of Little White Lie. It also was my first time ever in Asia. The things that people seemed to say I had to experience while there were the food and the shopping – I was told soup dumplings and night markets were mandatory. I learned that their passion fruit is addictive. What I didn’t have a sense of was how the audiences in Taiwan would respond to Little White Lie. I wondered if they would be confused by the racial identity dynamics. Would they think the film was revealing too much in a public manner? Would they relate to the struggle to come to terms with family secrets and denial? I had shown the film previously in countries that had much more diversity in their society such as Trinidad where the story seemed to strongly resonate. I wondered if the homogeneity of the people in Taiwan would make Little White Lie harder for them to connect to. The screenings showed that my concerns were unwarranted…

Read the entire article here.

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New Documentary Reveals the Strange Life of Korla Pandit

Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2015-09-27 15:37Z by Steven

New Documentary Reveals the Strange Life of Korla Pandit

NBC Bay Area (KNTV)
San Jose, California

In the category of unusual entertainers, there are few who could hold a candle to Korla Pandit. And now a new documentary will feature his life. Joe Rosato Jr. reports.

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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.

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