Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-27 03:07Z by Steven

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

The Atlantic
2014-11-26

Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Correspondent

Violence works. Nonviolence does too.

In a recent dispatch from Ferguson, Missouri, Jelani Cobb noted that President Obama’s responses to “unpunished racial injustices” constitute “a genre unto themselves.” Monday night, when Barack Obama stood before the nation to interpret the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, he offered a particularly tame specimen. The elements of “the genre” were all on display—an unmitigated optimism, an urge for calm, a fantastic faith in American institutions, an even-handedness exercised to a fault. But if all the limbs of the construct were accounted for, the soul of the thing was not.

There was none of the spontaneous annoyance at the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, and little of the sheer pain exhibited in the line, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” The deft hand Obama employed in explaining to Americans why the acquittal of George Zimmerman so rankled had gone arthritic. This was a perfunctory execution of “the genre,” offered with all the energy of a man ticking items off a to-do list.

Barack Obama is an earnest moderate. His instincts seem to lead him to the middle ground. For instance, he genuinely believes that there is more overlap between liberals and conservatives than generally admitted. On Monday he nodded toward the “deep distrust” that divides black and brown people from the police, and then pointed out that this was tragic because these are the communities most in need of “good policing.” Whatever one makes of this pat framing, it is not a cynical centrism—he believes in the old wisdom of traditional America. This is his strength. This is his weakness. But Obama’s moderation is as sincere and real as his blackness, and the latter almost certainly has granted him more knowledge of his country than he generally chooses to share.

In the case of Michael Brown, this is more disappointing than enraging. The genre of Obama race speeches has always been bounded by the job he was hired to do. Specifically, Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America. More specifically, Barack Obama is the president of a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor, and land. This plunder has not been exclusive to black people. But black people, the community to which both Michael Brown and Barack Obama belong, have the distinct fortune of having survived in significant numbers…

Read the entire article here.

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Grad student Alex Finley found her roots — and more

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-26 19:54Z by Steven

Grad student Alex Finley found her roots — and more

William & Mary News and Events
The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia
2014-11-24

Jim Ducibella, Communications Specialist

This is part one of a two-story series. Check back Nov. 26 for the second part. – Ed.

As a child, Alex Finley remembers going through three phases of intense interest: One was genealogy. Another was the Civil War. The third was American Girls dolls.

“So I guess I was always destined to be a historian,” she said with a chuckle.

Finley, a Ph.D. candidate in history at William & Mary who is studying the domestic slave trade and the finance and business practices of slave traders in the antebellum period, combined two of those three passions to uncover a little known, controversial community in West Virginia.

It’s a discovery that has drawn the attention of television producers from the PBS program Finding Your Roots and ushered in a fascinating chapter in her life.

She began by researching her mother’s family history while she was in high school in southern Ohio, and continued her research as an undergraduate at Ohio State, completing an honors thesis on that particular branch of the family.

The Male family – or Mayle, as it’s also known – came to the United States from Dover, England, and eventually settled in Hampshire County, located in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands regions.

Wilmore Male and his wife, Mary, had several children, including Wilmore, Jr., who fought in the Revolutionary War and came back to West Virginia to start a farm.

While there, he began a relationship with a slave he owned named Nancy.

“The proof we have of this is an extraordinary emancipation document from 1826,” Finley said. “(Male) emancipates Nancy and says that she is forever set free from this point – on the condition that she remain living with him as his wife.

“That’s extraordinary for the time period, for several reasons: One, he’s coming out publicly and saying this. Two, interracial marriage is illegal at this time and here he is in a courthouse saying he intends to live with this woman. They end up living together, with no evidence they were ever harassed or bothered by anyone for their relationship.”

How could that be? Finley’s research showed that the man at the courthouse who recorded the document – John White — was the son of Male’s captain in the Revolutionary War…

Read the entire article here.

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AN OCTOROON: THE OCTOROON an essay by James Leverett

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-23 20:38Z by Steven

AN OCTOROON: THE OCTOROON an essay by James Leverett

The Soho Repository
New York, New York
2014-04-01

James Leverett, Professor (Adjunct) of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism
Yale School of Drama

There is melodrama in every tragedy, just as there is a child in every adult.”
–Eric Bentley, Life of the Drama

A Suggested Walk

I hope by this point you’ve already purchased your ticket for An Octoroon. I also hope that it is a nice evening when you attend, and that you will want to discuss and extend your experience of the production afterwards… Or you may also just want to sweep it out of you mind…In either case, when the show is over, take a left when you leave Soho Rep., go along Walker Street a half block to the corner, take another left onto Broadway and walk north across Canal, through Soho, across Houston into Noho (cartography gets murky here), and across Bleeker. Slow your pace and go over to the east side of Broadway if you haven’t already. Your aim is to get a better view of what’s on the west side of the street (or used to be). I hope you will look up at the spectacular 19th-century cast-iron architecture all along your tour…

The Octoroon

After Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel of 1852, together with an immediate procession of stage versions), The Octoroon is the most prominent contemporary fiction about American slavery. In many ways, Boucicault’s play fits the pattern of Victorian melodrama. Zoë, the Octoroon, is the suffering heroine, although much more strongly drawn than her Gothic predecessors. Originally played by Agnes Robertson, at the time Boucicault’s wife, she chooses her own destiny, even though hers is the fate of a victim. The unmistakable villain is Jacob M’Closky, undoubtedly modeled after Stowe’s lustful, murderous Simon Legree. Both characters are from the North, both end up in Louisiana, both are in the market for slaves. George Peyton, the romantic lead, is brave and central to the plot but recedes somewhat in the presence of the others.

As with most Victorian melodramas, The Octoroon, has a large supporting cast. Most of them are there, not only to help along the plot, but also to add variety to a popular entertainment. They are part of the newspaper aspect of the genre and create a world containing a range of social classes, ages, occupations, localities and nationalities.

Most pertinent to this play are races, particularly those of African descent, and they are represented with unprecedented specificity. In addition to the octoroon (one eighth black), there are in the cast list a quadroon (one fourth), a yellow (mixed race), and Whanotee, an Indian chief of the “Lepan” tribe (probably a misspelling of the Lipan Apache). Boucicault himself played the chief. His well known mimetic ability surely helped him to negotiate the character who, when not altogether silent, speaks a fictional “mashup” of French, Mexican and what is supposedly his native dialect, which includes “ugh.” Most of the supporting characters also have some comic function, which is fundamental in most melodrama. Scholars consider the genre to exist between tragedy and comedy, but leaning toward the latter, especially because of the almost inevitable happy endings…

Read the entire article here.

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What is Dion Boucicault’s THE OCTOROON?

Posted in Arts, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2014-11-23 20:18Z by Steven

What is Dion Boucicault’s THE OCTOROON?

The Soho Repository
New York, New York
2014-03-17

James Leverett, Professor (Adjunct) of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism
Yale School of Drama

Professor of Dramatic Criticism James Leverett from The Yale School of Drama joins us in this video to give context and background to Dion Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama The Octoroon. In our next mainstage play, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has radically reshaped the original to dizzying meta-theatrical effect.

Boucicault’s play courted immediate controversy when it debuted in the US. The play examines race, slavery, gender, and the 19th century’s perception of these themes; in other words, a prime play for Jacob-Jenkins (author of the blistering Neighbors and current Appropriate at Signature Theatre) to explore.

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Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-23 17:08Z by Steven

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

The New York Times
2014-05-04

Ben Brantley, Chief Theater Critic

‘An Octoroon,’ a Slave-Era Tale at Soho Rep

Some people are paralyzed by self-consciousness. The playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is inspired, energized and perhaps even set free by it.

You could say that he transforms self-consciousness into art, except then you have to ask what art is, as Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins surely would. How about into entertainment, then? No, that sounds too unequivocally pleasurable and guilt free. Well, let’s just say that Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins turns self-consciousness into theater, and that this is a lot more stimulating than it sounds.

Some degree of self-consciousness is inevitable for any latter-day dramatist taking on Dion Boucicault’sThe Octoroon,” which is what Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins is doing in the exhilarating, booby-trapped production called “An Octoroon” (those articles make a difference!) that opened at Soho Rep on Sunday night. Though a huge hit in this country in the mid-19th century, “The Octoroon” would appear approachable on today’s stages only with a set of very long, sterilized tongs.

It is, first of all, an unabashed melodrama, with all the handkerchief wringing and mustache twirling that term implies. The story it relates is an incident-crammed weepy of forbidden love in the slaveholding South, where social status is measured in drops of blood. (Octoroon refers to someone who is one-eighth black.)…

…The basic plot of this “Octoroon” is Boucicault’s, more or less. Its title character is the beauteous Zoe (Amber Gray of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”), the daughter of a slave and a recently deceased plantation owner. Zoe is beloved both by the plantation’s worldly and gentlemanly new owner, George (Mr. Myers), and by its former overseer, the evil M’Closkey (Mr. Myers again), who wants to buy the place for himself.

That’s Plot A (or most of it; I didn’t mention the local rich girl, played in high burlesque style by Zoë Winters, loves George, too). There’s a Plot B, but I won’t go into detail about that one, except to say that it involves a lovable rapscallion of a slave boy (Ben Horner, in blackface) and his pal, an American Indian, I mean Native American or … heck, I’m all tongue-tied now. Anyway, he’s played by Mr. Wolohan, in redface.

Oh, relax. It’s only a play, isn’t it? Except one of Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins’s points is that nothing that deals with race in this racially conflicted country can ever be reduced to an easy showbiz formula, whether satirical or uplifting. His “Octoroon” invites us to laugh loudly and easily at how naïve the old stereotypes now seem, until suddenly nothing seems funny at all…

Read the entire review here.

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Go Stand Upon The Rock with Samuel Michael Lemon, Ed.D.

Posted in Audio, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-20 00:20Z by Steven

Go Stand Upon The Rock with Samuel Michael Lemon, Ed.D.

Research at the National Archives and Beyond
BlogTalk Radio
Thursday, 2014-11-20, 21:00 EST (Friday, 2014-11-21, 02:00Z)

Bernice Bennett, Host

Go Stand Upon the Rock (2014) is a deeply moving Civil War-era novel based on stories handed down by Sam Lemon’s grandmother about the lives of her grandparents who were once runaway slaves from Virginia. It is a tale of unsettling plantation life, courageous women, dramatic Civil War battles, heroes, hoodoo, and the indomitable strength of the human spirit. The book is supported by historical and genealogical research, photographs, and documents from his doctoral dissertation. This is a compelling and emotionally engaging history that comes alive through the lives of real people and events.

Dr. Sam Lemon grew up in Media, Pennsylvania, where his maternal great-great grandparents arrived as runaway slaves during the Civil War. Given refuge and support by local Quakers, his ancestors prospered and became prominent members of the community. He is currently an assistant professor and the director of a graduate program at Neumann University in Pennsylvania, and formerly worked in the fields of social services, education, and public television at WHYY in Philadelphia.

For more information, click here.

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The Case for Black With a Capital B

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-19 20:45Z by Steven

The Case for Black With a Capital B

The New York Times
2014-11-18

Lori L. Tharps, Associate Professor of Journalism
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA — I WAS sitting in my office at Temple University when I overheard an exchange between a colleague and his student. The student had come to see her professor to go over a paper, and he was patiently explaining that the abundance of grammatical mistakes detracted from her compelling content. I sympathized with my colleague as he pointed out error after error. Until he came to this one.

“Why did you capitalize black and white people?” he asked. “I thought I’d seen it written that way before,” the girl stammered. “Come on,” he said. “Why would you capitalize black or white?”…

…After emancipation, as many individuals replaced their slave surnames with ones of their own devising, like Freedman or Freeman, they still bore the painful legacy of the labels they’d been given: black, negro and colored.

It wasn’t only Black people who didn’t know what to call the nearly four million newly freed citizens of the United States. The government itself fumbled its way through names, categories and labels for Black people. Between 1850 and 1920, the United States census classified those of African descent as black, negro, mulatto, quadroon or octoroon — depending on the visual assessment of the census taker. By 1930, the Census Bureau offered just one of these categories: negro.

This wasn’t solely an issue of identity politics. In a 2008 article on the census for Studies in American Political Development, Jennifer L. Hochschild and Brenna M. Powell wrote, “Over the course of almost a century, the U.S. government groped its way through extensive experimentation — reorganizing and reimaging the racial order, with corresponding impact on individuals’ and groups’ life chances.” These names matter…

Read the entire article here.

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Sesquicentennial Event Addresses Colorado Inequality

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-18 22:21Z by Steven

Sesquicentennial Event Addresses Colorado Inequality

Clarion: The University of Denver’s Newwspaper Since 1892
Denver, Colorado
2014-10-21

Carissa Cherpes

DU hosted a Sesquicentennial Conversation entitled Miscegenation Law, Marriage Equality, and the West 1864-2014 on Oct. 15 in the Sturm College of Law.

Over 50 students, faculty and others gathered to listen to three panelists lecture on how Miscegenation Laws and inequality affected our region throughout history. Miscegenation Laws banned marriages or relationships between mixed raced couples.

The three panelists were Rachel Moran, Ronald J. Stephens and Anna N. Martinez. The moderator was Bill Convery, who holds the position of Colorado State Historian

…Next to present was Moran. She described how Miscegenation Laws originated in the South when concern over mixed race slave children became an issue. The popular opinion was that “mixed race children were black,” and therefore could not be considered free or have rights.

She then went on to talk about California’s Miscegenation Laws, which targeted Asian immigrants. In California, the laws were designed to force Chinese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants to return to their native country.

Moran then discussed how the Colorado territory had Miscegenation Laws as well, but only after additional land was acquired from Mexico. Because the people living in the territory had different customs and laws, there was an invisible boundary where mixed race couples were more accepted. She concluded by explaining how it was not until the 1960s that the Supreme Court decided Miscegenation Laws were unfair

Read the entire article here.

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‘William Wells Brown,’ by Ezra Greenspan

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-18 19:41Z by Steven

‘William Wells Brown,’ by Ezra Greenspan

The New York Times
Sunday Book Review
2014-11-14

Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita
Princeton University

Greenspan, Ezra, William Wells Brown: An African American Life (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014)

If the publishing industry reflects the American zeitgeist, things have changed when it comes to black American historical figures. As a graduate student at Harvard decades ago, I came across William Wells Brown, the fugitive slave, abolitionist, lecturer, travelogue writer, novelist and performer whose wide-ranging intelligence turned a gaze on white people (for a change). Back then he was to be found in only one full-length biography, William Edward Farrison’s “William Wells Brown: Author and Reformer” (1969). Published by the University of Chicago Press in the twilight of the “second Reconstruction” and at the dawning of African-American studies, it depicted Brown as a representative black American. In the absence of the biographical scholarship coming after 1969, Brown’s colleagues remained ill defined. Farrison’s biography was reviewed only in publishing trade papers and a couple of history journals. What was the problem?

It wasn’t Brown’s lack of an interesting life: more on that momentarily. The main problem was that 20th-century American culture accommodated only one 19th-­century black man, a spot already taken by the monumental, best-selling Frederick Douglass. Another problem was theoretical: Farrison published his biography before the flowering of two other fields crucial to a full appreciation of Brown’s public life — the history of the book and performance art…

…The child who would be William Wells Brown was born enslaved in Kentucky, in about 1814, the son of his owner’s cousin. In St. Louis, given the job of tending a young charge also called William, his name was changed to Sandford with the carelessness characteristic of slave naming. As Sandford he worked in his owner’s medical office and on the Mississippi River’s ships and docks. After several unsuccessful attempts at escape, one with his mother, he finally fled St. Louis at about age 19. He retook his own name William and added Wells Brown in honor of the Quaker who had rescued him from starving and freezing in Ohio

Read the entire review here.

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Matthew McConaughey & Gary Ross Mount Civil War Saga; Bob Simonds’ STX In Talks To Finance

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-07 03:00Z by Steven

Matthew McConaughey & Gary Ross Mount Civil War Saga; Bob Simonds’ STX In Talks To Finance

Deadline Hollywood
2014-11-05

Mike Fleming Jr., Film Editor

Anita Busch, Film Editor

EXCLUSIVE: Matthew McConaughey and writer-director Gary Ross are the catalysts for a project called Free State Of Jones, which is getting some serious attention from STX Entertainment, the new mini-studio founded by investors TPG Growth, Gigi Pritzker, Hony and Robert Simonds. We hear that company reps, financial partner IM Global (who is handling foreign), and the filmmakers are heading to AFM this afternoon to discuss pre-sales. This is one of many projects STX is considering pushing through as part of its first slate. They are looking to go before the cameras in the first quarter of 2015.

Free State Of Jones is based on the untold and extraordinary story of Newton Knight, the leader of one of the greatest rebellions in Civil War history, and we hear that STX may finance (up to $20M) for the $65M-budgeted story of one of the most controversial men from the that era. McConaughey is in talks to play the Mississippian, who defected from the Confederate Army, banded together with a group of like-minded soldiers, and set out to form their own State known as the Free State Of Jones.

Knight would later have a common-law marriage to a former slave, one of the first outwardly mixed racial unions in the South — unheard of at the time. The rebellious Knight actually fought against the Confederates from within the state and after the war freed children still enslaved after a daring raid…

Note from Steven F. Riley: For more about the Knight family, please read Victoria E. Bynum’s superb monograph, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War.

Read the entire article here.

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