William Makepeace Thackeray: Racist?

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2014-10-26 17:07Z by Steven

William Makepeace Thackeray: Racist?

OUPblog: Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World
2011-07-18

John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature
University College, London

We can never know the Victorians as well as they knew themselves. Nor–however well we annotate our texts–can we read Victorian novels as responsively as Victorians read them. They, not we, own their fiction. Thackeray and his original readers shared a common ground so familiar that there was no need for it to be spelled out. The challenge for the modern reader is to reconstruct that background as fully as we can. To ‘Victorianize’ ourselves, one might say.

It goes beyond stripping out the furniture of everyday life (horses not motorised transport, no running hot water, rampant infectious diseases) into attitudes. Can we—to take one troublesome example—in reading, say, Vanity Fair, ‘Victorianize’ our contemporary feelings about race? Or should we accept the jolt that overt 19th-century racism gives the modern reader, take it on board, and analyse what lies behind it?

It crops up in the very opening pages of Vanity Fair. Thackeray’s first full-page illustration in the novel shows the coach carrying Amelia and Becky (she hurling her Johnson’s ‘Dixonary’ out of the window) from Miss Pinkerton’s to the freedom of Russell Square. Free, free at last. Looked at closely, we may also note a black footman riding postilion in the Sedley coach. He is, we later learn, called Sambo. He features a couple of times in the first numbers and his presence hints, obliquely, that the slave trade is one field of business that the two rich merchants, Mr Sedley and Mr Osborne, may have made money from. The trade was, of course, abolished by Wilberforce’s act in 1805, but slaves continued to work in the British West Indies on the sugar plantations until the 1830s. The opening chapters of Vanity Fair are set in 1813…

…There is another character in the novel with an interest in the West Indies. Amelia’s and Becky’s schoolmate at Miss Pinkerton’s academy, Miss Swartz, is introduced as the rich woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt’s.’ St. Kitt’s, one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, had (until well into the twentieth century) a monoculture economy based on one crop, sugar. The plantations were worked, until the mid-1830s, by slaves–of whom Miss Swartz’s mother must have been one. Dobbin’s and George’s regiment, the ‘—-th,’ has recently been garrisoned at St. Kitts just before we encounter them. One of their duties would be to put down the occasional slave rebellions.

Miss Swartz is, we deduce, the daughter of a sugar merchant (the name hints at Jewish paternity) who has consoled himself with a black concubine. This was normal practice. It was also something painfully familiar to Thackeray. His father had been a high-ranking official in the East India Company. Thackeray, we recall, was born in Calcutta and educated himself on money earned in India. Before marrying, Thackeray’s father, as was normal, had a ‘native’ mistress and by her an illegitimate daughter, Sarah Blechynden. It was an embarrassment to the novelist, who declined any relationship with his half-sister in later life. In the truly hideous depiction Thackeray made of Miss Swartz (he illustrated his fiction, of course) in chapter 21 (‘Miss Swartz Rehearsing for the Drawing-Room’) one may suspect spite and an element of shame. What was the abolitionist’s motto—‘Am I not a Man and a Brother’? What was Miss Swartz’s mute cry, ‘Am I not a Woman and a Sister?’ No is the answer Thackeray returns.

Thackeray’s views on race remained unreconstructed. In a letter sent to his mother from America, on his first trip there (now a world-famous as the author of Vanity Fair) he wrote of the black slaves he saw in the south: ‘They are not my men and brethren, these strange people with theire retreating foreheads, and with great obtruding lips and jaws . . . Sambo is not my man and my brother.’ Thackeray died during the American Civil War. He proclaimed himself a firm supporter of the Confederacy and slavery…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

William Wells Brown: An African American Life

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-24 20:15Z by Steven

William Wells Brown: An African American Life

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
October 2014
624 pages
6.6 × 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-24090-0

Ezra Greenspan, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

A groundbreaking biography of the most pioneering and accomplished African-American writer of the nineteenth century.

Born into slavery in Kentucky, raised on the Western frontier on the farm adjacent to Daniel Boone’s, “rented” out in adolescence to a succession of steamboat captains on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, the young man known as “Sandy” reinvented himself as “William Wells” Brown after escaping to freedom. He lifted himself out of illiteracy and soon became an innovative, widely admired, and hugely popular speaker on antislavery circuits (both American and British) and went on to write the earliest African American works in a plethora of genres: travelogue, novel (the now canonized Clotel), printed play, and history. He also practiced medicine, ran for office, and campaigned for black uplift, temperance, and civil rights.

Ezra Greenspan’s masterful work, elegantly written and rigorously researched, sets Brown’s life in the richly rendered context of his times, creating a fascinating portrait of an inventive writer who dared to challenge the racial orthodoxies and explore the racial complexities of nineteenth-century America.

Tags: , ,

Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-23 19:55Z by Steven

Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

The Middlebury Campus
Middlebury College
Middlebury, Vermont
2014-03-19

Conor Grant, Managing Editor


Alexander Twilight Hall, a building named in honor of Alexander Twilight of the class of 1823, is just one part of the complicated legacy of America’s first black college graduate. (Courtesy/Middlebury)

Alexander Twilight Hall — the austere brick building separating the town from Middlebury College — is named for Alexander Twilight, the 1823 Middlebury College graduate who is known today as the first American black college graduate.

Today, Twilight is widely touted as an example of Middlebury’s rich legacy of inclusivity and racial diversity.

But who exactly was Alexander Twilight? Was he really the first black man at Middlebury?

The answer to that question is more complicated than it might first appear…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Race and the Making of Family in the Atlantic World

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-10-22 15:21Z by Steven

Race and the Making of Family in the Atlantic World

University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Burney Center
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, North Carolina
Thursday, 2014-10-23, 19:30 EDT (Local Time)

Daniel Livesay, Assistant Professor of History
Drury University, Springfield, Missouri

In the eighteenth-century world of slavery and the slave trade, racial prejudices were often stark and unfeeling. Emphasis on racial difference helped slave owners and the wider public justify the systematic abuse of millions of people. Yet, at the individual level, attitudes toward race were incredibly complex. This was especially true for Europeans who had relatives with some amount of African heritage. Throughout the Americas, white men slept with free and enslaved women of color. Typically, these were acts of violence, but in some cases long-term relationships could emerge, with a train of mixed-race children following. In places like the Caribbean, where individuals of color had few educational and professional opportunities, a number of white men sent mixed-race offspring to Britain to live with their families. Britons on the other side of the Atlantic had almost no interaction with individuals of African descent before they were tasked with taking care of family who were simultaneously the descendants of slaves. Subsequently, these families came to understand issues of race as subjects particularly related to kinship. By documenting the experiences of these migrants of color, more light can be shed on modern ideas of race, and the global dislocation of many families. This talk will show that the growing racial complexities at home and abroad can best be analyzed and understood through an historical examination of the family dimension of ideas about race. Notions of racial difference emerged out of debates around family composition and by taking such a perspective, we can deconstruct some of the most enduring and harmful legacies of race-based thinking.

For more information, click here.

Tags:

Drury professor honored for research on mixed-race families

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-10-16 21:34Z by Steven

Drury professor honored for research on mixed-race families

Springfield News-Leader
Springfield, Missouri
2014-10-12

Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer
Drury University

Dan Livesay, assistant history professor at Drury University, has been named the Sherman Emerging Scholar for 2014. Livesay will travel to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington next week to deliver a public lecture about his research, speak in a graduate class and share his expertise with other scholars.

The Sherman Emerging Scholar award is a national award presented by UNC-Wilmington annually to a promising young scholar. It gives the winner a platform to discuss perspectives, research and approaches to modern issues and theories in history, politics and international affairs.

Livesay’s lecture, titled “Race and the Making of Family in the Atlantic World,” will relate his research about mixed-race families in the 18th century to modern-day debates about race and family in the United States. Growing racial complexities and family belonging were important issues then as now.

“Because I was selected by a committee of historians working on lots of different periods of time and topics, it was very encouraging to discover that my particular research had something of a broad appeal,” Livesay says. “As academics, we can sometimes feel that we are only talking to a very narrow group of people about our research, and so I’m thrilled that I can present it to people from all different walks of life and intellectual interests.”

In total, Livesay spent 10 years researching, writing and revising his work, which is now in the process of being published in book form by UNC Press

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

SANDS OF TIME: American Beach nears 80-year anniversary

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-15 01:24Z by Steven

SANDS OF TIME: American Beach nears 80-year anniversary

The Florida Times-Union
Jacksonville, Florida
2014-10-13

Alec Newell

The extended family of Zephaniah Kingsley, Anna Jai, and their descendants have been major players in shaping the history of Northeast Florida during three colonial periods, American territorial times, Florida statehood and on into the 20th century.

Between Lake George and the St. Marys River, the fingerprints they left seem to be everywhere.

Most of us are familiar with the story of how slave trader Zepheniah Kingsley bought a 13-year-old “African princess” — Anna Madgigine Jai — in Cuba and brought her back to his Laurel Grove Plantation in what is now Orange Park. The couple produced four children, and Zephaniah never wavered in his acknowledgement of Anna as his wife.

Anna, later as a freed woman of color, would own her own slaves, plantation property, and live at various other family residences along the lower St. Johns River. These properties included Mandarin (later owned by Harriet Beecher Stowe), Kingsley Plantation (Ft. George Island), Chesterfield (part of the Jacksonville University Campus), Floral Bluff (Arlington), and Strawberry Plantation (Arlington Bluff), where she was buried. Probably less well-known is the Kingsley connection to the Afro-American Life Insurance Company and American Beach

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-14 13:13Z by Steven

Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Richmond Hill Reflections
Richmond Hill, Georgia
Volume 10, Number 4 (September 2014)
pages 57-60

Leslie Ann Berg (Photos by Callie Beale Photography)

Richmond Hill’s history is engrained deep within the walls of its old buildings, street names, and its land. But there is another place where history runs deep in Richmond Hill. It is a living, breathing history that not only thrived centuries ago, but is still thriving today. It is a history that courses through the very veins of the Richmond Hill people: It is the history of bloodlines.

Some of us are military families that found our way to Richmond Hill because of our duty, others transferred here for a job, and still others came to Richmond Hill for its quiet, safe community and great schools. But there is a very real and permanent group of people who live in Richmond Hill because it is home in the deepest sense of the word: Richmond Hill is where their ancestors settled and where they choose to remain. This group of people is the Blige family.

Meeting a member of the Blige family is like meeting an old friend. They are warm, welcoming, and full of jovial conversation. As I sat around Albertha Blige’s dining room table with her cousin Francis, and her mother Dorothy, and Uncle Pete, both in their 80s, we discussed Blige family history, traditions, and folklore. The women were tight-lipped when it came to telling stories, but Uncle Pete opened up and let me in on who exactly the Bliges were and are.

The Bliges made their way to Richmond Hill after the Civil War in 1875, when three brothers, Andrew, Benjamin, and Rently Blige, migrated south from Charleston, South Carolina. All three bothers married and had eight, nine, and 11 children respectively and so began the large Blige family of Richmond Hill. The brothers worked for wages at the Ogeechee River plantations. As their children grew, the family purchased land from Thomas Savage Clay, a man who owned several plantations in the Richmond Hill area.

Owning land was monumental for the families of emancipated slaves like the Bliges, yet life wasn’t easy. Uncle Pete, Benjamin Blige’s grandson and one of 20 children, recalls what life was like when he was a boy: “[My father] worked about 60 miles from [Richmond Hill]. He left on Sunday evenings and didn’t come back for 2 weeks. My mother was here taking care of the farm. The kids worked… that’s why they had so many kids. Kids carried the farm and my mother did the housework and watched the kids.”…

…Uncle Pete’s accounts of his family may sound like a typical African American ancestral history in the southeastern United States, but beneath the commonalities lies a forgotten history, a history that never made its way into the history books.

The Blige’s African American ancestry is vibrant and evident, yet they are also of Cherokee Indian decent. African-Native Americans? Yes, and in fact, African-Native Americans made up a significant percentage of Native Americans living in the South in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Yet their existence is not widely accounted for in history.

The American history that most of us are familiar with is one that paints a picture of segregated ethnic groups, depicting Whites as slave owners, Africans as slaves, and Native Americans as tribe members. In most of our minds, all three groups were separate and played a very specific and hierarchical role in history. Yet, before North America was widely colonized, distinct segregation did not exist, and the interaction between Africans and Native Americans was somewhat frequent. Enslaved Africans escaped to Native American tribes (some tribes even hosted stops on the Underground Railroad), some Native Americans were enslaved by Europeans alongside Africans, and some Native Americans had African slaves. Often times, the two groups worked alongside each other, lived together, and shared recipes, myths, legends, and herbal remedies. Africans and Native Americans intermarried and had children. In fact, relations were so frequent that when a census was taken in the early 1800s, 10% of the Cherokee Nation was of African descent; 100 years later, this number increased to 50%.

As interaction between the Africans and Native Americans increased, colonists felt a need to break their alliance and issue laws that secured the land and property the Europeans had acquired. Once the American government was established and began to thrive, such laws were carried out. Only then did the rights ot slave owners gain tremendous strength, while the rights of Africans and Native Americans fell to the wayside. In order to enforce the new laws and segregate the two ethnic groups, a census was taken to categorize all individuals as African or Native American. Categorization was based solely on skin color; consequently, much of the African-Native American history, culture, and ancestral lines were erased. Fast forward 300 years and most Americans know very little, it anything, about this fascinating ethnic group.

The Blige family shares in this incredible story of the African-Native Americans. Their bloodline is unique and in many ways, we wall never truly uncover the rich culture ot the African-Native American due to the lack ot documentation. But the Blige family has main tained a connection to their African-Native American ancestors in their ability to live off the land and their lifelong practice olt faith and spirituality…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

11 ways race isn’t real

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-12 18:46Z by Steven

11 ways race isn’t real

Vox
2014-10-10

Jenée Desmond-Harris

It was surprising — and, to many, annoying — to learn that Raven Symoné, the brown-skinned girl who played the adorable youngest character on TV’s seminal black sitcom, The Cosby Show, doesn’t consider herself “African-American.” (In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said she thought of herself as “a colorless person.”)

Symoné ultimately responded to those who’d called her comments misguided or tone deaf, clarifying in a statement to theGrio.com, “I never said I wasn’t black.” But the most fascinating thing about the whole story is that, even if she’d flat-out rejected that label, none of us could, with any authority, tell her she was wrong.

The discussion surrounding the actress’s identity is just the latest example of how there’s no consensus when it comes to who should be called what — black, white, Asian, or Latino — in the United States. It’s a reminder that race is a social and political construct.

Most people have heard that concept by now. But what does it actually mean?

It means that racial categories are not real. By “real,” I mean based on facts that people can even begin to agree on. Permanent. Scientific. Objective. Logical. Consistent. Able to stand up to scrutiny.

This, of course, does not mean that the concept of race isn’t hugely important in our lives. Although race isn’t real, racism certainly is. The racial categories to which we’re assigned, based on how we look to others or how we identify ourselves, can determine real-life experiences, inspire hate, drive political outcomes, and make the difference between life and death. But these important consequences are a result of a relatively new idea that was based on shaky reasoning and shady motivations. This makes the borders of the various categories impossible to pin down and renders today’s debates about how particular people should identify futile.

If you have any lingering belief that the racial categorizations we use make any real sense, read this and change your mind:…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,

Remains will stay in old family cemetery in Bedford

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-10-03 15:37Z by Steven

Remains will stay in old family cemetery in Bedford

The News & Advance
Lynchburg, Virginia
2014-10-01

Alex Rohr, Beat Reporter

BEDFORD — The remains of at least 20 people buried in Bedford will stay interred despite a request by the Bank of the James to move them.

The bank’s request to the Bedford County Circuit Court, challenged by David Lowry a descendant of former Bedford County plantation owners, was denied after a hearing that lasted about four hours.

The cemetery — which may be the final resting place of slaves — was overgrown with trees and undergrowth when the bank acquired the land in a 2009 foreclosure. The property, just east of Applebee’s on U.S. 460 in Bedford, was covered until March.

Judge James Updike’s decision drew applause from over a dozen members of the extended Lowry family who were present during the hearing…

…Charles Lowry, a witness and relative of James W. Lowry, looked to the heavens in thankful prayer after Updike made his decision.

“God works in mysterious ways,” he said.

Charles Lowry, who is black, and David Lowry, who is white, believe they share ancestors…

Brent Staples, who has written about his family history for The New York Times editorial page, traces his lineage to the area and a woman named Somerville who birthed several children by Marshall Lowry, a white farm manager.

“As a son of Virginia, and a son of Bedford County and as a descendent of slaves on the Lowry plantation, my concern would be there if they were not blood-related,” Staples said…

…David Lowry, Charles Lowry and Staples said they intend to get DNA tests to verify whether they are related. Combining oral and family history, they are confident the results will be in the affirmative.

“If Somerville’s story is accurate, then I am his cousin,” Staples said on the stand, pointing at David Lowry…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Born Champions [Full Episode]

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2014-10-02 01:45Z by Steven

Born Champions [Full Episode]

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
2014-09-30

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Host and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research
Harvard University

Three of America’s greatest athletes, whose determination and love of sports were deeply shaped by their families, were all cut off from their true origins. Billie Jean King learns the story of her grandmother. Derek Jeter confronts his ancestors’ lives as slaves. Rebecca Lobo finds out that her Spanish ancestor fought side by side with a famous revolutionary.

Watch the full episode here.

Partial Transcript below:

GATES: I’M HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. WELCOME TO FINDING YOUR ROOTS.

TONIGHT, WE REVEAL THE ANCESTRY OF THREE OF AMERICA’S GREATEST ATHLETES: TENNIS LEGEND BILLIE JEAN KING, YANKEES ALL-STAR DEREK JETER, AND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PIONEER REBECCA LOBO… ATHLETES WHOSE PURPOSE AND DRIVE WERE PROFOUNDLY SHAPED BY THEIR FAMILIES.

TO DISCOVER THEIR ANCESTORS, WE’VE USED EVERY TOOL AVAILABLE…

GENEALOGISTS HELPED STITCH TOGETHER THE PAST USING THE PAPER TRAIL THEIR FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND, WHILE GENETICISTS UTILIZED THE LATEST ADVANCES IN DNA ANALYSIS TO REVEAL SECRETS HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLD.

GATES: The answers are in this book…

GATES VO: AND WE’VE COMPILED EVERYTHING INTO A BOOK OF LIFE, A RECORD OF ALL OF OUR DISCOVERIES…

LOBO: I mean it’s just amazing to see her handwriting!

JETER: That’s unbelievable… all the way back to 1605!

BILLIE JEAN KING: This is from a bible?  Family…we have a family bible?

GATES: Mhm.

BILLIE JEAN KING: This (audio cuts off 1:01:04:12) is fantastic!

GATES: AS WE TRACE BILLIE JEAN, DEREK, AND REBECCA’S ROOTS, WE’LL EXPLORE HOW THEY BECAME CHAMPIONS, DID THEY COME TO GREATNESS THROUGH HARD WORK AND INDIVIDUAL EFFORT? IS THEIR TALENT SIMPLY ENCODED IN THEIR GENES? COULD IT BE, THESE THREE ATHLETES WERE MODELED IN WAYS THEY NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED? BY THE LIVES OF THEIR ANCESTORS.

ROOTS TITLE SEQUENCE…

…GATES VO: DEREK’S FATHER, CHARLES JETER, IS AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND HIS MOTHER, DOROTHY CONNORS, IS OF IRISH DESCENT. IT WASN’T EASY BEING THE CHILD OF A MIXED MARRIAGE. WHEN DEREK WAS YOUNG, HE OFTEN HAD TO FACE UNWANTED ATTENTION.

JETER: You know back in the day, yeah you’d get some second glances, people trying to figure out what the dynamic is there. And if you go somewhere with both of them, obviously you get some stares.

GATES: Mhm.

JETER: My parents tried to explain to us that it’s just people’s ignorance they’re not used to seeing it.

GATES: Did your parents take any flack?

JETER: I think when you’re a young child, I think your parents don’t necessarily tell you how difficult it was…

GATES: Yeah.

JETER: …on them. So, you know, a lot of their troubles that they went through, I’m sure they sheltered us from it.

GATES:  So when people come up to you and say, you know, “What are you?” what do you say?

JETER:  Black and Irish…

GATES: Black and Irish, that’s what you say?

JETER: Yeah, that’s, that’s what I believe I am but I don’t know much about my history…

Tags: , , , , , ,