Book Release of Prof. Lundy Braun’s Breathing Race into the Machine

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-04-15 19:20Z by Steven

Book Release of Prof. Lundy Braun’s Breathing Race into the Machine

Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
Program in Science and Technology Studies
2014-03-26

This February, Royce Family Professor in Teaching Excellence, professor of medical science and Africana studies, and a member of the Science and Technology Studies Program, Lundy Braun released her new book Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics.

In her book, Lundy Braun traces the little-known history of the spirometer to reveal the ways medical instruments have worked to naturalize racial and ethnic differences, from Victorian Britain to today. An unsettling account of the pernicious effects of racial thinking that divides people along genetic lines, this book helps us understand how race enters into science and shapes medical research and practice.

In the antebellum South, plantation physicians used a new medical device—the spirometer—to show that lung volume and therefore vital capacity were supposedly less in black slaves than in white citizens. At the end of the Civil War, a large study of racial difference employing the spirometer appeared to confirm the finding, which was then applied to argue that slaves were unfit for freedom. What is astonishing is that this example of racial thinking is anything but a historical relic…

Read the entire article here.

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Ties to Thomas Jefferson Unravel Family Mystery

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-02-11 04:01Z by Steven

Ties to Thomas Jefferson Unravel Family Mystery

The Root
2014-01-26

Gayle Jessup White

A woman seeks answers to decades-old questions about whether her family is related to the descendants of Thomas Jefferson.

ore than 40 years ago, I learned of my family’s ancestral ties to Thomas Jefferson. It was a blood connection impossible to prove, and one seldom discussed, as my father was ashamed of his mother’s out-of-wedlock birth. Still, he acknowledged that he’d heard from an older generation that Jefferson was his lineal ancestor. The tie was a mystery because the only black descendants we knew of were from Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, and we couldn’t find the link.

Dad also painfully confessed that his mother’s life was a mystery—she and his five older sisters died of tuberculosis in 1920 when he was 5 years old, leaving him and his older brother to be raised by a taciturn father and a cold stepmother. He remembered little about his mother, and seemed to know even less. He did offer these tidbits: She was born in Charlottesville, Va., home of Jefferson’s Monticello, and she sometimes called herself Eva Robinson, other times Eva Taylor. No one knew why.

Like most African Americans, oral history is my primary source for deep family roots. There are no birth certificates, marriage licenses or census records. Our great-great grandmothers, great-great grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins were items on manifests, bills of sale and plantation ledgers. Sometimes, our forefathers or their families owned our foremothers. This was apparently the case in my family. But I wasn’t to learn that for decades.

No, 40 years ago, I was accepting of what scant evidence I had, and for me, there was little doubt of my father’s Jefferson family bona fides. Dad was tall—6 feet 2 inches—freckle-faced and, in his youth, redheaded. He even had, I would learn years later, the Jefferson family nose, one that sloped gently. It was evident that there were whites in the woodpile, as folks used to say.

So when after years of collecting what little tangible proof was available, including a Bible engraved with the initials D.T. and the date 1821, which belonged to my grandmother and which I inherited from my uncle, and a baptismal certificate signed Eva Taylor Jessup, I was thrilled to find more circumstantial evidence. With the help of Thomas Jefferson scholar Lucia (Cinder) Stanton, I saw a 1900 census record listing my grandmother. She was a domestic servant living in the home of Jefferson’s great-granddaughter. I almost wept when I read Cinder’s words: “Could this Eva Robinson be your grandmother?” Cinder, who had built a highly regarded career studying Jefferson and his Monticello slaves and is the author of “Those Who Labor for My Happiness: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello,” seemed very confident.

It wasn’t long before she found my great-grandmother, one Rachael Robinson, in the 1870 census records, unmarried and with two children described as “mulattos.” Living as a bachelor and just one household away was Moncure Robinson Taylor, my probable great-grandfather and Jefferson’s great-great grandson, and the man who most likely fathered her children. Additionally, in 1901, my grandmother, Eva Robinson Taylor, left Charlottesville for Washington, D.C., where she was married. Around the same time, Moncure Robinson Taylor, then 40 years old, married for the first time. An interesting coincidence, or had Rachael, my great-grandmother, died, leaving Eva free to move to the city and Moncure free to marry? There’s no written evidence of that, no death certificate, but it’s possible. Cinder said the discoveries made her tingle. To say I felt the same would be an understatement.

So I‘ve learned my family is probably descended from the Taylor line, explaining why my grandmother sometimes used that surname. I started attending lectures about Jefferson, taking my friends to Monticello, Googling Thomas Jefferson and African-American descendants. It was the Googling that delivered. I read about Tess Taylor, a poet and a white Jefferson descendant. She’d written a book of poems, The Forage House, about her conflicting feelings of being descended from the country’s most enigmatic slave-holder. I sensed a connection, I reached out and she reached back. I would learn later that Tess’ great-great-grandfather was Moncure’s brother, and my great uncle. That would make Tess my third cousin, once removed…

Read thee entire article here.

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Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics

Posted in Africa, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-02-10 08:03Z by Steven

Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics

University of Minnesota Press
February 2014
304 pages
29 b&w photos
6 x 9
Cloth/jacket ISBN: 978-0-8166-8357-4

Lundy Braun, Royce Family Professor in Teaching Excellence and Professor of Medical Science and Africana Studies
Brown University

In the antebellum South, plantation physicians used a new medical device—the spirometer—to show that lung volume and therefore vital capacity were supposedly less in black slaves than in white citizens. At the end of the Civil War, a large study of racial difference employing the spirometer appeared to confirm the finding, which was then applied to argue that slaves were unfit for freedom. What is astonishing is that this example of racial thinking is anything but a historical relic.

In Breathing Race into the Machine, science studies scholar Lundy Braun traces the little-known history of the spirometer to reveal the social and scientific processes by which medical instruments have worked to naturalize racial and ethnic differences, from Victorian Britain to today. Routinely a factor in in clinical diagnoses, preemployment physicals, and disability estimates, spirometers are often “race corrected,” typically reducing normal values for African Americans by 15 percent.

An unsettling account of the pernicious effects of racial thinking that divides people along genetic lines, Breathing Race into the Machine helps us understand how race enters into science and shapes medical research and practice.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Measuring Vital Capacity
  • 1. “Inventing” the Spirometer: Working-Class Bodies in Victorian England
  • 2. Black Lungs and White Lungs: The Science of White Supremacy in the Nineteenth-Century United States
  • 3. Filling the Lungs with Air: The Rise of Physical Culture in America
  • 4. Progress and Race: Vitality in Turn-of-the-Century Britain
  • 5. Globalizing Spirometry: The “Racial Factor” in Scientific Medicine
  • 6. Adjudicating Disability in the Industrial Worker
  • 7. Diagnosing Silicosis: Physiological Testing in South African Gold Mines
  • Epilogue: How Race Takes Root
  • Notes
  • Index
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The Young White Faces of Slavery

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-02-06 13:33Z by Steven

The Young White Faces of Slavery

The New York Times
2014-01-30

Mary Niall Mitchell, Joseph Tregle Professor of Early American History
University of New Orleans

For Northern readers scanning the Jan. 30, 1864, issue of Harper’s Weekly for news from the South, a large engraving on page 69 brought the war home in an unexpected way. Drawn from a photograph, it featured eight recently freed slaves from Union-occupied New Orleans. At the back of the portrait stood three adults, Wilson Chinn, Mary Johnson and Robert Whitehead. In the foreground were five children — Charles Taylor, Rebecca Huger, Rosa Downs, Augusta Broujey and Isaac White — ranging in age from 7 to 11. Their gaze was trained on the camera, but in the context of the magazine, the effect was that they all seemed to be looking at the reader.

Instead of the coarse garments worn by most enslaved people in the South, they were well dressed, the men and boys in suits and Mary Johnson and the girls in dresses and petticoats. But it was not their attire that confounded readers. Rather, the pale skin and smooth hair of four of the children — Charles, Augusta, Rebecca and Rosa — overturned a different set of Northern expectations about the appearance of people enslaved in the South: that a person’s African-American heritage would always, somehow, be visible and that only “negroes” could be slaves. The caption beneath the group, like the portrait itself, was meant to provoke the armchair viewer’s unease: “Emancipated Slaves” it proclaimed, “White and Colored.”

It was no accident that the young “white” slaves resembled the children of the magazine’s white middle-class readership, which is to say Northern children who were far removed from the threat of enslavement, or so their parents liked to think. The sponsors of the group from New Orleans anticipated precisely the kind of effect such children might have on Northern middle-class readers. As “the offspring of white fathers through two or three generations,” the Harper’s Weekly editors explained, “they are as white, as intelligent, as docile, as most of our own children.”…

…Not surprisingly, the lightest-skinned children caused the most stir among Northern editors and audiences. The two lightest-skinned girls, Rebecca and Rosa, seemed to have the greatest appeal, judging from the large number of cartes de visite that survive of them. About Rebecca, Harper’s Weekly wrote: “to all appearance, she is perfectly white. Her complexion, hair, and features show not the slightest trace of negro blood.” With their fair skin and elegant dress, Rebecca and Rosa evoked for most viewers the “fancy girls” sold in the New Orleans slave market. The fate that awaited these girls as concubines to white men was clear to most viewers at the time. Their tender youth compelled Northerners to renew their commitment to the war and rescue girls like these…

Read the entire article here.

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Cousins, Across the Color Line

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-01-23 22:53Z by Steven

Cousins, Across the Color Line

The New York Times
2014-01-22

Tess Taylor

EL CERRITO, Calif. — I learned about her through the comments section of an article in Publisher’s Weekly. I had recently published a book of poems crafted out of family stories, and it had been written up, along with a brief interview. In the interview, I reckon with the complicated history of my family — I am a white descendant of Thomas Jefferson — and the fact that some of my ancestors were slave owners from 1670 until the Civil War.

In the comments section, the woman, Gayle Jessup White, had written: “I am an African-American Jefferson descendant. My grandmother was a Taylor (although her mother didn’t exactly marry into the family!), a direct descendant from J.C. Randolph Taylor and Martha Jefferson Randolph” — Thomas Jefferson’s daughter. “Tess Taylor — I wonder if we share great-great-grandparents? The plot thickens.”

The story of Sally Hemings, a slave in the Jefferson household — and the children she most likely bore the third president — is by now widely accepted. That story has offered a chance for people descended from slave owners and those descended from enslaved people to begin to recognize their connections. But the situation, at least in my family, remains delicate. Some white Jefferson descendants have welcomed Hemings descendants. Others have not. Hemings descendants are not allowed to be buried in the family graveyard at Monticello, Jefferson’s home, because despite increased evidence, there is, technically, room for scientific doubt. The doubt in turn points to great historical violence: Because it was not the custom of slave owners to name who fathered the mulatto children on their plantations, we have little documentary evidence that would constitute legal “proof” of our interrelationship.

Yet the fact is that many so-called white and so-called black people in our country are actually deeply interrelated. It is highly likely that I have distant cousins I’ll never know, people who’ll never come to any family reunion. Historians have obsessed over Jefferson’s possible liaisons, but slavery lasted many generations. Among his sons, grandsons, great-grandsons and great-great-grandsons, there were bound to be other liaisons and therefore other direct lineal descendants of Jefferson and enslaved people or domestic servants.

I wrote to Gayle immediately. Frankly, I was delighted to get her note. I looked her up. I sent her an email. “Hey. It’s Tess,” I wrote. “Let’s talk.”…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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The story behind Dido Belle – the bi-racial Londoner who helped end slavery in Britain

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2014-01-09 21:02Z by Steven

The story behind Dido Belle – the bi-racial Londoner who helped end slavery in Britain

London Evening Standard
2014-01-08

Susannah Butter

Susannah Butter tells the tale of Dido Belle, ahead of the release of a film about her extraordinary life starring Tom Felton and Miranda Richardson.

Among the many aristocratic faces gazing out of frames in Hampstead’s newly refurbished Kenwood House, there’s one that sticks out. Standing next to Elizabeth Murray in a print of Johann Zoffany’s portrait from c.1799, there is a smiling girl wearing pearls. But although she looks equal to her playmate, she is black. This girl is Dido Belle, the daughter of an enslaved woman. Belle was brought up at Kenwood, a house partially built with “blood money” from the Triangular Trade, and she made her own contribution to the abolition of slavery. A film of her extraordinary life, Belle, is out this spring with a cast including Tom Felton and Miranda Richardson.

It comes after two films examining the black historical experience: British director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Lee Daniels’s The Butler, both set in the United States. But there is another story of slavery that needs telling and it’s set in London…

…Belle was born the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay of the Royal Navy and Maria Belle, a slave who he met en route from England to Jamaica around 1761. When Lindsay went back to the navy, he entrusted five-year-old Belle to his uncle, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who lived at Kenwood. Lord and Lady Mansfield had no children of their own but raised Belle with Lady Elizabeth Murray, the daughter of Mansfield’s other nephew, David Murray.

“The idea that there was this girl who was part of our cultural legacy in England — a mixed race woman in the 1780s — hooked me,” says Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the London actress who plays Belle. “Speaking as a mixed-race woman in 2013, there aren’t many historical stories about people like me. When people think of ‘dual heritage,’ they think it’s a modern concept but it’s not. I wanted to do justice to Dido.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2013-12-27 01:23Z by Steven

Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner

University of West Virginia Press
March 2013
288 pages
Hardcover (Jacketed) ISBN: 978-1-935978-60-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-935978-61-9
ePub ISBN: 978-1-935978-62-6
PDF ISBN: 978-1-935978-95-4

Foreword by:

Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Fred C. Frey Professor of Southern Studies
Louisiana State University

Edited by:

Jean Lee Cole, Associate Professor of English
Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore

In a series of columns published in the African American newspaper The Christian Recorder, the young, charismatic preacher Henry McNeal Turner described his experience of the Civil War, first from the perspective of a civilian observer in Washington, D.C., and later, as one of the Union army’s first black chaplains.

In the halls of Congress, Turner witnessed the debates surrounding emancipation and black enlistment. As army chaplain, Turner dodged “grape” and cannon, comforted the sick and wounded, and settled disputes between white southerners and their former slaves. He was dismayed by the destruction left by Sherman’s army in the Carolinas, but buoyed by the bravery displayed by black soldiers in battle. After the war ended, he helped establish churches and schools for the freedmen, who previously had been prohibited from attending either.

Throughout his columns, Turner evinces his firm belief in the absolute equality of blacks with whites, and insists on civil rights for all black citizens. In vivid, detailed prose, laced with a combination of trenchant commentary and self-deprecating humor, Turner established himself as more than an observer: he became a distinctive and authoritative voice for the black community, and a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal church. After Reconstruction failed, Turner became disillusioned with the American dream and became a vocal advocate of black emigration to Africa, prefiguring black nationalists such as Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Here, however, we see Turner’s youthful exuberance and optimism, and his open-eyed wonder at the momentous changes taking place in American society.

Well-known in his day, Turner has been relegated to the fringes of African American history, in large part because neither his views nor the forms in which he expressed them were recognized by either the black or white elite. With an introduction by Jean Lee Cole and a foreword by Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner restores this important figure to the historical and literary record.

Table of Contents

  • Editor’s Note
  • Foreword, Aaron Sheehan-Dean
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: “I have seen war wonders”: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner
  • Chapter 1. Emancipation and Enlistment (March 22, 1862–April 18, 1863)
  • Chapter 2. The Siege of Petersburg (June 25, 1864–December 17, 1864)
  • Chapter 3. Fort Fisher (Jan. 7, 1865–Feb. 18, 1865)
  • Chapter 4. Freeing Slaves, Meeting Sherman (Feb, 25, 1865–June 10, 1865)
  • Chapter 5. Roanoke Island (June 24, 1865–August 5, 1865)
  • About the Authors
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Uncovering records that link the slaveholder and enslaved

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2013-12-03 06:03Z by Steven

Uncovering records that link the slaveholder and enslaved

Examiner.com
2013-12-02

Robin Foster

In “Untangling the slaveholder and enslaved relationships,” several questions were raised about a possible link between Anderson Chick and Pettus Chick after it was discovered that Anderson and his mother, Eliza, lived next door to the Chick family for decades. If you are on a quest to determine if slavery links two family groups in your research, this article will provide clues that may help you.

Oral history

Review the stories about slavery that were passed down in your family. Small clues can point to records that might validate any theories. In the case of Pettus Chick, a great nephew actually shared some information that provided insights about which direction to take next.

According to the story shared, Pettus Chick and Sarah never had any children; he supposedly had a child by an enslaved woman. Pettus and Anderson appear on both the 1870 and 1880 US Censuses living in Goshen Hill, Union County, South Carolina. Pettus did not appear in 1900. Sarah was widowed. So what records would you turn to fill the gap between 1880 and 1900 when Pettus died?…

…While the will alone does not prove Pettus was the father of Anderson, it does validate the theory that Pettus was a former slave owner and had close ties to Eliza and her two oldest children. It also sheds light on why Anderson changed his name between 1880 and 1900 from Eigner to Chick…

Read the entire article here.

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The genes that build America

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United States on 2013-11-19 04:17Z by Steven

The genes that build America

The Guardian
2007-07-14

Paul Harris, US Correspondent

From the discovery that presidential hopeful Barack Obama is descended from white slave owners to the realisation that the majority of black Americans have European ancestors, a boom in ‘recreational genetics’ is forcing America to redefine its roots. Paul Harris pieces together the DNA jigsaw of what it really means to be born in the USA

Al Sharpton walked into a South Carolina pine forest just outside the sleepy southern town of Edgefield and stopped at a cluster of toothlike unmarked gravestones. This was the former plantation on which a few generations ago his ancestors had worked, lived, loved and died, owned as property by white masters. ‘You must assume that it’s family here,’ Sharpton said, referring to the abandoned slave graveyard.

A few weeks previously Reverend Sharpton, one of America’s most outspoken black civil rights leaders, had not known of the cemetery’s existence. But researchers had explored his genealogy and broken the news to him. Sharpton’s story had an astonishing twist: the genealogists discovered that his ancestors had once been owned by the ancestors of Strom Thurmond, the Senator and former segregationist who once ran for president on a racist platform. The phrase ‘ironic coincidence’ did not begin to cover it.

Dozens of reporters tagged along when Sharpton first visited the Edgefield woods, yet it was clear he was genuinely stunned by what he called ‘the greatest shock’ of his life. ‘It profoundly affected him,’ said Tony Burroughs, a genealogist who worked on the project.

Sharpton was not alone. America has embarked on an amazing journey to explore its own past. Millions of Americans of every creed and colour are exploring their family histories in a genealogy boom that is redefining who they are and what it means to be American. The internet has allowed people to find obscure information at the click of a mouse that was previously locked away on dusty library shelves. They are also using modern DNA techniques to research their racial history, creating a multi-million dollar industry of consumer genetics. Like Sharpton, many are making shocking discoveries. They are finding slaves and slave-owners. Far from being a nation of different races, many are finding they have mixed pasts. Blacks are discovering they have white blood, whites are finding black relatives. Native Americans are growing in numbers, not because of a high birth rate, but because many Americans are discovering unknown native ancestors written in their DNA.

And it is impacting right up to the highest in the land. Just after the Sharpton story broke, other genealogists revealed they had discovered presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s family—through his white mother—had also once owned slaves. Just like the Thurmonds. That means the man who hopes to become America’s first black president could be the direct descendant not of black slaves, but of white slave-owners. Literally, nothing is now as black and white as it once seemed. America has embarked on an identity revolution…

Read the entire article here.

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African Slavery: The New Hollywood Renaissance

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2013-11-19 03:02Z by Steven

African Slavery: The New Hollywood Renaissance

Our Weekly: Los Angeles
2013-11-14

William Covington, Contributor

With the recent release of “12 Years A Slave” and “Django Unchained” and numerous slave genre movies awaiting release, it appears the slavery motif is possibly generating a new African American Renaissance in Hollywood.

According to Pasadena screenwriter Herman James, “Hollywood doesn’t care about educating the nation on the institution that built this country. They are taking the pulse and following the money.

Movies about slavery have become a niche genre that has a strong possibility of making money, and James says this has nothing to do with a Black president in the White House or the fact that the Civil War took place 150 years ago. Instead, he thinks the proliferation may be attributed to the fact that recently Hollywood discovered that movies about slavery and plantations are profitable. “They are the new race movies. However, if they flop they will vanish as easy as they have become big-screen entertainment.”…

The race movies that James refers to are early movies produced between 1915 and 1950 for Black audiences…

…In “The North Star,” the character Big Ben escapes a southern plantation and makes his way north to freedom by following the North Star. He ends up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he is helped by local Quakers who are part of the Underground Railroad, a system of hiding places and trails for those escaping the horrors of slavery. This movie is currently in post production.

“Belle” is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mabatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Expected to be released in 2014.

In “The Keeping Room,” three Southern women—two sisters and one African American slave—left without men in the dying days of the Civil War, are forced to defend their home from the onslaught of a band of soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army. It is scheduled for release in 2014…

Read the entire article here.

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