Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory

Posted in Biography, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2015-01-15 02:11Z by Steven

Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory

University of Georgia Press
136 pages
8 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8203-3802-6
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-4724-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-4832-2

Barbara McCaskill, Associate Professor of English and co-director of the Civil Rights Digital Library
University of Georgia

How William and Ellen Craft’s escape from slavery, their activism, and press accounts figured during the antislavery movement of the mid-1800s and Reconstruction

he spectacular 1848 escape of William and Ellen Craft (1824–1900; 1826–1891) from slavery in Macon, Georgia, is a dramatic story in the annals of American history. Ellen, who could pass for white, disguised herself as a gentleman slaveholder; William accompanied her as his “master’s” devoted slave valet; both traveled openly by train, steamship, and carriage to arrive in free Philadelphia on Christmas Day. In Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery, Barbara McCaskill revisits this dual escape and examines the collaborations and partnerships that characterized the Crafts’ activism for the next thirty years: in Boston, where they were on the run again after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law; in England; and in Reconstruction-era Georgia. McCaskill also provides a close reading of the Crafts’ only book, their memoir, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, published in 1860.

Yet as this study of key moments in the Crafts’ public lives argues, the early print archive—newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, legal documents—fills gaps in their story by providing insight into how they navigated the challenges of freedom as reformers and educators, and it discloses the transatlantic British and American audiences’ changing reactions to them. By discussing such events as the 1878 court case that placed William’s character and reputation on trial, this book also invites readers to reconsider the Crafts’ triumphal story as one that is messy, unresolved, and bittersweet. An important episode in African American literature, history, and culture, this will be essential reading for teachers and students of the slave narrative genre and the transatlantic antislavery movement and for researchers investigating early American print culture.

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A True History Full of Romance: Mixed marriages and ethnic identity in Dutch art, news media, and popular culture (1883–1955) by Marga Altena (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, History on 2015-01-14 20:46Z by Steven

A True History Full of Romance: Mixed marriages and ethnic identity in Dutch art, news media, and popular culture (1883–1955) by Marga Altena (review)

Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Volume 15, Number 3, Winter 2014
DOI: 10.1353/cch.2014.0039

Eveline Buchheim, Researcher
NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Altena, Marga, A True History Full of Romance: Mixed Marriages and Ethnic Identity in Dutch Art, News Media, and Popular Culture (1883-1955) (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012).

Even before the Second World War, cases of interracial unions had been recorded in the Netherlands, but the greater part of the Dutch public in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries still considered these bonds extraordinary. If the possibility of such unions crossed the minds of common Dutch citizens at all, they were mainly associated with colonial life in the Dutch East Indies. Although certainly not unambiguous aspects of colonial life, mixed unions were part and parcel of the Dutch colonial experience. Even in this colonial context, however, unions of White women with Indigenous men were extremely unusual. A European woman who entered such a marriage excluded herself from the community of Europeans. In the Netherlands itself, the term “mixed marriages” was used during this period primarily to refer to unions either outside the individual’s social class or with spouses of a different religious background, an important distinguishing feature in strongly “pillarized” Dutch society. In her book, Altena presents three cases of Dutch White women who, against all odds, married men of color. They did so in a period when it was still quite unusual and—perhaps as a result of this uniqueness—all three of the analyzed marriages figured prominently in the news. The unions were also represented in other cultural media expressions such as fiction. This gives Altena the opportunity to analyze how ethnic identity was constructed in Dutch media from various angles.

Altena’s first case concerns the marriage of Frederick Taen, the son of a Chinese father and an English mother, to the Dutch woman Mia Cuypers. It is interesting to note that Taen’s partial European roots were apparently completely lost in the public representation. Was this something Taen did on purpose? He might have deemed Chinese roots favorable for his business trade. Cuypers was the daughter of a famous Dutch architect, P.J.H. Cuypers, known among other works for building the Rijksmuseum. The artistic background of the bride and the affluence of the groom made the union interesting enough to be represented in several instances of cultural expression. Mia Cuypers was a special woman in other respects as well; she went against the grain multiple times, first by marrying Frederick Taen, then by divorcing him, and, later, by not totally denying the misalliance.

The second case is the marriage of Johanna van Dommelen and Angus Montour (Twanietanekan), also known as American Horse, in 1906, the bride an unmarried mother from The Hague, the groom a Mohawk widower from eastern Canada. Altena analyzes the press coverage in both countries. She makes it very clear that for both the bride and the groom their union had several advantages, and shows how they used the media attention to improve their lives.

The last case that Altena describes is that of the marriage between Marie Borchert and Joseph Sylvester in 1928, in the town of Hengelo. Borchert was the daughter of a well-to-do local family, Sylvester a salesman and entertainer. This couple clearly orchestrated their public performance. This is understandable partly because of how Sylvester earned a living. The case gets really interesting when Altena recalls how the couple used press coverage to raise awareness among their fellow citizens about the use of Black stereotypes.

By analyzing the three marriages on the basis of how they figured in the public domain, Altena wanted to investigate the representation of ethnic identity in Dutch culture between 1883 and 1955. Altena’s period of research seems rather arbitrary, and primarily relates to events in the personal lives of the three couples. Taen and Cuypers met in 1883 at the International Colonial and Export Trade Exhibition in Amsterdam. The year 1955 marks Joseph Sylvester’s death. In her analysis, Altena focuses on the micro-histories and does not pay much attention to the influence of the spirit of the age under investigation. Her paragraph on the historical and sociocultural context provides a broad outline, but does not really elaborate on the appraisal or disapproval of foreigners in relation to larger historical events. There is no special attention paid to the changing colonial relationship between the Dutch East Indies and the Netherlands of the late nineteenth and early…

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CMRS Mixed-Race Irish Film Keynote Links

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Media Archive, Videos on 2015-01-12 20:56Z by Steven

CMRS Mixed-Race Irish Film Keynote Links

Mixed Roots Stories

Zélie Asava, Lecturer and Joint-Programme Director of Video and Film
Dundalk Institute of Technology, Louth, Ireland

Following my keynote on mixed representations in contemporary Irish cinema and television at the 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, here are some links to the films discussed…

View all of the keynote links here.

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Professor Jared Ball on Ferguson and the Media

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Interviews, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-03 17:02Z by Steven

Professor Jared Ball on Ferguson and the Media


Dan Falcone

At the recent “Shrouded Narrative teach-in” at American University, Dan Falcone met Jared A. Ball, a professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, who discussed, “Propaganda and Media.” In this interview, father and husband, author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto and coeditor of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, Ball talks about the construction of Black identity, colonialism and what is needed to stop the police killings of a Black person every 28 hours.

Dan Falcone for Professor Ball, could you tell the readers about your teaching, academic interests, and how they relate to activism and democratic participation?

Jared Ball: Thank you. My academic interests and teaching are very much tied to my personal political passions – all of which revolve around Black or Africana studies, political struggles, cultural production and how that all intersects or interacts with the political and “libidinal” (thanks to the work of Frank Wilderson and Jared Sexton) economies of media, communication and journalism.

This primarily works out to be a focus on the political function of mass media within the context of ongoing power (national, racial, class) struggles. I generally look to extend or tailor deep traditions of radical political, economic and cultural analyses and media criticism to our time and hope that I can make them relevant to students today. To better connect traditions of political activism to the immediate work of my classes, I’ve increasingly infused the work of political prisoners into our own course work, which allows me to tap an almost endless reservoir of knowledge and experience – while exposing students to a more realistic political context for our own studies.

Additionally, this approach infuses into our classes, ideas of political struggle and activism while challenging the limitations of conventional approaches to such study, including notions of “American democracy.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Birth of A Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War

Posted in Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Reports, United States on 2015-01-02 17:04Z by Steven

The Birth of A Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War

368 pages
6.300 x 9.500
Hardcover ISBN: 9781586489878
eBook ISBN: 9781586489885

Dick Lehr, Professor of Journalism
Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

In 1915, two men—one a journalist agitator, the other a technically brilliant filmmaker—incited a public confrontation that roiled America, pitting black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against civil rights.

Monroe Trotter and D. W. Griffith were fighting over a film that dramatized the Civil War and Reconstruction in a post-Confederate South. Almost fifty years earlier, Monroe’s father, James, was a sergeant in an all-black Union regiment that marched into Charleston, South Carolina, just as the Kentucky cavalry—including Roaring Jack Griffith, D. W.’s father—fled for their lives. Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation, included actors in blackface, heroic portraits of Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and a depiction of Lincoln’s assassination. Freed slaves were portrayed as villainous, vengeful, slovenly, and dangerous to the sanctity of American values. It was tremendously successful, eventually seen by 25 million Americans. But violent protests against the film flared up across the country.

Monroe Trotter’s titanic crusade to have the film censored became a blueprint for dissent during the 1950s and 1960s. This is the fiery story of a revolutionary moment for mass media and the nascent civil rights movement, and the men clashing over the cultural and political soul of a still-young America standing at the cusp of its greatest days.

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‘Who We Be,’ by Jeff Chang

Posted in Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-13 21:18Z by Steven

‘Who We Be,’ by Jeff Chang

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times

Tricia Rose, Director
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America
Brown ­University, Providence, Rhode Island

Who We Be: The Colorization of America. By Jeff Chang. Illustrated. 403 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $32.99.

The dramatic changes spurred by the civil rights ­movement and other 1960s social upheavals are often chronicled as a time line of catalytic legal victories that ended anti-black segregation. Jeff Chang’sWho We Be: The Colorization of America” claims that cultural changes were equally important in transforming American society, and that both the legal and cultural forms of desegregation faced a sustained hostile response that continues today.

According to Chang, the author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation,” multiculturalism challenged who and what defined America, going straight to the heart of who “we” thought we were and who “we” aspired to be. Attacks on exclusions by multicultural scholars and artists were taking place everywhere. University battles raged over whether the Western literature canon should continue to be elevated, or imagined ­outside the politics of racial hierarchies. Artists confronted the nearly all-white and all-male elite art world. Chang even ­describes Coca-Cola’s influential 1971 “I’d like to teach the world to sing” advertisement as a signal of how profitable a “harmonious” multicultural marketing plan could be. But over the next several decades, all the way through Obama’s elections, powerful counterattacks were launched, increasingly in racially oblique language. “Both sides understood that battles over culture were high-stakes,” Chang writes. “The struggle between restoration and transformation, retrenchment and change, began in culture.”…

…Surely our national fabric is more racially diverse than ever before, and a few more people of color have access to powerful cultural institutions. At the same time, “Who We Be” left me wondering about the resilience of power. It is possible but not inevitable that multiculturalism will fuel the creation of an anti-racist and fully inclusive society. But it is also possible that we could ­become the kind of multiracial society that keeps its darker-skinned people at the bottom to provide cultural raw material to a powerful white elite that celebrates the diversity on which it depends…

Read the entire review here.

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Who We Be: The Colorization of America

Posted in Books, Communications/Media Studies, Monographs, United States on 2014-12-13 02:48Z by Steven

Who We Be: The Colorization of America

St. Martin’s Press (an imprint of Macmillan)
October 2014
416 pages
7.81 x 9.33 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780312571290; ISBN10: 0312571291

Jeff Chang, Executive Director
Institute for Diversity in the Arts
Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Race. A four-letter word. The greatest social divide in American life, a half-century ago and today.During that time, the U.S. has seen the most dramatic demographic and cultural shifts in its history, what can be called the colorization of America. But the same nation that elected its first Black president on a wave of hope—another four-letter word—is still plunged into endless culture wars. How do Americans see race now? How has that changed—and not changed—over the half-century? After eras framed by words like “multicultural” and “post-racial,” do we see each other any more clearly? Who We Be remixes comic strips and contemporary art, campus protests and corporate marketing campaigns, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Trayvon Martin into a powerful, unusual, and timely cultural history of the idea of racial progress. In this follow-up to the award-winning classic Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, Jeff Chang brings fresh energy, style, and sweep to the essential American story.

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Dr. Rainbow Johnson: Tracee Ellis Ross and Mixed Race on Black-ish

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-11-18 20:13Z by Steven

Dr. Rainbow Johnson: Tracee Ellis Ross and Mixed Race on Black-ish

Kaleido[scopes]: Diaspora Re-imagined
Williams College Student Research Journal

Michelle May-Curry, Contributing Writer

Mixed race women. The tragic mulatta, the jezebel, the code-switcher, the new millennium mulatta, and the exceptional multiracial are terms and ideas that audiences subconsciously pull from to index mixed race identity. Some of these tropes are centuries old – the tragic mulatta calls to mind a woman who cannot find a home in either of her identities and as such meets her downfall through racelessness. Other terms like the “new millenium mulatta” are new, and describe a woman who constantly seeks to transcend her blackness and climb the racial hierarchy. But these terms do not quite begin to describe who Dr. Rainbow Johnson is on ABC’s new show Black-ish. What role Rainbow plays within the black experience, however, is a question that Black-ish might not know the answer to just yet.

Tracee Ellis Ross, the mixed race actress of Girlfriends fame, plays Rainbow (Bow for short), a 21st century working mother of four. As the show might imply, Ross’ character is black…ish. Bow is a self identified mixed race woman and the matriarch to an upper class black family in the suburbs. The product of hippie parents, as her rather eccentric name might suggest, Bow’s upbringing was progressive and far less “traditionally” black compared to her husband’s, who grew up in Compton. As for Ross, the actress is a self-identified black woman who simultaneously acknowledges both her black and white identities. Ross’ identity is rather abnormal for a mixed woman of her generation- most mixed race people born before the 1980′s recount stories of how black was the natural and only identity choice they had to make. The most famous example we can look to today who shares this opinion is our president, Barack Obama

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, United States on 2014-11-09 23:40Z by Steven

Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture

Rutgers University Press
May 2015
256 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-7070-9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-7069-3
Web PDF ISBN: 978-0-8135-7071-6
epub ISBN: 978-0-8135-7537-7

Jennifer Ann Ho, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The sheer diversity of the Asian American populace makes them an ambiguous racial category. Indeed, the 2010 U.S. Census lists twenty-four Asian-ethnic groups, lumping together under one heading people with dramatically different historical backgrounds and cultures. In Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture, Jennifer Ann Ho shines a light on the hybrid and indeterminate aspects of race, revealing ambiguity to be paramount to a more nuanced understanding both of race and of what it means to be Asian American.

Exploring a variety of subjects and cultural artifacts, Ho reveals how Asian American subjects evince a deep racial ambiguity that unmoors the concept of race from any fixed or finite understanding. For example, the book examines the racial ambiguity of Japanese American Nisei Yoshiko Nakamura deLeon, who during World War II underwent an abrupt transition from being an enemy alien to an assimilating American, via the Mixed Marriage Policy of 1942. It looks at the blogs of Korean, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese Americans who were adopted as children by white American families and have conflicted feelings about their “honorary white” status. And it discusses Tiger Woods, the most famous mixed-race Asian American, whose description of himself as “Cablinasian”—reflecting his background as Black, Asian, Caucasian, and Native American—perfectly captures the ambiguity of racial classifications.

Race is an abstraction that we treat as concrete, a construct that reflects only our desires, fears, and anxieties. Jennifer Ho demonstrates in Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture that seeing race as ambiguous puts us one step closer to a potential antidote to racism.

Table Of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Ambiguous Americans: Race and the State of Asian America
  • 1. From Enemy Alien to Assimilating American: Yoshiko deLeon and the Mixed-Marriage Policy of the Japanese American Incarceration
  • 2. Anti-Sentimental Loss: Stories of Transracial/Transnational Asian American Adult Adoptees in the Blogosphere
  • 3. Cablinasian Dreams, Amerasian Realities: Transcending Race in the Twenty-first Century and Other Myths Broken by Tiger Woods
  • 4. Ambiguous Movements and Mobile Subjectivity: Passing in between Autobiography and Fiction with Paisley Rekdal and Ruth Ozeki
  • 5. Transgressive Texts and Ambiguous Authors: Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Literature
  • Coda: Ending with Origins: My Own Racial Ambiguity
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Review: Leilani Nishime’s Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-09 23:22Z by Steven

Review: Leilani Nishime’s Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture


Clayton Dillard, Staff Critic

In 2003, The New York Times published an article entitled “Generation E.A.” which discussed the emergent role of multiracial people in advertising campaigns and concluded by suggesting that they’re an emerging racial category and a stepping-stone key to a race-free future. According to Leilani Nishime, such a notion has become dominant among popular media outlets, which awaits an “inevitable end to race.” For Nishime, these inclinations aren’t only misguided, but a constituent for racial oppression, since “color blindness is not the opposite of racial hierarchies; it is its enabling fiction.” These concerns form the bulk of Nishime’s focus in Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture, an exciting new addition to the canon of critical race studies, which marks the first book-length examination of media images of multiracial Asian Americans.

Nishime’s scope extends across cinema, reality TV, episodic TV drama, advertising campaigns, sports figures, and art installations to offer a comprehensive sense of the representational landscape. Thus, she devotes two chapters to Keanu Reeves, both as a celebrity persona in the 1990s and for his role as Neo in The Matrix trilogy. Within media discussions of both Reeves’s ethnicity and sexuality, Nishime finds that “writers often revert to the queer rhetoric of closeting instead of summoning the racially inflected language of passing to describe Reeves racially.”…

Read the entire review here.

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