In the Name of the Mother: Italian Americans, African Americans, and Modernity from Booker T. Washington to Bruce Springsteen

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2017-01-04 02:21Z by Steven

In the Name of the Mother: Italian Americans, African Americans, and Modernity from Booker T. Washington to Bruce Springsteen

Dartmouth College Press
2017-01-03
296 pages
10 illus.
6 1/8 x 9 1/4″
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-5126-0019-3
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-5126-0018-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-5126-0020-9

Samuele F. S. Pardini, Associate Professor of Italian
Department of World Languages and Cultures
Elon University, Elon, North Carolina

A bracingly original dialogue on modernity, class, and difference in the 20th century

In the Name of the Mother examines the cultural relationship between African American intellectuals and Italian American writers and artists, and how it relates to American blackness in the twentieth century. Samuele Pardini links African American literature to the Mediterranean tradition of the Italian immigrants and examines both against the white intellectual discourse that defines modernism in the West. This previously unexamined encounter offers a hybrid, transnational model of modernity capable of producing democratic forms of aesthetics, social consciousness, and political economy. This volume emphasizes the racial “in-betweenness” of Italian Americans rearticulated as “invisible blackness,” a view that enlarges and complicates the color-based dimensions of American racial discourse. This strikingly original work will interest a wide spectrum of scholars in American Studies and the humanities.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • New World, Old Woman: Or, Modernity Upside Down
  • Rochester, Sicily: The Political Economy of Italian American Life and the Encounter with Blackness
  • Structures of Invisible Blackness: Racial Difference, (Homo)Sexuality, and Italian American Identity in African American Literature during Jim Crow
  • In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Gun: Modernity as the Gangster
  • In the Name of the Mother: The Other Italian American Modernity
  • The Dago and the Darky: Staging Subversion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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I Heart Obama

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-02-12 19:40Z by Steven

I Heart Obama

University Press of New England
2016-02-09
256 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2″
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61168-536-7
Ebook IBSN: 978-1-61168-967-9

Erin Aubry Kaplan

A personal and cultural exploration of Barack Obama as black president, black icon, and black folk hero

In his nearly two terms as president, Barack Obama has solidified his status as something black people haven’t had for fifty years: a folk hero. The 1960s delivered Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, forever twinned as larger-than-life outsiders and truth tellers who took on racism and died in the process. Obama is different: Not an outsider but president, head of the most powerful state in the world; a centrist Democrat, not the face of a movement. Yet he is every bit a folk hero, doing battle with the beast of a system created to keep people like him on the margins. He is unique among presidents and entirely unique among black people, who never expected to have a president so soon.

In I Heart Obama, journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan offers an unapologetic appreciation of our highest-ranking “First” and what he means to black Americans. In the process, she explores the critiques of those in the black community who charge that he has not done enough, been present enough, been black enough to motivate real change in America. Racial antipathy cloaked as political antipathy has been the major conflict in Obama’s presidency. His impossible task as an individual and as a president is nothing less than this: to reform the entire racist culture of the country he leads. Black people know he can’t do it, but will support his effort anyway, as they have supported the efforts of many others. Obama’s is a noble and singular story we will tell for generations. I Heart Obama looks at the story so far.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Obama the Folk Hero: What He Means to Us
  • Obama Represents
  • Obama Leads
  • Who Is This Guy?
  • Is Obama Bad for Us?
  • Epilogue: I Heart Obama
  • Bibliography
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Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2012-09-06 01:19Z by Steven

Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista

Northeastern University Press (University Press of New England)
2011
304 pages
6 x 9 1/4″
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-55553-754-8
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-55553-766-1

Erin Aubry Kaplan

Forward by:

Michael Eric Dyson

This lively and thoughtful book explores what it means to be black in an allegedly postracial America

Los Angeles has had a ringside seat during the long last century of racial struggle in America. The bouts have been over money and jobs and police brutality, over politics and poetry and rap and basketball. Minimizing blackness itself has been touted as the logical and ideal solution to the struggle, but in Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line Erin Aubry Kaplan begs to differ. With eloquence, wit, and high prose style she crafts a series of compelling arguments against black eclipse.

Here are thirty-three insightful and wide-ranging pieces of literary, cultural, political, and personal reporting on the contemporary black American experience. Drawn from the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Salon.com, and elsewhere, this collection also features major new articles on President Barack Obama, black and Hispanic conflicts, and clinical depression. In each, Kaplan argues with meticulous observation, razor-sharp intelligence, and sparkling prose against the trend of black erasure, and for the expansion of horizons of the black American story.

Table of Contents (An asterisk (*) indicates previously unpublished works)

  • Foreword – Michael Eric Dyson
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • GENERATION I
  • STATE OF A NATION
    • Barack Obama: Mile Traveled, Miles to Go*
    • Losing New Orleans
    • Thoroughly Modern Mammy: Of Coons, Pickaninnies and Gold Dust Twins: Why Do Black Curios Stay Chic?
    • Behind the American-History Curtain: Washington, D.C., and the Lessons of Memory
    • They’re Going Crazy Out There
  • STARRING:
    • The Accidental Populist: Magic Johnson Gives Some Back
    • The Empress’s New Clothes: Serena, to the Dismay of Many, Makes the Scene
    • Falling for Tiger Woods
    • Homeboys in Outer Space and Other Transgressions: TV in Black and White
    • White Man with Attitude: How Randy Newman Went from Pop Music’s Reigning Schlub to Movie-Music Royalty
  • STOMPING GROUNDS
    • Welcome to Inglewood—Leave Your Aspirations Behind! Why Coming Home Has Been a Labor of Tough Love
    • Rags to Richard*
    • The Eastside Boys
    • The King of Compton: Mayor Omar Bradley and His Reign of Chaos
    • Wearing the Shirt*
    • Lost Soul: A Lament for Black Los Angeles
  • MOTHERS AND FATHERS
    • The Last Campaign
    • Mother Roux
    • Mother, Unconceived
  • TEACH ON THAT
    • Held Back: The State of Black Education
    • Man and Superwoman
    • The Glamorous Life*
    • The Boy of Summer
    • Unsocial Studies: The Real Lessons of Hamilton High
  • POST SCRIPT
    • The Color of Love
    • Married People Live Longer than Single People

Black Like I Thought I Was: Race, DNA, and the Man Who Knows Too Much

October 2003

Wayne Joseph is a fifty-one-year-old high school principal in Chino whose family emigrated from the segregated parishes of Louisiana to central Los Angeles in the 1950s, as did mine. Like me, he is of Creole stock and is therefore on the lighter end of the black color spectrum, a common enough circumstance in the South that predates the multicultural movement by centuries. And like most other black folk, Joseph grew up with an unequivocal sense of his heritage and of himself; he tends toward black advocacy and has published thoughtful opinion pieces on racial issues in magazines like Newsweek. When Joseph decided on a whim to take a new ethnic DNA test he saw described on a 60 Minutes segment last year, it was only to indulge a casual curiosity about the exact percentage of his black blood; virtually all black Americans are mixed with something, he knew, but he figured it would be interesting to make himself a guinea pig for this new testing process, which is offered by a Florida-based company called DNA Print Genomics Inc. The experience would at least be fodder for another essay for Newsweek. He got his kit in the mail, swabbed his mouth per the instructions, and sent off the DNA samples for analysis.

Now, I have always believed that what is now widely considered one of slavery’s worst legacies—the Southern “one-drop” rule that indicted anyone with black blood as a nigger and cleaved American society into black and white with a single stroke—was also slavery’s only upside. Of course I deplore the motive behind the law, which was rooted not only in white paranoia about miscegenation, but in a more practical need to maintain social order by keeping privilege and property in the hands of whites. But by forcing blacks of all complexions and blood percentages into the same boat, the law ironically laid a foundation of black unity that remains in place today. It’s a foundation that allows us to talk abstractly about a ” black community” as concretely as we talk about a black community in Harlem or Chicago or L.A.’s South Central (a liberty that’s often abused or lazily applied in modern discussions of race). And it gives the lightest-skinned among us the assurance of identity that everybody needs to feel grounded and psychologically whole—even whites, whose public non-ethnicity is really ethnicity writ so large and influential it needs no name. Being black may still not be the most advantageous thing in the world, but being nothing or being neutral—the rallying cry of modern-day multiculturalists—has never made any emotional or real-world sense. Color marks you, but your membership in black society also gives you an indestructible house to live in and a bed to rest on. I can’t imagine growing up any other way.

Wayne Joseph can’t either. But when the results of his DNA test came back, he found himself staggered by the idea that though he still qualified as a person of color, it was not the color he was raised to think he was, one with a distinct culture and definitive place in the American struggle for social equality that he’d taken for granted. Here was the unexpected and rather unwelcome truth: Joseph was 57 percent Indo-European, 39 percent Native American, 4 percent East Asian—and 0 percent African. After a lifetime of assuming blackness, he was now being told that he lacked even a single drop of black blood to qualify. “My son was flabbergasted by the results,” says Joseph. “He said, Dad, you mean for fifty years you’ve been passing for black?'” Joseph admits that, strictly speaking, he has. But he’s not sure if he can or wants to do anything about that at this point. For all the lingering effects of institutional racism, he’s been perfectly content being a black man; it’s shaped his worldview and the course of his life in ways that cannot, and probably should not, be altered. Yet Joseph struggles to balance the intellectual dishonesty of saying he’s black with the unimpeachable honesty of a lifelong experience of being black. “What do I do with this information?” he says, sounding more than a little exasperated. “It was like finding out you’re adopted. I don’t want to be disingenuous with myself. But I can’t conceive of living any other way. It’s a question of what’s logical and what’s visceral.”

Race, of course, has always been a far more visceral matter than a logical one. We now know that there is no such thing as race, that humans are biologically one species; we know that an African is likely to have more in common genetically with a European thousands of miles away than with a neighboring African. Yet this knowledge has not deterred the racism many Europeans continue to harbor toward Africans, nor the wariness Africans harbor toward Europeans. Such feelings may never be deterred. And despite all the loud assertions to the contrary, race is still America’s bane, and its fascination; Philip Roth’s widely acclaimed novel set in the 1990s, The Human Stain, features a Faustian protagonist whose great moral failing is that he’s a black man who’s been passing most of his life for white (the book was made into a movie that was released in 2003).

Joseph recognizes this, and while he argues for a more rational and less emotional view of race for the sake of equity, he also recognizes that rationality is not the same thing as fact. As much as he might want to, he can’t simply refute his black past and declare himself white or Native American. He can acknowledge the truth but can’t quite apply it, which makes it pretty much useless to other, older members of his family. An aunt whom he told about the test results only said that she wasn’t surprised. “When I told my mother about the test, she said to me, Tm too old and too tired to be anything else,'” recalls Joseph. “It makes no difference to her. It’s an easy issue.”

After recovering from the initial shock, Joseph began questioning his mother about their lineage. He discovered that, unbeknownst to him, his grandparents had made a conscious decision back in Louisiana to not be white, claiming they didn’t want to side with a people who were known oppressors. Joseph says there was another, more practical consideration: some men in the family routinely courted black women, and they didn’t want the very public hassle such a pairing entailed in the South, which included everything from dirty looks to the ignominy of a couple having to separate on buses and streetcars and in restaurants per the Jim Crow laws. I know that the laws also pointedly separated mothers from sons, uncles from nephews, simply because one happened to be lighter than the other or have straighter hair. Determinations of race were entirely subjective and imposed from without, and the one-drop rule was enforced to such divisive and schizophrenic effects that Joseph’s family—and mine—fled Louisiana for the presumably less boundary-obsessed West. But we didn’t flee ourselves, and didn’t expect to; we simply set up a new home in Los Angeles. The South was wrong about to; we simply set up a new home in Los Angeles. The South was wrong about its policies but it was right about our color. It had to be.

Joseph remains tortured by the possibility that maybe nobody is right. The essay he thought the DNA test experience would prompt became a book that he’s already 150 pages into. He doesn’t seem to know how it’ll end. He’s in a kind of limbo that he doesn’t want and that I frankly wouldn’t wish on anyone; when I wonder aloud about taking the $600 DNA test myself, Joseph flatly advises against it. “You don’t want to know,” he says. “It’s like a genie coming out of a bottle. You can’t put it back in.” He has more empathy for the colorblind crowd than he had before, but isn’t inclined to believe that the Ward Connerlys and other professed racial conservatives of the world have the best interests of colored people at heart. “I see their point, but race does matter, especially with things like medical research and other social trends,” he says of Connerly’s Proposition 54, the much-derided state measure that sought to outlaw the collection of ethnic data. “Problems like that can’t just go away.” For the moment, Joseph is compelled to try to judge individually what he knows has always been judged broadly, to reconcile two famously opposed viewpoints of race not for the sake of political argument — he’s made those — but for his own peace of mind. He’s wrestling with a riddle that will likely outlive him, though he doesn’t worry that it will be passed on to the next generation—his ex-wife is black, enough to give his children the firm ethnic identity he had and that he embraced for most of his life. “The question ultimately is, are you who you say you are, or are you who you are genetically?” he muses. The logical — and visceral — answer is that it’s not black and white.

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Oreo

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Media Archive, Novels on 2011-01-19 05:48Z by Steven

Oreo

Northeastern University Press (now University Press of New England)
2000 (Originially published in 1974.)
224 pages
6 x 9″

Fran Ross

Forward by Harryette Mullen

This uproariously funny satire about relations between African Americans and Jews is as fresh and outrageous today as when it was first published in 1974.

Born to a Jewish father and black mother who divorce before she is two, Oreo grows up in Philadelphia with her maternal grandparents while her mother tours with a theatrical troupe. Soon after puberty, Oreo heads for New York with a pack on her back to search for her father; but in the big city she discovers that there are dozens of Sam Schwartzes in the phone book, and Oreo’s mission turns into a wickedly humorous picaresque quest. The ambitious and playful narrative challenges accepted notions of race, ethnicity, culture, and even the novelistic form itself.

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The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily The Nation Got Into An Uproar

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Slavery, United States on 2009-11-14 05:51Z by Steven

The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily The Nation Got Into An Uproar

Northeastern University Press
University Press of New England
2002 (originally published in 1853)
224 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2″
EAN: 978-1-55553-545-2

William G. Allen, Professor of Classics
New York Central College

Mary King

Louisa May Alcott

Edited by

Sarah Elbert, Professor Emerita of History
The State University of New York, Binghamton

A compilation of the explosive reactions to interracial love and marriage in antebellum America.

In 1853, William G. Allen, the “Coloured Professor” of Classics at New York Central College, became engaged to Mary King, a student at the coeducational, racially integrated school and daughter of a local white abolitionist minister. Rumors of their betrothal incited a mob of several hundred men armed with “tar, feathers, poles, and an empty barrel spiked with shingle nails.” Allen and King narrowly escaped with their lives, married in New York City, and then fled as fugitives to England and Ireland.

Their love story and brave resistance were recorded in engrossing detail by Allen in two pamphlets-The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily the Nation Got into An Uproar (1853) and A Short Personal Narrative (1860). Reproduced here in their entirety, Allen’s forthright, eloquent, and ironic accounts, which include excerpts from abolitionist and anti-abolitionist newspaper reports about the incident, drew renewed threats against the exiled pair as well as support from the couple’s circle of antislavery friends and allies, a diverse group including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Beriah Green, Gerrit Smith, Reverend Samuel J. May, and George Thompson.

The experiences related by Allen vividly illustrate the rampant fears of “amalgamation” that sparked violent protests in antebellum America. He also reveals white abolitionists’ contradictions regarding mixed-race relationships. Also contained in this volume is Louisa May Alcott’s M.L., a fictional tale of interracial love based on her familiarity with the Allen-King episode through her abolitionist uncle, the Reverend Samuel J. May. Alcott’s story was refused by The Atlantic magazine because, she said, it “might offend the dear South.”

An insightful introduction by editor Sarah Elbert places the writings within a historical and cultural context. She details William G. Allen’s notable career as a graduate of the Oneida Institute and as an active abolitionist in the network reaching from New York’s North Star Country through Boston, Canada, England, and Ireland. In exile, William and Mary King Allen, important members of the trans-Atlantic movement, continued their struggle for “free association” and supported their family by teaching poor children in London.

Read the entire book here or here.

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Louisa May Alcott On Race, Sex, And Slavery

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2009-11-14 05:19Z by Steven

Louisa May Alcott On Race, Sex, And Slavery

Northeastern University Press
University Press of New England
1997
160 pages
EAN: 978-1-55553-307-6

Louisa May Alcott

Edited by

Sarah Elbert, Professor Emerita of History
The State University of New York, Binghamton

The passionate supporter of abolition and women’s rights speaks out on the most controversial issues of the day.

Louisa May Alcott championed women’s causes in gothic tales of interracial romance and in newspaper articles published during the Civil War. Drawn from her service as a nurse in a Union hospital as well as from her radical abolitionist activities, these writings allow Alcott to comment boldly on unstable racial identities, interracial sex and marriage, armed slave rebellion, war, and the links between the bondage of slaves and the conditions of white womanhood. A comprehensive introduction situates Alcott and her family within the network of antebellum reformers and unmasks her personal and literary struggles with the boundaries of race, sex, and class.

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Harriet Wilson’s New England: Race, Writing, and Region

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2009-11-03 22:31Z by Steven

Harriet Wilson’s New England: Race, Writing, and Region

University of New Hampshire Press
University Press of New England
2007
272 pp. 18 B&W illus., 4 appendixes 6 x 9″
Paper ISBN: 978-1-58465-642-5
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58465-641-8

Edited by

JerriAnne Boggis, Director
Harriet Wilson Project

Eve Allegra Raimon, Associate Professor of Arts and Humanities
University of Southern Maine

Barbara A. White, Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies
University of New Hampshire

Forward by

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W. E. B. Dubois Professor of the Humanities
Harvard University

This volume, with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., advances efforts to correct the historical record about the racial complexity and richness characteristic of rural New England’s past.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Harriet E. Wilson, an enterprising woman of mixed racial heritage, wrote an autobiographical novel describing the abuse and servitude endured by a young black girl in the supposedly free North. Originally published in Boston in 1859 and “lost” until its 1983 republication by noted scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, is generally considered the first work of fiction written by an African American woman published in the United States.

With this collection, the first devoted entirely to Wilson and her novel, the editors have compiled essays that seek to understand Wilson within New England and New England as it might have appeared to Wilson and her contemporaries. The contributors include prominent historians, literary critics, psychologists, librarians, and diversity activists. Harriet Wilson’s New England joins other critical works in the emerging field known as the New Regionalism in resurrecting historically hidden ethnic communities in rural New England and exploring their erasure from public memory. It offers new literary and historical interpretations of Our Nig and responds to renewed interest in Wilson’s dramatic account of servitude and racial discrimination in the North.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Making Space for Harriet E. Wilson
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE’S “SHADOWS”: CONTEXT AND HISTORY
    • Of Bottles and Books: Reconsidering the Readers of Harriet Wilson’s “Our Nig” – Eric Gardner
    • Harriet Wilson’s Mentors: The Walkers of Worcester – Barbara A. White
    • George and Timothy Blanchard: Surviving and Thriving in Nineteenth-Century Milford – Reginald H. Pitts
    • “As Soon as I Saw My Sable Brother, I Felt More at Home”: Sampson Battis, Harriet Wilson, and New Hampshire Town History – David H. Watters
    • New Hampshire Forgot: African Americans in a Community by the Sea – Valerie Cunningham
  • READING “SKETCHES FROM THE LIFE OF A FREE BLACK”: GENRE AND GENDER
    • Slavery’s Shadows: Narrative Chiaroscuro and “Our Nig” – Mary Louise Kete
    • Recovered Autobiographies and the Marketplace: “Our Nig’s” Generic Genealogies and Harriet Wilson’s Entrepreneurial Enterprise – P. Gabrielle Foreman
    • The Disorderly Girl in Harriet E. Wilson’s “Our Nig” – Lisa E. Green
    • Beyond the Page: Rape and the Failure of Genre – Cassandra Jackson
    • Miss Marsh’s Uncommon School Reform – Eve Allegra Raimon
    • Fairy Tales and “Our Nig”: Feminist Approaches to Teaching Harriet Wilson’s Novel – Helen Frink
  • “A FAITHFUL BAND OF SUPPORTERS AND DEFENDERS”: PERSONAL REFLECTIONS
    • Losing Equilibrium: Harriet E. Wilson, Frado, and Me – John Ernest
    • Discovering Harriet Wilson in My Own Backyard – William Allen
    • A Conversation with Tami Sanders – Gloria Henry
    • Not Somewhere Else, But Here – JerriAnne Boggis
  • Contributors
  • Index
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