J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian had two identities. It took two authors to tell her story.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-07-20 02:20Z by Steven

J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian had two identities. It took two authors to tell her story.

The Washington Post
2021-06-28

Natachi Onwuamaegbu


“The Personal Librarian” co-authors Heather Terrell, writing as Marie Benedict, and Victoria Christopher Murray. (Phil Atkins)

Historical fiction writer Heather Terrell (who also writes under the name Marie Benedict) was introduced to Belle da Costa Greene between bookshelves at New York’s Morgan Library over 20 years ago. The docent — whom she has tried to find since — told her about a Black woman who passed as White and worked as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian in the early 1900s. Terrell wasn’t yet writing historical fiction about women — she was a lawyer — but the story lingered in the back of her head.

Once she read Black author Victoria Christopher Murray’s work two years ago, she knew she found the partner she was waiting for to tackle da Costa Greene’s story. To write about a Black woman who passed as non-Black with an author she had never met was a process, especially when the editing coincided with the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and a pandemic.

The Washington Post talked to Terrell and Murray about what it was like to work on “The Personal Librarian” when so much of the world was falling apart…

Read the entire interview here.

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J.P. Morgan’s librarian hid her race. A novel imagines the toll on her.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-07-17 00:53Z by Steven

J.P. Morgan’s librarian hid her race. A novel imagines the toll on her.

The Christian Science Monitor
2021-06-29

Heller McAlpin, Correspondent


Library of Congress
Belle da Costa Greene, shown in 1929, curated rare books for mogul J.P. Morgan. She was the first director of the Morgan Library.

Some books leave you wondering why the author has chosen to tell this particular story, and why now. This is emphatically not the case with “The Personal Librarian,” a novel about the woman who helped shape the Morgan Library’s spectacular collection of rare books and art more than a century ago. It quickly becomes clear why two popular authors, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, have teamed up to tell this important, inspirational story.

Belle da Costa Greene’s success in the almost exclusively male world of art and rare book dealers was an unusual feat for a woman in the early 20th century. But what makes it even more extraordinary – and such rich material for historical fiction – is the secret she harbored throughout her long career: She hailed from a prominent, light-skinned Black family, many of whose members had chosen to pass as white.

“The Personal Librarian” reminds readers that this decision was not made lightly. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act in 1883 – a ruling that ushered in Jim Crow segregation and gave white supremacy and racial discrimination legal cover, the ramifications of which are felt to this day – few opportunities were open to anyone classified as nonwhite…

Read the entire book review here.

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The Personal Librarian, A Novel

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-07-17 00:36Z by Steven

The Personal Librarian, A Novel

Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Randomhouse)
2021-06-29
Hardcover ISBN: 9780593101537
Paperback ISBN: 9780593414248
Eboock ISBN: 9780593101551

Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

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Elizabeth Miki Brina: “The historical and the personal are intertwined.”

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-07-17 00:10Z by Steven

Elizabeth Miki Brina: “The historical and the personal are intertwined.”

Guernica
2021-05-10

Elizabeth Lothian, Digital Director


Photo credit: Thad Lee

The author of Speak, Okinawa talks about learning her family history, writing from guilt, and questioning her father’s values.

Elizabeth Miki Brina’s debut memoir Speak, Okinawa is a nuanced investigation of self, lineage, and inheritance. Born in the 1980s to an Okinawan mother and a white, American, ex-military father, Brina struggled with the duality of her identity. She connected more with her father—the dominant force in her family triad—often in an attempt to fit in with the 99 percent white suburb in which she grew up, and this made her feel distant from her already isolated mother.

It is only years later, after moving out of her parents’ enveloping orbit, that Brina comes to question why she feels so disconnected from her mother and Okinawan ancestry. She then sets out to explore her heritage—half that of the colonized and half that of the colonizer. We take this journey with her as she recounts the history of Okinawa. These chapters, voiced brilliantly in the first person plural “we,” tells the reader of Okinawa’s conquest by China and Japan, the horrors it faced in World War II—nearly a third of its population was killed in one battle alone—and the subsequent US military occupation of the island, which continues to this day.

As Brina learns the history of her maternal lineage, she comes to better understand not just her mother but herself. She is then forced to reckon with the role her father played in dictating her worldview and to try and unknot how America, as both a political entity and a cluster of ideals, has marginalized other ways of being…

Read the entire article here.

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Radio Diaries: Harry Pace And The Rise And Fall Of Black Swan Records

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-07-16 18:20Z by Steven

Radio Diaries: Harry Pace And The Rise And Fall Of Black Swan Records

All Things Considered
National Public Radio
2021-07-01

Nellie Gilles, Managing Producer at Radio Diaries at Radio Diaries

Mycah Hazel, Radio Diaries Fellow


Harry Pace started the first major Black-owned record label in the U.S., but his achievements went mostly unnoticed until recently, when his descendants uncovered his secret history.
Courtesy of Peter Pace

A century ago, around the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance, New York City was brimming with music. Black artists like Eubie Blake, Florence Mills and Fats Waller were performing in dance halls and nightclubs including Edmond’s Cellar and The Lincoln Theatre.

“Every block between 110th Street and 155th Street buzzed with creative energy,” says journalist Paul Slade, author of Black Swan Blues: the hard rise and brutal fall of America’s first black-owned record label.

Despite that energy, when it came to recording and selling music by Black artists, the opportunities were limited. White-owned record labels — Columbia, Victor, Aeolian, Edison, Paramount — recorded few Black artists at the time, and when they did, it was often limited to novelty songs and minstrelsy.

“They were making a fortune off these negative portrayals of Black people,” says Bill Doggett, a specialist in early recorded sound.

Okeh Records was one of the first labels to break the mold. Perry “Mule” Bradford, a Black composer, pushed Okeh to record Mamie Smith and her song “Crazy Blues” in 1920. The record was a hit and entrepreneur Harry Pace took notice…

Read the entire story here.

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Black Swan Blues: The Hard Rise & Brutal Fall of America’s First Black-owned Record Label

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2021-07-16 14:21Z by Steven

Black Swan Blues: The Hard Rise & Brutal Fall of America’s First Black-owned Record Label

PlanetSlade.com
2021-07-03
190 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1527296978
6 x 0.43 x 9 inches

Paul Slade

Forty years before Motown, there was Black Swan. Created by a young Black songwriter called Harry Pace, this pioneering 1920s blues label gave 14 million African-Americans the chance to hear their own authentic music on disc for the first time. Ethel Waters’ Down Home Blues was the label’s first big hit, its sales fuelled by a ground-breaking US tour which made headlines everywhere it touched down. Soon, the exciting new records Pace produced were pulling in white listeners as well as Black, and providing the essential soundtrack at every chic Hollywood party.

But there was danger too. In the Jim Crow South, Waters and her band were cheered to the echo on stage only to have racist insults spat at them in the street outside. In Georgia, the corpse of a young lynching victim was hurled into the lobby of a theatre Waters was just about to play. Pace had to battle a constant stream of dirty tricks from his white rivals, who were determined to sabotage Black Swan at every turn. This is the story of a truly remarkable record label – and of the even more remarkable man who founded it.

This expanded 2021 edition of the book, published to mark the 100th anniversary of Black Swan’s launch, contains a wealth of new information and many fresh insights into both the label’s own story and Harry Pace’s determination to improve African-Americans’ lives.

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Lewis Hamilton: ‘Everything I’d suppressed came up – I had to speak out’

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2021-07-15 15:50Z by Steven

Lewis Hamilton: ‘Everything I’d suppressed came up – I had to speak out’

The Guardian
2021-07-10

Gary Younge, Professor of Sociology
University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom


Lewis Hamilton: ‘I don’t just want to be remembered as a driver.’ Styling: Law Roach. Photograph: Ike Edeani/The Guardian

He’s the most successful driver Formula One has ever seen, and its only Black star. Now Lewis Hamilton has a new mission: to change the sport that made him.

As Lewis Hamilton rose through the ranks of competitive go-karting, his father, Anthony, told him: “Always do your talking on the track.” Lewis had a lot to talk about. Bullying and racial taunts were a consistent feature of his childhood in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, a new town 30 miles north of London; his dad taught him the best response was to excel at his sport.

The trouble was he didn’t have many people to talk to about what he was going through. Lewis is mixed-race, born to a white mother, Carmen Larbalestier, who raised him until he was 12, when he went to live with his Grenadian-British father, from whom she had separated. “My mum was wonderful,” he tells me. “She was so loving. But she didn’t fully understand the impact of the things I was experiencing at school. The bullying and being picked on. And my dad was quite tough, so I didn’t tell him too much about those experiences. As a kid I remember just staying quiet about it because I didn’t feel anyone really understood. I just kept it to myself.” Sport offered him an outlet. “I did boxing because I needed to channel the pain,” he says. “I did karate because I was being beaten up and I wanted to be able to defend myself.”

I understand where he’s coming from; I too grew up in Stevenage. Hamilton’s mother and I went to the same school – though not at the same time. As close to London as it was, it might as well have been in a different universe. In London the Black experience appeared authentic; in Stevenage it felt synthetic. Race in London was something you read about in the papers; race in Stevenage was something you didn’t even acknowledge. I was 22 before I found my first Black male friend…

Read the entire article here.

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‘An American riddle’: the black music trailblazer who died a white man

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-07-15 15:14Z by Steven

‘An American riddle’: the black music trailblazer who died a white man

The Guardian
2021-07-14

Ammar Kalia


Harry Pace, lawyer and cultural entrepreneur, thought by his family to have been Italian. Photograph: Courtesy of Peter Pace

A fascinating new podcast delves into the life of Harry Pace, forgotten founder of the first black-owned major record label in the US – and unlocks a shocking and prescient story about race

There are, according to the academic Emmett Price, “six degrees of Harry Pace”. He is referring to the man born in 1884 who founded America’s first black-owned major record label; desegregated part of Chicago; mentored the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines and spearheaded the career of blues singer Ethel Waters. Pace is a figure who is seemingly everywhere at once, yet his name has been suspiciously absent from the history books.

“This story encapsulates how progress comes about in America – and it is never in a straight line,” says Jad Abumrad. “It is often a cycle – one that contains hope and despair, smashed together.”

Best known for their work on Radiolab and its hit spin-off, Dolly Parton’s America, Abumrad and his co-producer Shima Oliaee are speaking from New York about their latest podcast, The Vanishing of Harry Pace. The six-part series examines the life and legacy of its titular character – the founder of Black Swan records, who had a hand in coining the term “rock ‘n’ roll”. Pace was also a civil rights lawyer, a collaborator of WEB Du Bois, and, you might think, a pioneering black American erased from history because of his race…

Read the entire article here.

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Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black and White

Posted in Biography, Books, Monographs, United States, Women on 2021-07-15 00:06Z by Steven

Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black and White

Pegasus Books
2021-05-04
288 pages
9 x 6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 9781643137544

Kitt Shapiro and Patricia Weiss Levy

A luminous and inspiring portrait of a Black pioneer and artistic force—Eartha Kitt—and one of the most moving mother/daughter stories in Hollywood history.

In this unique combination of memoir and cultural history, we come to know one of the greatest stars the world has ever seen—Eartha Kitt—as revealed by the person who knew her best: her daughter.

Eartha, who was a mix of Black, Cherokee, and white, is viewed by the world as Black. Kitt, her biological daughter, is blonde and light skinned. This is the story of a young girl being raised by her mother, who happened to be one of the most famous celebrities in the world. For three decades, they traveled the world together as mother and daughter. Even after Kitt got married and started a family of her own, she and Eartha were never far from each other’s sides

Eartha had a very difficult childhood growing up in extreme poverty in South Carolina. She described herself as being “just a poor cotton picker from the South.” She did not have her own familial ties to lean on after being abandoned by her own mother as a toddler and having never known who her father was. She and Kitt were each other’s whole world.

Eartha’s legacy is still felt today. Not only do we still listen to “Santa Baby” every Christmas, but many of today’s most influential artists con­sistently mention Eartha, paying tribute to her groundbreaking stances on social issues such as racial equality and women’s and LGBTQ rights. And she is still widely remembered for her defin­itive portrayal of Catwoman in the classic Batman television series, voicing the character Yzma in Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, and her many other movie and Broadway roles.

In these pages, Kitt brings her mother to life so vividly, you will feel as if you’d met her. You’ll embrace her love of nature, exercise, simple food, and independence, along with her lessons on the importance of treating people kindly and always being true to yourself.

Filled with love, life lessons, and poignant laughter, Eartha & Kitt captures the passion and energy of two remarkable women.

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Eartha Kitt’s daughter reveals what her mother taught her about race

Posted in Africa, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2021-07-09 01:08Z by Steven

Eartha Kitt’s daughter reveals what her mother taught her about race

TODAY
2021-04-23

Kitt Shapiro, daughter of the iconic actress and singer Eartha Kitt, discusses her mother’s experience with racism, recounting watching her being turned away at a “whites only” amusement park in South Africa. Shapiro says that as she’s gotten older, she has more understanding of her mother’s suffering and strength.

Watch the interview here.

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