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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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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Acquanetta

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-06-20 17:10Z by Steven

Acquanetta

Jungle Frolics
2009-10-15

Richard Beland

Acquanetta was born Mildred Davenport on July 17, 1921, and, depending on your source, was of either black or American Indian origin. A few writers have claimed she was Cheyenne Indian; possibly they’re confusing this with reports of her being from Cheyenne, Wyoming, or having been born in Ozone, near Cheyenne. However, by most accounts she was born on an Indian reservation and raised in Norristown, Pennsylvania. These conflicting reports may be due to the possibility that she had both black and Indian blood in her. (Adding to the confusion regarding her ethnic origins, some still report that she was born in Venezuela!)…

...The Arizona Republic for August 22, 2004, reported that Acquanetta’s brother, 85-year old Horace A. Davenport, was present at her funeral. A retired judge, Horace Davenport was, according to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, “the first African-American judge in Montgomery County.” Horace said that he’d never seen any of Acquanetta’s movies.

Bill Feret, in his 1984 book, Lure of the Tropix, said of Acquanetta, “She has never clarified her ambiguous origins, which over the years have varied between being an Arapaho Indian from Wyoming, a Latin from Venezuela, or a black girl from Pennsylvania…” Certainly, her exotic and sultry beauty and the ambiguity of her past added to the mystique.

Perhaps the 1940 United States Census can clear up matters: Mildred Davenport was born in 1921 in Newberry, South Carolina and was residing in Norristown, Norristown Borough, Montgomery, Pennsylvania with her parents, William and Julia, and five siblings, including Horace and Catherine (spelled “Kathryn” in a Jet article). Each member of the family is identified as “Negro” (race) and “African American” (ethnicity)…

Read the entire article here.

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Study of Multiracial Women Leading in Large Organizations

Posted in United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers, Women on 2021-06-19 21:41Z by Steven

Study of Multiracial Women Leading in Large Organizations

Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California
2021-06-19

Michele A. Richardson (marichardson@email.fielding.edu), Doctoral Student, Human Development
School of Leadership Studies

This study examines how multiracial women leaders see themselves and how that self-concept might influence their approach to navigating tensions and complexity at work.

Now Enrolling Research Participants

Are you a woman who:

  • Identifies with two distinct racial groups, with one being a minoritized racial or ethnic group (e.g., Black/African American, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native/Indigenous, etc.), and
  • Holds a supervisory position in a company of 5,000+ employees?

Then, consider amplifying the voices of multiracial women in the workplace by sharing the unique insights and perspectives you bring to your everyday leadership practice.

Click here to sign-up.

What will you be asked to do?

As a research participant, you will be asked to sign an Informed Consent form and respond to a brief questionnaire to capture some basic information about you. Then, we’ll schedule a confidential, 45-minute Zoom meeting to explore how your multiracial identity may potentially influence how you lead through complex situations. We’ll have some light email exchanges after our meeting, so you can expect to invest up to an hour of time total. There is no monetary compensation to participate.

About me:

About Me: I’m Michele Richardson, a doctoral candidate pursuing a multidisciplinary human development degree at Fielding Graduate University. This research is motivated by my Black/Japanese identity and desire to see notions of diverse leadership advance beyond simplified, binary categorizations of racial identity. I currently serve as a Director, Human Resources for a global veterinary diagnostic and software company.

For more information, click here.

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High Yellow (1965, trailer) [Starring Cynthia Hull]

Posted in Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos, Women on 2021-06-19 21:23Z by Steven

High Yellow (1965, trailer) [Starring Cynthia Hull]

YouTube
Department of Afro-American Research Arts Culture
2017-06-29

Cynthia Wood, a light-skinned 17-year-old girl, tries to pass as white after getting hired by wealthy movie magnate Mr. Langley, who has problems with his spoiled wife and promiscuous teenage daughter and son.

Watch the full movie (01:20:11) here.

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Performing Racial Uplift: E. Azalia Hackley and African American Activism in the Postbellum to Pre-Harlem Era

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, United States, Women on 2021-06-10 02:43Z by Steven

Performing Racial Uplift: E. Azalia Hackley and African American Activism in the Postbellum to Pre-Harlem Era

University Press of Mississippi
2022-01-17
224 pages
13 b&w illustrations and 13 musical examples
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496836687
Paperback ISBN: 9781496836793

Juanita Karpf, Lecturer of Music
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio

A groundbreaking rediscovery of a classically trained innovator and powerful teacher who set milestones for African American singers and musicians

In Performing Racial Uplift: E. Azalia Hackley and African American Activism in the Postbellum to Pre-Harlem Era, Juanita Karpf rediscovers the career of Black activist E. Azalia Hackley (1867–1922), a concert artist, nationally famous music teacher, and charismatic lecturer. Growing up in Black Detroit, she began touring as a pianist and soprano soloist while only in her teens. By the late 1910s, she had toured coast-to-coast, earning glowing reviews. Her concert repertoire consisted of an innovative blend of spirituals, popular ballads, virtuosic showstoppers, and classical pieces. She also taught music while on tour and visited several hundred Black schools, churches, and communities during her career. She traveled overseas and, in London and Paris, studied singing with William Shakespeare and Jean de Reszke—two of the classical music world’s most renowned teachers.

Her acceptance into these famous studios confirmed her extraordinary musicianship, a “first” for an African American singer. She founded the Normal Vocal Institute in Chicago, the first music school founded by a Black performer to offer teacher training to aspiring African American musicians.

Hackley’s activist philosophy was unique. Unlike most activists of her era, she did not align herself unequivocally with either Booker T. Washington or W. E. B. Du Bois. Instead, she created her own mediatory philosophical approach. To carry out her agenda, she harnessed such strategies as giving music lessons to large audiences and delivering lectures on the ecumenical religious movement known as New Thought. In this book, Karpf reclaims Hackley’s legacy and details the talent, energy, determination, and unprecedented worldview she brought to the cause of racial uplift.

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Permanent marker: Augusta plaque honors 19th century Black female millionaire

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2021-05-27 15:00Z by Steven

Permanent marker: Augusta plaque honors 19th century Black female millionaire

The Augusta Chronicle
Augusta, Georgia
2021-05-21

Joe Hotchkiss


Corey Rogers (center), historian at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, and Elyse Butler (second from left), marker manager for the Georgia Historical Society, unveil the marker at 448 Telfair St. in Augusta commemorating the former home of Black millionaire Amanda America Dickson Toomer. At far left is building owner John Hock, who funded and supervised the home’s exterior renovations. Rogers (center), historian at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, and Elyse Butler (second from left), marker manager for the Georgia Historical Society, unveil the marker at 448 Telfair St. in Augusta commemorating the former home of Black millionaire Amanda America Dickson Toomer. At far left is building owner John Hock, who funded and supervised the home’s exterior renovations. JOE HOTCHKISS/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE

Harrell Lawson grew up in Hancock County in the 1960s, listening to tales about the old plantation across the road.

“I used to hear stories about how a Black woman used to own it, but I didn’t know my relation to her at the time,” he said.

More people know now. On Friday, a Georgia historical marker was unveiled in downtown Augusta to mark the home at 448 Telfair St. where Amanda America Dickson Toomer – perhaps the richest Black woman of the 19th century – spent the last seven years of her life.

Lawson, who maintains homes in Stone Mountain and Sparta, joined about a dozen other Toomer descendants at the marker ceremony in front of a renovated exterior that took months for John Hock, the house’s owner, to complete with a team of subcontractors.

While the outside has been repainted, refitted and repaired to match its original appearance, the inside has more modern features and will continue to be used as an attorney’s office.

“This whole project was to commemorate the life of Amanda, and I think we did it,” Hock said…

Who was Amanda America Dickson Toomer?

Dickson was born in 1849 to prominent Hancock County plantation owner David Dickson and a 12-year-old slave. Legally a slave owned by her white grandmother, the biracial child was reared in her father’s household. She learned to read and write, and assumed the social graces of white Southern affluence.

When David Dickson died in 1885, he willed to Amanda 15,000 acres of land and about $500,000, which Amanda’s biographer Dr. Kent Anderson Leslie said equals more than $3 million today. Other modern estimates place the amount even higher.

Scores of Dickson’s white relatives emerged to contest the will, outraged at the prospect of a biracial, legally illegitimate woman inheriting such immense wealth in the post-Civil War South. But Leslie said at the ceremony Friday that the young heiress had a plan…

Read the entire article here.

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The Racism of the Great Outdoors

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-05-25 02:20Z by Steven

The Racism of the Great Outdoors

The Washington Post Magazine
2021-05-19

By Ikya Kandula
Photos by Bill O’Leary


Gabrielle Dickerson, a member of Brown Girls Climb, along the Northwest Branch Trail in Silver Spring.

Hikers and climbers of color face a host of obstacles, from bigoted route names to Confederate flags. This D.C.-based group is trying to change that.

Five years ago, Gabrielle Dickerson, then a sophomore at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, lay awake in her sleeping bag on her first overnight climbing trip, enveloped by the woods of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve near Fayetteville, W.Va. Like many rock climbers in the D.C. area, she’d been drawn to the New, as outdoor enthusiasts call it — a five-hour road trip from Washington — because it offers 1,400 of the best climbing routes in the United States.

The rest of her group had swiftly fallen asleep after a day of projecting — the process of strategizing about, and eventually completing, a climb with no breaks — but apprehension took hold of Dickerson. “I was very aware of how uncomfortable I was in the backcountry of West Virginia,” Dickerson recalls. “Not only because I was a Black woman, but also because of the relationship and trauma my ancestors had with the woods.” Her grandfather had been born on a North Carolina cotton farm in 1930 and picked cotton until he escaped from the owner in his teens. On his way to Philadelphia and a new life, he witnessed his best friend get lynched in the woods…

Brown Girls Climb was launched in 2016 by Bethany Lebewitz, a biracial climber living in Austin. A year later, when Lebewitz moved to D.C., she met outdoor instructor Brittany Leavitt, and together with Monserrat Alvarez Matehuala, Laura Edmondson, Sasha McGhee, and Jael Berger, they built an infrastructure of meetups for Black and Brown women in climbing gyms and at outdoor spots in the Washington region. “I was just floored by the fact that there was this large group of people of color climbing,” Dickerson says of her first Brown Girls Climb meetup, “because that wasn’t like what I had seen when I went to my climbing sessions at the gym, and definitely not when I was climbing outside.”…

Read the entire article here.

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