Yeah, but Where are You Really From? A story of overcoming the odds

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive on 2022-06-23 17:55Z by Steven

Yeah, but Where are You Really From? A story of overcoming the odds

The Irish Times
Dublin, Ireland

Adesewa Awobadejo, Features Journalist

Marguerite Penrose: her memoir celebrates the diversity of Irishness

Book review: Marguerite Penrose writes about her experiences as a mixed-race girl growing up in Dublin

Marguerite Penrose, Yeah, But Where Are You Really From? A story of overcoming the odds (Dublin, Ireland: Sandycove, 2022)

Black and Irish voices have emerged in recent years and this debut is an astonishing addition to the ongoing conversations.

The memoir takes us from 1974 to present-day Ireland through the eyes of the author, Marguerite Penrose. Born with congenital scoliosis in St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home on Dublin’s Navan Road, Penrose writes about her experiences as a mixed-race girl growing up in the city. Offering a brief glimpse into her life at this home before moving in with her foster family, she gives us a unique avenue to understand this hidden element of Irish history. Her warm and deeply personal memoir celebrates her achievements and exposes the struggles she had to endure…

Read the entire review here.

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A Fable of Agency

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2022-05-21 21:45Z by Steven

A Fable of Agency

The New York Review of Books

Brenda Wineapple

Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

Lumpkin’s Jail; engraving from A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary, 1895

The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail by Kristen Green. Seal, 332 pp., $30.00

Kristen Green’s The Devil’s Half Acre recounts the story of a fugitive slave jail, and the enslaved woman, Mary Lumpkin, who came to own it.

In The Allure of the Archives (1989), a gem of a book, the French historian Arlette Farge talks about unearthing, insofar as it’s possible, a past that’s not quite past—particularly in relation to the lives of women, whose histories have often been hidden, forgotten, or written over, women spoken about but whom we seldom hear speaking. Combing through the judicial archives at the Préfecture of Paris, Farge reads the sullen or angry answers that ordinary eighteenth-century Parisian women, some of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable, give to the police who have arrested them. And she knows that to understand what they say, or don’t say, we need to care and not to care: to distance ourselves with empathy while we set aside expectations and assumptions. Deciphering what’s left in the archives, Farge writes, “entails a roaming voyage through the words of others, and a search for a language that can rescue their relevance.”

Piecing together stories about women who managed the uncertainties and privations of their situations is even more difficult when the women in question have been enslaved and thus forbidden even the basic rights that an eighteenth-century Parisian laundress enjoyed. That is Kristen Green’s task in her impassioned The Devil’s Half Acre, which she calls “the untold story of how one woman liberated the South’s most notorious slave jail.”

Green is a journalist and also the author of Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County (2015), a personal account of how that Virginia county defied Brown v. Board of Education and shut down its schools for almost five years rather than integrate them. In The Devil’s Half Acre, she recovers the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman of mixed race born in 1832 who, likely by 1840, was held in bondage at Lumpkin’s Jail, a chamber of horrors located between Franklin and Broad Streets in Shockoe Bottom, the central slave-trading quarter in Richmond, Virginia

Read the entire review here.

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Impact of the forgotten black Europeans

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery on 2022-05-13 15:39Z by Steven

Impact of the forgotten black Europeans

Islington Tribune
London, United Kingdom

Angela Cobbinah

The Chevalier de St George

Scholars, poets, writers, composers… a new book focuses on the wide influence of Africa abroad, writes Angela Cobbinah

ALESSANDRO de Medici, Duke of Florence, virtuoso 18th-century French violinist and composer Joseph Bologne and 1922 world light heavyweight boxing champion Battling Siki from France via Senegal are probably people we know little about, if at all.

They are part of a forgotten European past explored by Olivette Otele in her scholarly book, African Europeans, which travels through time to reveal how trade, war, slavery and colonialism resulted in a black presence in Europe from as far back as the third century.

This is where Otele, professor of the history and memory of slavery at Bristol University, kicks off, telling the story of St Maurice, Egyptian leader of a Roman legion who was famously executed for refusing to crush a Christian revolt in Gaul.

Celebrated as a martyr across Germany, he is clearly represented as an African in a statue at Magdeburg Cathedral and other church iconography.

Black saints and Madonnas appeared across Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries, perhaps Otele speculates, to symbolise the transformative power of the Catholic Church in converting those it considered heathen…

Read the entire review here.

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Blurring the Lines of Race & Freedom: Mulattoes & Mixed Bloods in English Colonial America by A.B. Wilkinson (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2022-05-09 02:53Z by Steven

Blurring the Lines of Race & Freedom: Mulattoes & Mixed Bloods in English Colonial America by A.B. Wilkinson (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 55, Number 3, Spring 2022
pages 801-803

Max Speare
Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, California

Blurring the Lines of Race & Freedom: Mulattoes & Mixed Bloods in English Colonial America. By A.B. Wilkinson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2020. x plus 336 pp. $26.99).

In Blurring the Lines of Race & Freedom, A.B. Wilkinson adds to a growing field of scholarship questioning the genesis of ideas and production of race and social differences in the trans-Atlantic world. Wilkinson’s detailed examination looks at the ways mixed-heritage people—or individuals with at least two ancestors from predominantly African, European, and Indigenous backgrounds—shaped legal and cultural understandings of interracial mixture in British North America. He focuses on the meeting of communities around the Tidewater Chesapeake, the Carolina Lowcountry, and the English sugar and coffee plantations in the Caribbean. Despite legislators in these regions governing monoracial categories of colonial subjects as “white,” “Indian,” or “Negro,” Wilkinson convincingly argues that people from these blended ancestries and their families complicated racially bound labor systems of enslavement and indentured servitude. In so doing, they slowed down elites’ establishment of a solid racial hierarchy from the seventeenth century until the eve of the American Revolution.

Wilkinson’s sources range across multiple genres that reveal Anglo-Americans’ increasing hostility towards people of blended ancestries and interracial relationships. His interrogation of hundreds of fugitive slave and servant advertisements shows some of mixed-heritage people’s strategies for performing freedom and racial passing. Wilkinson uses many court cases showing that mixed-heritage people could successfully challenge the conditions of their labor arrangements through freedom petitions, particularly when Anglo-Americans’ racial thought was in its infancy and when colonial authorities held more lenient notions of hypodescent, a concept that served as a forerunner for the United States’s one-drop rule and miscegenation laws. Whether someone achieved manumission or lessened indentured service contracts was often based on perceptions about an individual’s proximity to European heritage, and most likely passed on through their mother’s lineage…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Nitasha Tamar Sharma: Hawai’i Is My Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Audio, Book/Video Reviews, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, United States on 2022-04-01 16:51Z by Steven

Nitasha Tamar Sharma: Hawai’i Is My Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific

New Books Network

Hawai’i Is My Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific (Duke UP, 2021) maps the context and contours of Black life in the Hawaiian Islands. This ethnography emerges from a decade of fieldwork with both Hawaiʻi-raised Black locals and Black transplants who moved to the Islands from North America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Nitasha Tamar Sharma highlights the paradox of Hawaiʻi as a multiracial paradise and site of unacknowledged anti-Black racism. While Black culture is ubiquitous here, African-descended people seem invisible. In this formerly sovereign nation structured neither by the US Black/White binary nor the one-drop rule, non-White multiracials, including Black Hawaiians and Black Koreans, illustrate the coarticulation and limits of race and the native/settler divide. Despite erasure and racism, nonmilitary Black residents consider Hawaiʻi their haven, describing it as a place to “breathe” that offers the possibility of becoming local. Sharma’s analysis of race, indigeneity, and Asian settler colonialism shifts North American debates in Black and Native studies to the Black Pacific. Hawaiʻi Is My Haven illustrates what the Pacific offers members of the African diaspora and how they in turn illuminate race and racism in “paradise.”

Listen to the interview (01:48:48) here.

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A vigorous examination of ‘Mr. NAACP,’ who passed as White

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive on 2022-04-01 02:58Z by Steven

A vigorous examination of ‘Mr. NAACP,’ who passed as White

The Washington Post

Kevin Boyle, William Smith Mason Professor of American History
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Walter White was executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in June 1942. (Gordon Parks/Farm Security Administration/Library of Congress) (Gordon Parks /Farm Security Administration/Library of Congress

When Walter White joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s New York staff in 1918, he had a thin record of civil rights activism. But he quickly made himself into the association’s indispensable man, particularly skilled at communicating the terror of racial violence to White audiences. It was a talent built partly on his limitless courage, partly on his incessant charm, and partly on a family inheritance that set him apart from most of Black America. “I am a Negro,” he wrote late in life. “My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.”

But the marks of slavery were. The sexual exploitation that ran through the antebellum South coiled tightly round White’s maternal line: Both his great-grandfather and grandfather were prominent White men; his great-grandmother and grandmother, enslaved women powerless to resist them. His mother was born into bondage, too, just as the Civil War was about to bring the slave system down. Over the decades of freedom that followed, she and the light-skinned man she married pulled their family into the Black middle class, where their color carried a great deal of cachet. There White was born and raised, wrapped in the Victorian virtues of turn-of-the-century Atlanta’s most prestigious Black neighborhood as Jim Crow closed in around him.

A.J. Baime centers the first two thirds of his vigorous biography, “White Lies: The Double Life of Walter F. White and America’s Darkest Secret,” on the first 12 years of White’s confrontation with that brutal regime. His breakthrough came two weeks into his time as an NAACP staffer, when his boss, the incomparable James Weldon Johnson, sent him to investigate a lynching in tiny Estill Springs, Tenn. White arrived in town claiming to be a traveling salesman. In short order, he was sitting in the general store, chatting up the locals who assumed that he was as White as they were. By nightfall, he had gathered all the horrifying details that made his resulting exposé, published in the NAACP magazine, the Crisis, a sensation…

Read the entire review here.

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Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda review – millennial vampire tale with bite

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2022-03-15 21:57Z by Steven

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda review – millennial vampire tale with bite

The Guardian

Lucy Popescu

Claire Kohda: ‘excellent at conveying Lydia’s alienation and sense of powerlessness’. Photograph: Misha Gafarova

This debut novel is a surefooted, art-filled and wholly 21st-century take on bloodsucking

Claire Kohda’s debut is memorable for the refreshing perspective of her conflicted heroine: a vampire of mixed ethnicity and recent art graduate. Lydia struggles to accept the demon inside her and yearns to love, live and eat like a human. Her father, a successful Japanese artist, died before she was born. Lydia has committed her mother, a Malaysian-English vampire in declining health, to a home in Margate and accepted an internship with a contemporary London gallery known as the Otter.

Woman, Eating opens with Lydia renting an artist’s studio in a converted biscuit factory. She’s shown around by the kind and friendly Ben, to whom she is immediately attracted. At the gallery, Lydia is given banal jobs cleaning labels off bottles and adding velvet pads to coat hangers in preparation for the next opening. Largely ignored by the staff, Lydia receives the unwanted attention of the director – cold, predatory Gideon – who, she learns, had collected her father’s art. He stands in the shadows observing her, unaware that, as a vampire, Lydia can see him in the dark and the blood coursing through his veins. One day, passing on the stairs, he gropes her buttock. It’s an act he’ll later regret…

Read the entire review here.

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Notes On ‘Passing’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-03-15 18:26Z by Steven

Notes On ‘Passing’


Rebecca Carroll

Ruth Negga (left) and Tessa Thompson in “Passing” | Photo Credit: Netflix

The upcoming drama, based on the 1929 novel, looks at the cultural self-alienation a black woman experiences when she attempts to gain the privileges that come with assuming a white identity.

When my light-skinned Black and mixed-race teenage son was little, I worried aloud to my best girlfriend about whether people would recognize him as Black—or whether, God forbid, he himself would decide to identify as even partially white. My girlfriend, who is also Black, would counter with, “Why would he want to be on that team? Seriously, have you seen that team?” Yes, I would say, all too much, for far too long. And we’d laugh, because it was funny-ish.

I was adopted by a white family and raised in a primarily white rural New England town. I then spent my life, well into adulthood, seeking out Blackness and trying to arrive at a place where I could feel unambiguous in my identity as a Black woman. My son opting to identify as white would have been the opposite of my journey. But as he grew older, I actually stopped worrying that he’d be taken as white—and became more worried that he’d be profiled by the police as Black. The irony…

Read the entire review here.

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For mixed-descent people on America’s frontier, acceptance and suspicion

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2022-03-15 15:01Z by Steven

For mixed-descent people on America’s frontier, acceptance and suspicion

The Washington Post

H.W. Brands

Marguerite Waddens, pictured in the 1850s. Her father was a White fur trader, and her mother an Indigenous woman in Canada. Waddens herself married White men, including Alexander McKay, who worked for the North West Company. Often, unions between traders and native women were expected by both parties to be temporary. (National Park Service )

In the late 19th century, Frederick Jackson Turner lit up the historical world with his frontier thesis of American history. He asserted that American democracy owed its distinctiveness to the existence of an advancing frontier, where American institutions reinvented themselves every generation. By no means did all historians accept Turner’s views, but his approach framed debate on the subject far into the 20th century.

More recently the concept of frontier has given way to the idea of borders and borderlands, where peoples and cultures have intermingled and interacted. In “Born of Lakes and Plains: Mixed-Descent Peoples and the Making of the American West,Anne F. Hyde examines family life in the borderlands; her carefully wrought portrait of five families reveals the peculiar challenges faced by these quintessential people of the border…

Read the entire review here.

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That Middle World: Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing by Julia S. Charles (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-03-08 23:31Z by Steven

That Middle World: Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing by Julia S. Charles (review)

Journal of Southern History
Volume 88, Number 1, February 2022
pages 164-165
DOI: 10.1353/soh.2022.0019

Tyler Sperrazza
University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut

That Middle World: Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing. By Julia S. Charles. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020. Pp. xviii, 224. Paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4696-5957-2; cloth, $95.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-5956-5.)

The past decade has seen a tremendous growth in scholarly inquiry around the subject of racial passing. The context of the current historical moment coupled with viral discussions of cultural appropriation and “blackfishing” brings a sense of urgency to understanding the long history of passing and its function in the U.S. context. Julia S. Charles’s That Middle World: Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing offers a perspective on this phenomenon that places performance at the heart of the racial passing experience. Charles calls for a rejection of previous scholarly treatments of passing that foreground experiences of loss among those who pass and instead argues for a focus on the opportunities that performing race offered to certain mixed-race African American citizens. Charles presents a book of theory and philosophy on racial passing meant to inform the ways scholars of African American literature and media studies can make sense of mixed-race and passing characters throughout nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.

The title of Charles’s book also serves as its main theoretical construction. “That Middle World” is a location that Charles defines as an interstitial and metaphysical space occupied by mixed-race characters that becomes the “location of culture and identity for so-called mulattoes in African American fiction” (p. 22). This space both creates and destroys boundaries between Black and white and offers a means of interpreting passing African Americans’ experiences as a constant process of both making and crossing borders in a liminal space free of the “inadequate Black-white racial binary” (p. 40). Throughout the central chapters of the book, Charles adroitly moves between the historical lives and contexts of African American authors and the worlds their characters inhabit. Many of her subjects—Charles W. Chesnutt being central—were themselves mixed-race and able to navigate the boundaries of That Middle World in their everyday lives. Charles’s interweaving of the historical and the literary is a welcome addition to this growing field of passing studies…

Read or purchase the review here.

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