Erasure and Recollection: Memories of Racial Passing

Posted in Anthologies, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Passing, United States on 2021-08-31 15:27Z by Steven

Erasure and Recollection: Memories of Racial Passing

Peter Lang
2021
366 pages
13 fig. b/w.
Paperback ISBN:978-2-8076-1625-7
ePUB ISBN:978-2-8076-1627-1 (DOI: 10.3726/b18256)

Edited by:

Hélène Charlery, Professor of English Literature
University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès

Aurélie Guillain, Professor of American Literature
University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès

Many recent studies of racial passing have emphasized the continuing, almost haunting power of racial segregation even in the post-segregation period in the US, or in the post-apartheid period in South Africa. This “present-ness” of racial passing, the fact that it has not really become “passé,” is noticeable in the great number of testimonies which have been published in the 2000s and 2010s by descendants of individuals who passed for white in the English-speaking world. The sheer number of publications suggest a continuing interest in the kind of relation to the personal and national past which is at stake in the long-delayed revelation of cases of racial passing.

This interest in family memoirs or in fictional works re-tracing the erasure of some relative’s racial identity is by no means limited to the United States: for instance, Zoë Wicomb in South Africa or Zadie Smith in the UK both use the passing novel to unravel the complex situation of mixed-race subjects in relation to their family past and to a national past marked by a history of racial inequality.

Yet, the vast majority of critical approaches to racial passing have so far remained largely focused on the United States and its specific history of race relations. The objective of this volume is twofold: it aims at shedding light on the way texts or films show the work of individual memory and collective recollection as they grapple with a racially divided past, struggling with its legacy or playing with its stereotypes. Our second objective has been to explore the great variety in the forms taken by racial passing depending on the context, which in turn leads to differences in the ways it is remembered. Focusing on how a previously erased racial identity may resurface in the present has enabled us to extend the scope of our study to other countries than the United States, so that this volume hopes to propose some new, transnational directions in the study of racial passing.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction – Hélène Charlery and Aurélie Guillain
  • Part I: Memories of Racial Passing – Reconstructing Local and Personal Histories – From Homer Plessy to Paul Broyard
    • To Pass or Not to Pass in New Orleans – Nathalie Dessens
    • Racial Passing at New Orleans Mardi Gras; From Reconstruction to the Mid- Twentieth Century: Flight of Fancy or Masked Resistance? – Aurélie Godet
    • Passing through New Orleans, Atlanta, and New York City: The Dynamics of Racial Assignation in Walter White’s Flight (1926) – Aurélie Guillain
    • African American Women Activists and Racial Passing: Personal Journeys and Subversive Strategies (1880s– 1920s) – Élise Vallier-Mathieu
  • Part II: Memory, Consciousness and the Fantasy of Amnesia in Passing Novels
    • “What Irene Redfield Remembered”: Making It New in Nella Larsen’s Passing – M. Giulia Fabi
    • Between Fiction and Reality: Passing for Non- Jewish in Multicultural American Fiction – Ohad Reznick
    • Experiments in Passing: Racial Passing in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Arthur Miller’s Focus – Ochem G.l.a. Riesthuis
    • Passing to Disappearance: The Voice/ Body Dichotomy and the Problem of Identity in Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing (2004) – Anne-Catherine Bascoul
  • Part III: Memories of Racial Passing within and beyond the United States: Towards a Transnational Approach
    • “The Topsy-Turviness of Being in the Wrong Hemisphere” Transnationalizing the Racial Passing Narrative – Sinéad Moynihan
    • Passing, National Reconciliation and Adolescence in Beneath Clouds (Ivan Sen, 2002) and The Wooden Camera (Ntshaveni Wa Luruli, 2003) – Delphine David and Annael Le Poullennec
    • Transnational Gendered Subjectivity in Passing across the Black Atlantic: Nella Larsen’s Passing, Michelle Cliff ’s Free Enterprise and Zadie Smith’s Swing Time – Kerry-Jane Wallart
  • About the Authors/ Editors
  • Index
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Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2020-08-12 01:11Z by Steven

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins)
2020-07-28
224 pages
6x8in
Hardcover ISBN: 9780062248572
Large Print ISBN: 9780063076709
E-book ISBN: 9780062248596
Digital Audio, MP3 ISBN: 9780063005860

Natasha Trethewey, Board of Trustees Professor of English
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy

At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.

With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.

Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. Animated by unforgettable prose and inflected by a poet’s attention to language, this is a luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers.

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A Conflict of Race and Religion

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2017-04-17 00:31Z by Steven

A Conflict of Race and Religion

Atlanta Jewish Times
2017-04-13

Patrice Worthy

As a Jew of color, your identity and loyalty are constantly questioned.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was laid off from my job for poor work performance. Weeks before, I went to HR regarding a co-worker who attacked my Jewish identity by asking another co-worker, “What does she want to be Jewish?” followed by “She thinks she so cute” because I asked for the first day of Pesach off.

Her sister, who worked in the same department, questioned my Judaism in front of the entire office, and when the daily harassment was too much for my body to handle, I was hospitalized and forced to tell my diagnosis to my supervisor, who encouraged the discrimination, and the HR rep…

…Being black and Jewish, at least from my experiences in the South, is a precarious position. Especially in a socially segregated city like Atlanta, where you are forced to choose between being Jewish and being black, whatever that means…

Read the entire article here.

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Walter White and the Atlanta NAACP’s Fight for Equal Schools, 1916–1917

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-04-08 02:07Z by Steven

Walter White and the Atlanta NAACP’s Fight for Equal Schools, 1916–1917

History of Education Quarterly
Volume 7, Issue 1 (April 1967)
pages 3-21
DOI: 10.2307/367230

Edgar A. Toppin (1928-2004), Professor of History
Virginia State College

In 1917 a delegation of negroes went before the Board of Education in Atlanta, Georgia, to demand equal facilities for colored school children. This marked the beginning of the work in Atlanta of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The youthful branch secretary who sparked this drive, Walter Francis White, called this “our first fight and our first victory and … we have only begun to fight.” Despite his enthusiasm, Atlanta moved at a glacial pace toward parity in the dual school systems.

Read or purchase the article here or here.

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African Americans in Atlanta: Adrienne Herndon, an Uncommon Woman

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2017-02-08 16:53Z by Steven

African Americans in Atlanta: Adrienne Herndon, an Uncommon Woman

Southern Spaces: A Journal about Real and Imagined Spaces and Places of the US South and their Global Connections
2004-03-16
DOI: 10.18737/M7XP4B

Carole Merritt


Portrait of Adrienne Herndon, date unknown. (c) The Herndon Home.

Overview 

Ahead of her time and outside of her assigned place, Adrienne Herndon achieved acclaim in education, drama, and architecture in turn-of-the-century Atlanta. As head of the drama department at Atlanta University, as aspiring dramatic artist, as architect of what would be designated a National Historic Landmark, Adrienne Herndon set her own course in a society that rejected such independence in women. She was one of the most highly trained professional women in Atlanta, having graduated from Atlanta University normal school in preparation for teaching, and having received degrees from the Boston School of Expression and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.

Adrienne Herndon (1869–1910)

“It is simply inevitable that I should end up on the stage,” Adrienne stated in 1904 just before her Boston debut as a dramatic reader. “The footlights have beckoned me since I was a little child and I simply must respond. It has always been my dream to portray all the heroic feminine characters of Shakespeare.” (Boston Traveler, January 25, 1904). From her childhood in Savannah, through her drama studies in Boston and New York, Adrienne held on to this dream of a career on the legitimate theater stage. The harsh realities of race and gender in America, however, doomed the realization of this dream. Except for vaudeville, minstrelsy, and all-Black dramatic productions, there was no place for Blacks on the American theater stage. As the daughter of light-skinned, slave-born house servants with considerable White ancestry, Adrienne’s skin was white. She identified herself as a Creole, a racially ambiguous term by which she was neither admitting nor denying her race.

Passing for White, she made her debut in Boston…

Read the entire article here.

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The Herndons: An Atlanta Family

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Monographs, United States on 2011-12-29 03:57Z by Steven

The Herndons: An Atlanta Family

University of Georgia Press
2002-06-21
272 pages
8 x 10
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8203-2309-1

Carole Merritt, Director
The Herndon Home, Atlanta, Georgia

A compelling portrait of one of Atlanta’s most prominent African American families

Born a slave and reared a sharecropper, Alonzo Herndon (1858-1927) was destined to drudgery in the red clay fields of Georgia. Within forty years of Emancipation, however, he had amassed a fortune that far surpassed that of his White slave-master father.

Through his barbering, real estate, and life insurance ventures, Herndon would become one of the wealthiest and most respected African American business figures of his era. This richly illustrated book chronicles Alonzo Herndon’s ascent and his remarkable family’s achievements in Jim Crow Atlanta.

In this first biography of the Herndons, Carole Merritt narrates how Herndon nurtured the Atlanta Life Insurance Company from a faltering enterprise he bought for $140 into one of the largest Black financial institutions in America; how he acquired the most substantial Black property holdings in Atlanta; and how he developed his barbering business from a one-chair shop into the nation’s largest and most elegant parlor, the resplendent, twenty-three chair “Crystal Palace” in the heart of White Atlanta.

The Herndons’ world was the educational and business elite of Atlanta. But as Blacks, they were intimately bound to the course of Black life. The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 and its impact on the Herndons demonstrated that all Blacks, regardless of class, were the victims of racial terrorism.

Through the Herndons, issues of race, class, and color in turn-of-the-century Atlanta come into sharp focus. Their story is one of by-the-bootstraps resolve, tough compromises in the face of racism, and lasting contributions to their city and nation.

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African American Community Building in Atlanta: A Guide to the Study of Race in America

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-12-29 03:35Z by Steven

African American Community Building in Atlanta: A Guide to the Study of Race in America

Southern Spaces
An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the U.S. South and their global connections
2004-03-17

Carole Merritt, Director
The Herndon Home, Atlanta, Georgia

The development of the African American community in Atlanta is a fruitful subject for the study of race in America. Racial policy and practice in response to emancipation and the failures of reconstuction were evolving in Atlanta during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Blacks and Whites in a rapidly growing city made for a volatile mix of people and sharply conflicting agendas. The size and structure of the African American community and the nature of its business and institutional development reveal sharply the problems of race in the leading city of the New South.

Sections:

  • Introduction
  • Context
  • Community Development
  • Business Enterprise
  • Study Focus/Issues
  • Recommended Resources

Introduction: Defining the Subject

 “The problem of the twentieth century,” W. E. B. Du Bois wrote one hundred years ago, “is the problem of the color-line.” He was referring to the worldwide hierarchy of race that places lighter people over darker people. As educator, writer, and political activist he dedicated his life to the struggle for racial equality. But long before his death in exile, sixty years later on the eve of the civil rights March on Washington, Du Bois knew well that the color line would divide the world through the twenty-first century and, more likely, for centuries to come.
 
As race has been a persistent problem, so too has the study of race. The difficulty of confronting the pain and guilt of racial conflict has made race a virtually taboo topic of discussion and an elusive subject of study. The constantly changing racial references are telling examples of the ongoing difficulties in addressing race in this country. “We shall,” wrote teacher Leila Amos Pendleton, “as a rule speak of ourselves as “Negroes” and always begin the noun with a capital letter.” Recognizing, however, that in 1912 the word was considered by some a term of contempt, she hoped that in time “our whole race will feel it an honor to be called ‘Negroes’.” From the use of “colored” and “Negro” to “African American,” “Black,” and “Bi-racial,” the problem of naming and being named has reflected the struggles of the racial order. From “integration” of the 1950s through “maximum feasible participation” of the 1960s, to “diversity” of the present, the shifting terminology reveals the persistent problem of confronting race in public policy. But study promises clarity, forcing us to be explicit. Building effective frameworks for research may in time better structure private dialogue and public policy. This research guide is part of such an effort. It seeks to clarify terms, narrate critical developments, define issues, and identify relevant sources of information.
 
The focus of this research guide is the African American community in Atlanta during the twentieth century. From the perspective of a specific community in a particular place at a critical period, studying race becomes more manageable and gains depth. Since race is pervasive in American society, a wide variety of topics and research strategies would be fruitful for study. The development of the African American community in Atlanta, however, is a particularly fruitful subject for the study of race. Racial policy and practice in response to emancipation and the failures of reconstruction were evolving in Atlanta during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Blacks and Whites in a rapidly growing city made for a volatile mix of people and sharply conflicting agendas. The size and structure of Atlanta’s African American community and the nature of its business and institutional development reveal sharply the problems of race in the leading city of the New South. The research guide addresses the context within which the African American community evolved, highlights the community’s development, and assesses the impact of race…

Bi-racial and Bi-ethnic Atlanta

Until recent decades, Atlanta’s population, like that of the South, has been almost exclusively Black and White. Moreover, because Black labor and the racial climate tended to discourage large numbers of immigrants, Atlanta’s foreign-born population was only 3% at the turn of the century. Race in America, particularly in the South, has tended to override ethnicity. Race and ethnicity, however, overlap. Both terms incorporate ancestry, geographical origins, and cultural traits. By this definition Whites and Blacks belong to ethnic groups as well as to racial groups. In the South they were primarily of British and African ethnicity. There is a critical distinction, however, between race and ethnicity that informs the study of race in America. One’s ethnicity, unlike one’s race, can change. The acculturation of America’s Scotch-Irish, for example, has transcended their ethnicity. But race for the subordinate group is immutable. It is the biological given that generation after generation, in spite of any racial mixture or cultural assimilation, is never dissolved. Black ancestry, however distant or minimal, permanently identifies its descendants as Black. The immutability of Black racial identity is at the core of racism. White supremacy depends upon White racial purity. The absolute standard of White over Black would be subverted and unenforceable were Blacks allowed to breed out of their race.

The South, therefore, is hardly ethnically homogeneous as is often maintained. Only if the African American presence is ignored can one conclude that the South lacks ethnic diversity. Indeed, the South as a region is defined by its diversity, racial and ethnic. The biracial and bi-ethnic character that flows from British and African ancestry has driven the South, its politics, economics, and culture. The Atlanta story tells how American racism rose to new heights with the system of Jim Crow and how that system operated as both constraint and opportunity in the development of the city’s African American community.

The Rise of Jim Crow
 
Although the Civil War overturned slavery, another system of racial domination was developed to replace it. Jim Crow, as it came to be called, reached its full flowering in Southern cities like Atlanta by the turn of the twentieth century. In the rural areas, the cotton economy ensured continuities in the control of Black life and labor. But in the city, where there were no such economic continuities, it was necessary to find new ways to secure White supremacy. And in a city like Atlanta where commerce and industry were in their infancy and where Black and White migrants were at times in competition for the same jobs and living space, Black subordination had to be institutionalized in law and custom. Jim Crow legislation reflected the failures of reconstruction as Whites were restored to political power and the controls of slavery were extended. The prohibition of marriage between Whites and Blacks was one of the first pieces of legislation that sought to protect the very heart of White supremacy. Making interracial marriage illegal denied to mixed race children all claims to White property and, more significantly, to White identity. The codes that restricted property ownership and the vagrancy laws that permitted forced labor were other early attempts to maintain the controls of slavery. The White-only primary and the institution of voter qualifications guaranteed Black disfranchisement. Blacks were subjected to racially segregated schools, streetcars, libraries, restaurants and parks. The urban environment created new opportunities for the application of Jim Crow. Atlanta relegated Blacks to separate elevators. The new zoo at Grant Park provided separate entrances, exits and pathways for Blacks and Whites. Atlanta became the first Georgia city to legislate segregation in residential areas. There was virtually no area of Black life that was not restricted by Jim Crow…

Read the entire article here.

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Defending Home and Hearth: Walter White Recalls the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2011-10-12 22:21Z by Steven

Defending Home and Hearth: Walter White Recalls the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

Web Source: History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web
Walter White, A Man Called White
1948; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1969
pages 5–12

Walter White (1893-1955)

The riots that broke out between 1898 and 1906 were part of a pattern of anti-black violence that included several hundred lynchings each year. One of the most savage race riots in these years erupted in Atlanta on September 22, 1906 after vague reports of African Americans harassing white women. Over five days at least ten black people were killed while Atlanta’s police did nothing to protect black citizens, going so far as to confiscate guns from black Atlantans while allowing whites to remain armed. In this selection from his memoirs, Walter White, the future head of the NAACP recalled how, at age 13, he and his father defended their home from white rioters.

The unseasonably oppressive heat of an Indian summer day hung like a steaming blanket over Atlanta. My sisters and I had casually commented upon the unusual quietness. It seemed to stay Mother’s volubility and reduced Father, who was more taciturn, to monosyllables. But, as I remember it, no other sense of impending trouble impinged upon our consciousness.

I had read the inflammatory headlines in the Atlanta News and the more restrained ones in the Atlanta Constitution which reported alleged rapes and other crimes committed by Negroes. But these were so standard and familiar that they made—as I look back on it now—little impression. The stories were more frequent, however, and consisted of eight-column streamers instead of the usual two or four-column ones.

Father was a mail collector. His tour of duty was from three to eleven P.M. He made his rounds in a little cart into which one climbed from a step in the rear. I used to drive the cart for him from two until seven, leaving him at the point nearest our home on Houston Street, to return home either for study or sleep. That day Father decided that I should not go with him. I appealed to Mother, who thought it might be all right, provided Father sent me home before dark because, she said, “I don’t think they would dare start anything before nightfall.”Father told me as we made the rounds that ominous rumors of a race riot that night were sweeping the town. But I was too young that morning to understand the background of the riot. I became much older during the next thirty-six hours, under circumstances which I now recognize as the inevitable outcome of what had preceded.

…Late in the afternoon friends of my father’s came to warn of more trouble that night. They told us that plans had been perfected for a mob to form on Peachtree Street just after nightfall to march down Houston Street to what the white people called “Darktown,” three blocks or so below our house, to “clean out the niggers.” There had never been a firearm in our house before that day. Father was reluctant even in those circumstances to violate the law, but he at last gave in at Mother’s insistence…

Read the entire text here.

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More metro Atlantans say they’re multiracial: Fast-growing segment represents a cultural shift that’s nationwide

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2011-09-09 01:07Z by Steven

More metro Atlantans say they’re multiracial: Fast-growing segment represents a cultural shift that’s nationwide

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2011-09-03

Bo Emerson

When Evelyn Brown-Wilder was growing up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in the 1950s, life was a matter of warring opposites. Though some of her ancestors were white and her face was pale, the law said she was black. She wrapped both arms around that identity.

Her daughter, Sonya Colvin-Boyd, lives in a different world and chooses a different identity. When it came time for Colvin-Boyd to indicate her race on her 2000 U.S. census form, she picked both white and black. “We’re all mixed,” said the Powder Springs resident.
 
Claiming both races puts her in one of the fastest-growing segments of America’s population. It’s a trend that reveals seismic shifts in both outward social and cultural relations and inward notions of individual identity.
 
Across metro Atlanta’s counties, the last decade saw a doubling or tripling of the number of people identifying themselves as being of more than one race, according to the Census Bureau. In Gwinnett County, the number of respondents checking two or more races rose from 12,673 in 2000 to 25,292 in 2010, a 99 percent jump. In Fulton County, the number rose from 11,853 to 20,279, a 71 percent increase. In Henry County, the numbers went up 269 percent…

…Yet mixed ancestry is a matter of fact for most Americans whose ancestors include people from Africa; they operate in a world of gradations where skin color sometimes determines status. “A lot of darker-complected blacks saw it as the ‘house Negro’ syndrome versus the ‘field Negro’ syndrome,” said Troy Gordon, 42, who teaches elementary school in Lithonia. Gordon is a copper-skinned mix of African-American and American Indian, and his light skin drew “flak” when he was younger.
 
He knew, growing up, that “black” was a whole range of colors, from his white great-grandmother, to his “paper-sack brown” aunt and his green-eyed, red-haired uncle. “I was black,” said Gordon, “but you’d see family pictures and say, ‘Wow, who’s this white lady?’”
 
Such conversations were limited back then. Today, there are many more talks about their multiracial heritage with his light-skinned 4-year-old son Chase. Chase’s mother is white, and he considers himself white, though he pronounces it “wipe.”…

Read the entire article here.

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