Who Do You Think You Are? [with Reggie Yates]

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Biography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Videos on 2014-10-19 21:55Z by Steven

Who Do You Think You Are? Reggie Yates [with Reggie Yates]

Who Do You Think You Are?
Series 11: Episode 8 of 10
Running Time: 00:59:09
First Aired: 2014-09-25

Presenter and DJ Reggie Yates grew up knowing very little about his father’s side of the family. Reggie sets out on the trail of his grandfather, Harry Philip Yates. His journey takes him to Ghana, where he unravels a complex family history where Ghanaian culture and British colonialism collide.

[Features Fordham University history professor Carina Ray.]

For more information, click here.

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Decrying White Peril: Interracial Sex and the Rise of Anticolonial Nationalism in the Gold Coast

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Media Archive on 2014-02-07 23:15Z by Steven

Decrying White Peril: Interracial Sex and the Rise of Anticolonial Nationalism in the Gold Coast

The American Historical Review
Volume 119, Issue 1 (February 2014)
pages 78-110
DOI: 10.1093/ahr/119.1.78

Carina E. Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro- American Studies
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

In the summer and fall of 1919, the African-owned Gold Coast press was awash with news stories and impassioned commentary about the postwar race riots that had recently devastated Liverpool, Cardiff, and other major port cities in Britain. Angered by the sexual politics underlying the riots, Gold Coast commentators were quick to point out that the ports’ white rioters were not the only ones aggrieved by interracial sexual relations. Atu, a regular columnist for the Gold Coast Leader, responded to news that black men were targeted for repatriation after being attacked on the ports’ streets for “consorting with white women” by reminding his readers “that in their own country white men freely consort with coloured women, forming illicit alliances, and in many cases leaving on the coast abandoned offspring to the precarious protection of needy native families.” He continued, “It does not require much skill to diagnose the canting hypocrisy underlying” the riots, but the question now was whether “any sensible man [could] suppose that these men will return to their homes to view with complacency the spectacle of white men associated with  coloured women.” In a few short lines, Atu vivified the “tensions of empire” created  by the movement of African men between metropole and colony, and their different  systems of raced and gendered sexual access.

Not long after, the Leader published a series of commentaries under the provocative  title “Immoral Sanitation.” The unnamed author of the series’ first installment declared that unseemly sexual liaisons between African women and European men had transformed the “social life” of Sekondi, a busy coastal town in the Gold Coast’s Western Province, into “a condition of depravity.” Elsewhere in the colony,  “a woman who boldly acknowledges herself the kept mistress of a European is thrown out of society and virtually looked down upon by men and women of respectability,”  claimed the writer. In Sekondi, however, he accused “energetic advocates of this dishonourable mode of life” of enticing young women into sexual relationships with European men, whose “carnal lust” was causing the moral deterioration of the town’s womenfolk. The claims made in the “Immoral Sanitation” series, argued Leader columnist Atu, were more broadly applicable to “other parts of the country where this traffic,” which he likened to “prostitution on the part of African women by a class of white men of a low caste,” was carried on.

The Leader’s lurid tales of illicit relationships between profligate white men and debauched African women during the early twentieth century contrast sharply with historical accounts of respectable marriages between entrepreneurial African women and European men during an earlier time period in coastal West Africa. These unions produced West Africa’s prominent Afro-European trading families and are often credited with successfully integrating European men into local West African societies and empowering African women during the long period of contact preceding the nineteenth-century advent of formal colonial rule. Interracial marriages contracted in accordance with African customary law, and less frequently those recognized as lawful by the religious and administrative bodies associated with the European presence on the coast, were indeed regular features of the region’s littoral trading enclaves. Constrained by a dearth of sources, scholars have had comparatively little to say about the range of coercive and less seemly sexual encounters, including concubinage, prostitution, and rape, that also characterized the interracial sexual economies of West Africa’s coastal trading hubs. While it is difficult to speculate about native Gold Coasters’ reactions to these relationships prior to the twentieth century, scattered commentary from as early as 1902 in the Leader, the colony’s most politically radical newspaper, suggests that disquiet over them was not new. With the appearance of the “Immoral Sanitation” series and likeminded commentaries, however, this simmering discontent boiled over into full-blown condemnation of local interracial sexual relations. These rare primary sources vividly illustrate how a diverse group of politically marginalized yet highly politicized Gold Coast men from the colony’s embattled intelligentsia, along with disillusioned demobilized soldiers and seamen in post–World War I Britain, used these illicit relationships to challenge the moral legitimacy of British colonial rule. On the one hand, by portraying African women as either immoral race traitors or innocents in need of protection from predatory Europeans, these men were able to claim a leadership role as moral stewards of the nation. On the other hand, by casting European men as sexually promiscuous interlopers, they challenged the very idea that Europeans were morally suited to rule the colonial world…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Why Do You Call Yourself Black And African?

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States, Women on 2013-11-16 16:31Z by Steven

Why Do You Call Yourself Black And African?

New African

Carina Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro- American Studies
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

A little over a year ago I received an email with the subject line “Ok I wonder why you call yourself ‘black’ and ‘African’” from a self-described longtime New African reader.  Even if subsequent emails have been less direct in their articulation of the same underlying sentiment, they all point in a similar direction: some people are confused about my racial background and about the way I racially identify myself.  Their need to seek clarification suggests that being able to label me is important to the way in which they understand the content of my columns.

I was perplexed at first by this seemingly sudden preoccupation with my race.  After all I’d been writing for New African for several years and never had anyone raise the subject before. It then occurred to me that these racial enquiries started happening almost immediately after my picture began running with my column.  Obviously there was a disconnect in the minds of some readers between my appearance and my writing, especially when I refer to myself as both Black and African, and use the collective “we” to talk about the past, present, and future of Black people worldwide.

Indeed, the fact that I claim my place in the global African world annoyed one reader so much that he asked, “Why do you keep on writing ‘we’?” Just in case he hadn’t already made his point clear he added, “You are not black in my eyes. You look much more Italian or Spanish. I can assure you, if you go to Africa you will be called ‘white’.” I always find it amusing that people seem to forget the proximity of southern Spain and Italy to Africa.  There is a reason after all that Spaniards and Italians from the south look a lot like North Africans—centuries of exchange between the two regions certainly wasn’t limited to material goods.

Ironically, however, the reader was partially right.  I am ¼ Italian, but I don’t look anything like my blond hair and blue eyed Italian paternal grandmother who came from Turin in the far north of the country.  Nor do I look anything like my paternal Irish grandfather.  The reader wasn’t off the mark either when he guessed I might be Spanish.  My mom is part Spanish. She is also Taíno Indian and African, most likely of Yoruba ancestry, as were many of the enslaved Africans who worked the sugar plantations on the island of Puerto Rico where my mom was born.  So there you have it: Taíno, Spanish, Northern Italian, Irish, and yes, African too.  Why, you might ask, if I am so thoroughly mixed race do I identify as Black and African?

Let me begin by providing the context necessary to understand the particularly unique way in which Black is defined in the United States, where I was born and raised. Black, as a legal-cum-racial category, was historically constructed in the broadest possible way in order to expand the number of people who could be enslaved and to limit the legal right of racially mixed people to claim their freedom.  Known as the “one-drop rule“, the idea that a person with even the slightest trace of African ancestry is Black has long outlived slavery in America.  What was once a legal construction became a socially constructed category that has and continues to encompass a broad range of very phenotypically diverse Black people.  While the racial landscape of the U.S. is home to Black people of all hues, hair textures, body shapes and sizes, and facial features, we do not all experience our blackness in the same way—far from it. Phenotype, class, gender, and geography all play major roles in shaping our individual experiences as Black people in America. Hierarchies based on skin tone, alone, have been at the root of painful divisions within the black community, and are often the basis for preferential treatment within the dominant white society. It has not been lost on African-Americans that if Barack Obama was the complexion of his father he would likely not be our president today…

Read the entire article here.

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The Origins of Mixed Race Populations

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, Women on 2012-05-18 20:01Z by Steven

The Origins of Mixed Race Populations

New African
January 2005

Carina Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro- American Studies
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

While rape played a huge part in the origins of Africa and the Diaspora’s mixed race populations, it is wrong to attribute it all to rape, argues Carina Ray.

In the February 2004 issue of New African, the columnist Stella Orakwue threw the covers off one of the European empire’s dirtiest secrets–the widespread rape of black women by white men. Her expose, headlined “History’s Most Sordid Cover-Up” went on to declare that the historical origins of mixed race populations in Europe’s former colonies in North and South America, the Caribbean and Africa are located in this silenced history of rape.

In the following months, Orakwue’s pronouncement drew a lively response from several New African readers. Yet, each piece of writing in the thread left me with a distinct sense that the discussion had taken a wrong turn—or gotten off on the wrong foot to begin with, sweeping historical claims, such as the one made by Orakwue, are bound to be both true and false. Exceptions to the rule aside, her argument is valid for North America, particularly in the South during the era of slavery and to a decreasing extent through the period of Jim Crow segregation.

The origins of mixed race populations in South America and the Caribbean, however, fit less neatly into a single pattern of explanation. This should not be taken as a denial of the partial role that rape played in the development of mixed race populations in these regions, but to identify it as the predominant causal factor obscures the complicated history of race mixing in these areas.

Many countries in South America and the Caribbean are home to populations that are almost entirely mixed. Their numbers cannot be accounted for primarily by rape, but rather result in large part from complex patterns of inter-marriage, concubinage and consensual sex between indigenous peoples, Africans, Europeans and multi-racial people themselves. With respect to Europe’s former African colonies, the link between rape and the origins of mixed race people is strongest, although by no means definitive, in the settler colonies of Southern Africa, where rape often formed part of a regime of white domination. It also functioned in areas like the Cape Colony, in modern-day South Africa, as a violent form of slave labour reproduction, not unlike the American South during slavery. The paradigm of rape, however, is far less adequate for explaining the historical origins of mixed race people in other parts of Africa…

…One need only look at the lineage of many of Ghana’s Afro-European families, like the Bannerman, Brew, Wulff-Cochrane, Reindorf, casely-Hayford, Hutchison, Lutterodt, VanHein, Vroom and Van der Puije families, to name just a few, to know that their female progenitors were not enslaved women, but rather members of indigenous families who married European men.

Unions of this type, as well as less formal consensual relationships, were not unique to Ghana; rather they formed an important aspect in the development of many of West Africa’s coastal societies. This key facet of West African history is eclipsed when the history of mixed race people is collapsed inside the history of rape.

It is often forgotten that in many instances during the first 400 years of the colonial encounter, Europeans were at the mercy of their African hosts. One of the ways European men survived and even thrived during this period of the colonial encounter was by marrying or cohabiting with African women, who not only provided companionship, medical assistance and domestic services, but also valuable local connections.

Contrary to the notion that colonialism was a one-way street which led to the Europeanisation of Africans, European men were also Africanised—in large part through their relationships with African women. Marriage was used as a means of cementing alliances to advance the interests of both groups, particularly in coastal trade, and importantly such arrangements were made at the behest of Africans…

Read the entire article here.

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A troubled experiment’s forgotten lesson in racial integration

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-03-25 06:57Z by Steven

A troubled experiment’s forgotten lesson in racial integration

Point Reyes Light
Point Reyes Station, California

Carina Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro- American Studies
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

The year 2012 marks the fortieth anniversary of my Puerto Rican mother and Irish-Italian father’s unusual wedding. They met and married in an experimental community called Synanon, where I was born. Readers might remember Synanon as the founding model of the therapeutic community, but they are more likely to recall its tragic retreat into a cultish enclave near Tomales Bay. What few people know, however, is that Synanon committed itself to a program of racial integration throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. While it belongs to a bygone era of social experimentation, its deliberate effort to foster a racially inclusive society was an experiment worth remembering.

Chuck Dederich, a charismatic recovered alcoholic, started Synanon in southern California in 1958 to lift drug users out of addiction and despair. Not long after, Dederich began to envision its mission more broadly. Synanon, he proclaimed, would promote “a lifestyle that makes possible the kind of communication between people that must exist if we are to prevent this planet from turning into uninhabitable ghettos.” In the 60’s and early 70’s it grew rapidly in size and prominence.

Synanon members, who came from every racial, religious and class background imaginable, lived and worked side by side. They also came together in “the game,” a form of no-holds-barred group encounter therapy that was the focal point of Synanon’s rehabilitation regime. At once intimate and confrontational, the game allowed people from all walks of life, and especially whites and blacks, to encounter each other in ways that would have been unimaginable elsewhere…

…As a result, I grew up surrounded by white, black and multi-racial kids. Because everything from toys and clothes to showers and mealtimes were shared, a sense of equality structured my relationships with my peers. Even as a child I was aware that many things weren’t ideal about Synanon and its ever-changing philosophies and dictums, but my early years in a multi-racial community, where mixed marriages and multi-racial identities were normalized, have shaped me for the better in ways I will probably never fully understand…

Read the entire article here.

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‘The White Wife Problem’: Sex, Race and the Contested Politics of Repatriation to Interwar British West Africa

Posted in Africa, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, Women on 2011-10-07 02:35Z by Steven

‘The White Wife Problem’: Sex, Race and the Contested Politics of Repatriation to Interwar British West Africa

Gender & History
Volume 21, Issue 3 (November 2009)
pages 628–646
DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0424.2009.01567.x

Carina E. Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro- American Studies
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

Based on archival research in Ghana and Britain, this article documents the sustained but failed attempts of working-class West African seamen to repatriate to the colonies with their European wives during the interwar years. Colonial authorities crafted policies to prevent these couples from making British West Africa home because they feared that the presence of European women living ‘in native fashion’ with their African husbands would destabilise colonial race relations. After discussing the origins of this policy in the context of the 1919 race riots that swept Britain’s port cities, the article draws on the case of a West African man married to a German woman to illuminate how concerns about race, sex, gender, nationality and class informed the politics of repatriation to British West Africa during the interwar years.

[Excerpted from the chapter of the same name in the anthology, Homes and Homecomings: Gendered Histories of Domesticity and Return]

As the First World War came to a close, ‘black’ men from Britain’s overseas colonies and their white wives and lovers came to embody the fears and anxieties that gripped Britain’s economically depressed port cities. Black men were accused of taking jobs from white British men and stealing ‘their’ women. White women who partnered with black men were cast as depraved and immoral traitors, who selfishly prioritised their own sexual and material desires above the good of the nation. Working-class inter-racial couples became targets of abuse on the increasingly tense streets of Britain’s port cities and, when a series of violent race riots swept through the ports in the summer of 1919. they were largely blamed for their outbreak.  White mobs, ranging in size from a few hundred to several thousand, indiscriminately attacked black men, harassed and assaulted their white partners, and destroyed the multiracial settlements they called home. In the wake of the riots, some of these couples attempted to leave their hostile environs for the British colonies, especially in West Africa and the West Indies, where many of the men in question came from. Their desire to take up residency overseas, however, led lo the immediate implementation of a policy which I call the ‘policy of prevention’, designed to keep European women married to working-class black men out of the colonies. This was especially the case for British West Africa and marked an important shift from the prewar period, when colonial social conventions and their attendant racial taboos were the primary mechanisms that, at the very least, kept European women and black men from openly liaising with one another. During the interwar period, state power was also used to ensure that the West African colonies were kept free of such couples.

While the origins of the policy of prevention are to be found in the immediate aftermath of the 1919 race riots, it continued to guide colonial authorities’ decision-making processes throughout the interwar years. By and large, it was West African men who were domiciled in Britain and married to white British women that sought in the decision-making processes of colonial authorities. It also demonstrates that in contrast to settler colonial regimes, in places like Southern Rhodesia and South Africa, the administered colonies of British West Africa stopped short of implementing the most draconian forms of sexual segregation through the use of anti-miscegenation laws and barbaric extralegal measures such as lynching. Rather, to keep the colonies free of all but a handful of wealthy inter-racial couples, colonial authorities used a combination of strategies, including denying passports to the white wives of working-class African men, refusing to pay the cost of their passage to West Africa, and classifying them as ‘undesirable immigrants’ under the provisions of the colonies’ Immigration Restriction Ordinance. While not the focus of this chapter, these strategics were complemented by earlier but comparatively less vigilant efforts on the part of colonial administrators to bring an end to the far more frequent occurrence of sexual relationships between European colonial officers and African women through the use of official anti-concubinage circulars during the early twentieth century.’ This in turn helps to underscore the importance of paying attention to the spectrum of colonial anxieties that accompanied the gendered, racial and spatial configurations of mixed race couples, as well as the forms (illicit, casual, marital) their relationships took. Indeed, if we are to use panic and bureaucratic strong-arming as yardsticks, preventing European officers from cohabiting with African women was a far less pressing issue than keeping lawfully married working-class black men and white women out of the colonies.

Reflecting on the deep-seated anxieties surrounding the existence of inter-racial unions between black men and white women during the interwar years in Britain, Lucy Bland usefully suggests that, if we are to fully understand the complexity of inter-racial relationships during this period, we must undertake the difficult work of documenting the voices of the ‘women and men who negotiated their personal and sexual relationships in the face of a barrage of both official and cultural hostility’, while paying particularly close attention to ‘their experiences, the impact of prejudice upon them, and their strategies of survival and support’. Foregrounding their experiences in our analysis of the colonial archive provides a more complete view of the various worlds these couples were attempting to negotiate. Laura Tabili has done just this by charting the thwarted struggles of a handful of British and mixed-race British-Somali women to make the British Protectorate of Somaliland their home in the face of the exclusionary practices of colonial authorities who believed that the presence of these women living intimately among ‘native’ populations posed a ‘threat to colonial, racial and gendered hierarchies, and British credibility’. In what follows, I also take up Bland’s mandate and in so doing provide a broader historical context, indeed the precedent for understanding Tabili’s work on British Somaliland, by looking at the history of mixed-race couples who sought to make home in British West Africa during the interwar years.

Riots, repatriation and the policy of prevention

Although black communities and mixed marriages in Britain long predate the First World War. during the war itself increasing numbers of black seamen came to its ports from different parts of the world to fill the labour vacuum in the shipping industry that resulted from the drafting of white British men into the military. The majority of these seamen originated from Britain’s colonies in the West Indies and West Africa, as well as from India, the British Somaliland Protectorate and Aden. While seamen from India, known as tascars, had always made up a significant number of the colonised labour hired on British vessels, the contracts they were hired under greatly restricted their ability to reside in Britain; as a result, settlement rates were highest among seamen from the West Indies. West Africa, Somaliland and Aden. Ethnic settlement patterns differed from port to port; for instance, Liverpool was inhabited’ mostly by West Indians and West Africans, while Cardiff had a higher percentage of men from Aden and Somaliland. At the close of the war, most of these men, along with considerable numbers of demobilised soldiers from Ihe colonies, remained in the country’s seafaring districts. Together, they competed with white British men for an increasingly limited number of maritime jobs.

Economic hardship in the ports, created by the post-war depression and racialiscd job competition within the shipping industry, offers a compelling explanation of the underlying cause of the riots. In Jacqueline Jenkinson’s study of the 1919 riots, she examines a series of smaller riots between January 1919 and the outbreak of major rioting in June and finds that in each of the cases racial violence was a direct result of competition over jobs. Moreover, the initial incidence of racial violence that led to the outbreak of rioting in Liverpool in June was attribuied to tensions between black seamen and white foreign labour, in this case Scandinavians, who were in direct competition with each other for jobs not already taken by white British seamen. Yet it was the notion that black men were consorting with white women that garnered the most attention from the press, local and national authorities, as well as everyday observers. The ‘sex problem’, as one newspaper dubbed it. became a primary explanatory framework for understanding, and in many cases rationalising, the impetus behind the riots. The attention given to the ‘sex problem’ by contemporary observers, including policy makers, suggests that, in addition to job competition, anxieties over race and sex played an important role in the move towards proposing repatriation as an appropriate solution to the social and economic problems deemed responsible for the riots. Indeed, within days of the major outbreak of violence in June, local and national authorities began drawing up plans to repatriate black men to the colonics in an attempt to restore calm and order (and more specifically, racial order) to the port cities. The Colonial Office, however, feared that if the repatriations were handled inappropriately, they would cause instability by returning disgruntled men to the colonies. Disturbances had already broken out in Sierra Leone as early as July 1919 over the ill-treatment of black men in the British ports.” How much more unrest could be expected if the victims of the riots, many of whom had participated in the war effort, were forcibly returned to the colonies?

Anxious about the stability of the West African colonies, the Colonial Office not only insisted that the repatriation scheme be voluntary, it was also equally adamant that the white wives of ‘natives’ should be prevented at all costs from going to West Africa with their husbands. In fact, rioting had barely come lo a stop in June 1919, and the Colonial Office had already decided to refuse repatriation facilities to black men who insisted on returning with their white wives. Given that the men in question had no funds to repatriate themselves, let alone their wives, by refusing to pay passage fees, British authorities effectively made it impossible for black men who desired joint repatriation to return lo the colonies with their white wives. On 30 July 1919, this policy was solidified during a meeting at the Ministry of Labour, which had assumed responsibility for Ihe repatriation scheme. At the special insistence of the Colonial Office, the Ministry of Labour instructed the local committees responsible for facilitating the scheme in the seven main ports (Salford, Liverpool, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hull, South Shields and London), not to repatriate black men with their white wives. As one Colonial Office adviser later put it, the ‘white wife problem’ was, as the phrase suggests, particular to white women. This is underscored by the fact that the government agreed to pay the cost of repatriating the few black men, like Joseph Queashie from the Gold Coast, who were married lo black women. It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of West Africans and their white wives who were adversely affected by this policy, but the statistical information available suggests that their numbers were by no means negligible. In a survey conducted by the Liverpool Police shortly after the riots, a total of 188 men from British West Africa were identified as residing in Liverpool. The police, however, suspected that the actual number was much higher and suggested that the lower number reported was the result of ‘an exodus of negroes from the city to inland towns since the question of repatriation arose’ and added that ‘those who have not left are probably in hiding’. As Table 1 indicates, of the 188 West African men identified, twenty-one were married, eighteen of these to white women resident in Liverpool and three to African women who resided in West Africa. Of the eighteen men married lo white women, eleven were willing t0 be repatriated back to West Africa with their white wives.

The willingness of 50 per cent of married West Africans to accept repatriation compared to 47 per cent of single West Africans indicates that the authorities were wrong in believing that marriage to white women created ties to the metropole that could not be broken as easily as those of single men. Rather, it was the authorities” policy of prevention that kept these men in Britain because it barred them from returning to the colonies with their wives. Thus, if we are to understand fully the range of different imperatives that shaped the unwillingness of West Africans to be repatriated and ultimately led to the schemes’ widely recognised failure, we must acknowledge that, in addition to unsatisfactory remuneration packages and Ihe desire, indeed the right to remain in Britain, for some West Africans the policy of prevention was also a major factor. A representative from the Local Government Board said as much when he expressed his belief that “the white wife constituted a big difficulty.” The Colonial Office’s refusal to repatriate West Africans with their white wives contrasts sharply with its concession to allow black men from other parts of the British Empire, namely West Indians, to return home with their white wives at the…

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BBC Two explores what it means to be mixed-race in Britain

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, Videos, Women on 2011-03-16 04:27Z by Steven

BBC Two explores what it means to be mixed-race in Britain

British Broadcasting Corporaton

Mixed-Race Britain is put under the spotlight this autumn on BBC Two in a collection of revealing and compelling new programmes.

Britain in 2011 has proportionately the largest mixed population in the Western world, but 100 years ago people of mixed race lived on the fringes of British society, an invisible community unacknowledged by the wider world.

With an exciting mix of drama and documentaries, the programmes provide a window into the varied and surprising lives of mixed-race people in the UK and help us understand what the increasing rise in mixed-race people means for the way we live now in Britain.

…Leading the programming is Shirley Bassey—A Very British Diva (working title), an intimate and revealing drama that tells the extraordinary life story of Dame Shirley Bassey—one of Britain’s national treasures and one of the world’s most enduring and successful divas. But her rise from poverty to international stardom is no ordinary rags-to-riches story…

In a three-part series, journalist and TV presenter George Alagiah leads viewers through the remarkable and untold story of how Britain’s mixed-race community has become part of everyone’s lives today. With previously unseen footage and unheard testimony, Mixed Britannia (working title) uncovers a tale of illicit love, marriage, children, tragedy and triumph.

Charting events from the turn of the 20th century to the present day, George explores the social factors that have influenced the shape of the mixed-race Britain we see today.

He’ll find out about the flourishing love between merchant seamen and liberated female workers during the First World War; how the British eugenics movement physically examined mixed-race children in the name of science; how pioneering white couples—including English aristocrats—adopted mixed-race babies; and how Britain’s mixed-race population exploded with the arrival of people from all over the globe—making them the fastest-growing ethnic group in the UK.

Mixed—Sex, Race And Empire is a one-off documentary exploring the social, sexual, economic and political issues that led to the race mixing of people across the world. From India to West Africa via South America and the USA, this programme reflects upon the stories and consequences of racial mixing across the world…

Read the entire press release here.

Notes from Steven F. Riley.

For some early 20th century background material on the topics covered in Mixed Britannia, see:

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Why I claim my blackness…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2010-07-06 18:42Z by Steven

If blackness in America has been defined broadly enough to claim me as one of its own, that still leaves the question of why I claim my blackness. I could call myself mixed race or even Latina/Hispanic.  I certainly recognize that I am multi-racial, but I don’t feel a common bond with mixed people simply because we have parents of different racial backgrounds. Equally, I’ve always been unnerved by the categories Latino and Hispanic to describe people from the Spanish Caribbean and parts of Latin America that are heavily populated by people of African descent precisely because they erase/e-race our ties to Africa. The categories Black and Latino/Hispanic are often defined as mutually exclusive on identification forms in the U.S., such that one is instructed to check “Black” provided they are “not of Hispanic origin” and to check “Hispanic – regardless of race”!  Since when has anything in America ever been regardless of race? As history has too often demonstrated this is a calculated attempt to create divisions between black people based on language and country of origin.

Ray, Carina. “Why Do You Call Yourself Black And African?,” The Zeleza Post (July 4, 2009), http://www.africasia.com/services/opinions/opinions.php?ID=2235&title=ray.

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