Gibbes Museum’s Film Series to Focus on Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, Arts, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-09-30 03:19Z by Steven

Gibbes Museum’s Film Series to Focus on Racial Passing

Holy City Sinner
Charleston, South Carolina
2021-09-23


Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson appear in “Passing” by Rebecca Hall, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Edu Grau

The Gibbes Museum of Art has announced the second installment of its film series, titled “Gibbes Films in Focus: Passing Strange,” which will feature the Lowcountry’s first screening of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival selection, “Passing,” by Rebecca Hall, starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, Andre Holland, and Alexander Skarsgård and adapted from the groundbreaking novel by Nella Larsen.

In this series, the Gibbes will explore the tradition of race-passing narratives as represented on the silver screen. From Kate Chopin’s 1893 short story “Désirée’s Baby,” to the 1936 and 1951 adaptations of the musical “Showboat,” America has been enthralled by passing narratives, whereby a person of Black descent, but of ambiguous or white features, slips into white society, destabilizing the strict racial codes that have governed so much of American life. This three-part series will be held at the museum this fall…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Why Didn’t Movies about Passing Cast Black Actors?

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-09-23 22:16Z by Steven

Why Didn’t Movies about Passing Cast Black Actors?

JSTOR Daily: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match
2021-02-03

Matthew Wills


Fredi Washington and Louise Beavers in a scene from Imitation of Life via New York Public Library

“Social problem” films were all the rage after World War II. So how could movies about racism be so conservative?

After World War II, Hollywood tried something new: realism, tackling social problems like mental illness, drug addiction, anti-Semitism, and racism. But as media-studies scholar Karen M. Bowdre argues, films “about” race and racism “often focused on the concept of passing, a Black character claiming his or her White heritage while denying any African ancestry.”

Passing movies also tended to cast white actors in the roles of mixed-race characters who passed as white. But that wasn’t the case with the original version of Imitation of Life, made in 1934. Fredi Washington made history by being the first Black actress to play a character (“Peola”) who passes as white. Even more unusually, two Black children were cast to play the part of Peola at ages three and seven.

The Production Code Administration (PCA), the industry’s self-censorship office, was roiled by director John Stahl’s casting choices. The PCA’s “voluminous” file on the film is filled with references to miscegenation, which isn’t a topic of the movie, but presumably would be raised by white viewers who would want to know why Washington looked so “white.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fredi Washington and Her Defining Role in Imitation of Life

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2021-06-03 23:20Z by Steven

Fredi Washington and Her Defining Role in Imitation of Life

Blog
Amistad Research Center
2018-07-02

The Fredi Washington papers at the Amistad Research Center highlights the life of the African American actress, dancer, and activist known for her stage and screen rolls from the 1920-1940s. She was born Fredericka Carolyn Washington in Savannah, Georgia on December 23, 1903, and was one of nine children of Robert T. and Harriet Walker Ward Washington. Fredi’s mother died when she was young, and she attended St. Elizabeth’s Convent in Cornwell Heights, Pennsylvania with her sister Isabel. Fredi moved to Harlem in 1919 to live with her grandmother. She left school and soon entered show business. She began her career in the early 1920s as a chorus dancer in Nobble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s Shuffle Along. She adopted the stage name Edith Warren in 1926 when she acted in the lead role opposite Paul Robeson in Black Boy

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Washington, Fredi

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2020-02-20 22:21Z by Steven

Washington, Fredi

The Broadcast 41: Women and the Anti-Communist Blacklist
2019-08-07

By Jeremiah Favara, Carol Stabile, and Laura Strait

Dancer, Actress, Journalist

Frederika (Fredi) Carolyn Washington (1903-1994) was born in Savannah, Georgia. Like other cultural workers of her generation, she was multitalented, excelling as a dancer, actress, journalist, and activist. Washington began her career as a dancer in the 1920s before going on to a career in film, radio, and the stage in the 1930s and 1940s. Washington was an activist throughout her career, organizing against racism in unions, theaters, television, and film.

Washington was born on December 23, 1903 in Savannah, Georgia. Her father, Robert T. Washington, was a postal worker and her mother, Harriet Walk Ward Washington, was a homemaker.1 Washington was one of five siblings with two brothers, Bubba and Alonzo, and two sisters, Isabel and Rosebud.2

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the Politics of Performance during the New Negro Renaissance.

Posted in Biography, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Statements, United States, Women on 2019-08-28 00:26Z by Steven

A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the Politics of Performance during the New Negro Renaissance.

NEH banner
National Endowment for the Humanities
400 7th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20506
Grant number: HB-263199-19
2019-08-14

Grantee: Laurie Avant Woodard, Assistant Professor of History
CUNY Research Foundation, City College (New York, New York)

Grant Period: 2019-09-01 through 2020-08-31
$60,000 USD (approved), $60,000 USD (awarded)

Research and writing a biography of Fredi Washington (1903-1994), a civil rights activist and a performing artist active in the Harlem Renaissance.

Focusing upon the life and career of performing artist and civil rights activist Fredi Washington, this project places an African American female performing artist at the center of the narrative of the New Negro Renaissance; illuminates the vital influence of performing artists on the movement; and demonstrates the ways in which Washington and the New Negro Renaissance are central components of the long civil rights narrative and our understanding of the African American quest for civil and human rights. The manuscript will consist of six chapters and a prologue and epilogue.

For more information, click here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Passing, in Moments

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-07-29 00:07Z by Steven

Passing, in Moments

Topic Magazine
Issue No. 25, Journeys
July 2019

Mat Johnson

The uneasy existence of being black and passing for white.

When I was 12, my Aunt Margaret told me, “You got straight hair, you got pale skin. If people don’t know you’re colored, don’t tell them.”

Aunt Margaret was black, but if you said “black” and not “colored,” she would go off on you. I was black too—still am—but I look white. Or I look whitish; it depends on the viewer. My father’s white and my mother is black, but high yellow and racially ambiguous. Though my mom insisted I was black too, I found a strong argument against that every time I looked in the mirror. And I grew up cut off from my extended black family, which just added to that feeling of disconnection. Sometimes I’d tell other kids I was black, and until they saw my mom, they wouldn’t believe me.

One time I told Aunt Margaret, “Nobody at school knows I’m black—”

“Colored.”

“Nobody at school knows I’m colored.”

She looked at me like I’d lost my mind. That’s when she said it, holding one of my flaccid brown curls in her hand like it was a piece of gold. “You got straight hair, you got pale skin. If people don’t know you’re colored, don’t tell them!”

At 12 years old, I thought Aunt Margaret was confused. I thought her response was antiquated, ridiculously old-fashioned, like how she insisted on using the word “colored” instead of “black.” I thought it was cute. I thought it was funny.

At 19, radical as all undergraduates should be, I thought that, despite how much I loved Aunt Margaret, that she was a color-struck sellout for telling me to live my life as a white man. That, in essence, she was encouraging me to abandon my roots, to reject the black community, in exchange for complete access to white privilege.

At 49, I think she told me what she told me because she loved me. Because she’d been black in America for 80-some years and she didn’t want me to have to endure the way she did. That she wanted the safety of whiteness for me. That she wanted me to thrive, but also to have the full force of America’s wind at my back, instead of getting hit with it head-on.

That Aunt Margaret was expressing what generations of black mothers sometimes told white-appearing children, particularly boys: escape from blackness for your survival.

(And, also, she was color-struck.)…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Light, Bright and Damn Near White: Black Leaders Created by the One-Drop Rule

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Slavery, Social Justice, United States on 2019-07-20 23:29Z by Steven

Light, Bright and Damn Near White: Black Leaders Created by the One-Drop Rule

JacksonScribe Publishing Company
2014-09-24
418 pages
6 x 1 x 9 inches
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-0985351205

Michelle Gordon Jackson
Foreword by: Adam Clayton Powell IV

Picture

During the 19th and 20th centuries, a powerhouse of Black American leaders emerged, consisting primarily of men and women with “an apparent mix of Caucasoid features.” The face of the African warrior, brought to America centuries prior from the Ivory Coast had changed, due to perpetual miscegenation (race-mixing) and the application of the One-Drop Rule, a racial marker exclusive to the United States, in which a person was considered Black if he or she had any African ancestry.

No other country in the world has historically defined race in the same manner. Accepted socially and legally since slavery, this “rule,” as well as its strict enforcement, created a dynamic leadership pool of Light, Bright and Damn Near White revolutionaries, embraced by the Black community as some of its most vocal and active leaders.

This book features these unsung Black heroes and heroines (covering the Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights eras). Some born slaves and some born free, these men and women were on the forefront of civil rights, innovation, and social reform. Their personal contributions are woven within the very fabric of American culture and policy.

The continued acceptance of the One-Drop Rule is apparent, in America’s embracing of Barack Obama as the first Black President of the United States, and not the first bi-racial president, despite his mother’s race (White).

This informative book is about history . . . American History and African-American History.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“My book looks at societal representations of the mixed-race character as ‘insane,’ ‘tragic’ and ‘torn between two worlds,’” Hodges Persley said. “But if you dig deeper, that’s not necessarily the case.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-05-14 15:40Z by Steven

“My book [Not Tragic: Fredi Washington and the Improvisation of Radical Black Performance Traditions] looks at societal representations of the mixed-race character as ‘insane,’ ‘tragic’ and ‘torn between two worlds,’” [Nicole] Hodges Persley said. “But if you dig deeper, that’s not necessarily the case. [Adrienne] Kennedy says it’s not necessarily the mixing of two races that produces psychosis but the predominant narrative of whiteness that people of color are forced to consume, but that they can never fulfill; they can never live up to it. She asks why blackness is portrayed as evil and not seen for its positive contributions to the world.”

Rick Hellman, “‘Funnyhouse of a Negro’ gets under character’s skin,” KU Today, May 1, 2019. https://today.ku.edu/2019/04/30/funnyhouse-negro-gets-under-characters-skin.

Tags: , , , ,

‘Funnyhouse of a Negro’ gets under character’s skin

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-14 15:12Z by Steven

‘Funnyhouse of a Negro’ gets under character’s skin

KU Today
The University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 66045
2019-05-01

Rick Hellman, KU News Service
Telephone: 785-864-8852

LAWRENCE – More than one white politician has landed in hot water this year after old photographs of them dressed in blackface surfaced. Clearly, racial stereotypes are still a touchy subject. So is it OK for minorities to dress in whiteface? What if it’s meant to represent an inner conflict among people of mixed-race identity?

“This question implies that there is such a thing as reverse racism, and I don’t think we can even ask that without discussing the systemic inequality and racial hierarchies that result in internalized racism experienced by historically underrepresented groups,” said Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas associate professor of theatre.

Melting Pot Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, goes there this month when Hodges Persley directs an avant-garde play from 1964 titled “Funnyhouse of a Negro” by Adrienne Kennedy. The play, which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, for a two-week run, is part of Hodges Persley’s exploration of the ways 20th-century black artists undermined racial and mixed-race stereotypes in their creative work.

For the past couple of years, Hodges Persley has been working on the first major biography of actress Fredi Washington (1903-1994), a woman of mixed racial background who fought against the racial stereotyping of her day while also working for black empowerment…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

The [passing] genre overlooks questions of colourism, treats racial identity as rigid and fixed, and the complexities of the mixed-race experience are ignored.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-08-22 04:01Z by Steven

The [passing] genre overlooks questions of colourism, treats racial identity as rigid and fixed, and the complexities of the mixed-race experience are ignored. And then there is the issue of optics. It is tricky for the passing character to move from page to screen. [John M.] Stahl’s selection of [Fredi] Washington for the role of Peola [in Imitation of Life (1934)] was hugely progressive for the 1930s. Not only did he give an actor who identified as black a significant role, but the film’s monochrome palette meant that Washington really looked white, which petrified southern segregationists.

Janine Bradbury, “‘Passing for white’: how a taboo film genre is being revived to expose racial privilege,” The Guardian, August 20, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/aug/20/passing-film-rebecca-hall-black-white-us-rac.

Tags: , , ,