A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the New Negro Renaissance

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-11-27 05:39Z by Steven

A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the New Negro Renaissance

Oxford University Press
2023-10-02
320 Pages
25 black and white illustrations
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780197626214

Laurie A. Woodard, Assistant Professor of History
City College of New York, New York, New York

  • First biography of dancer, actor, and activist Fredi Washington
  • Highlights the role of the performing arts in the history of the New Negro Renaissance, which has tended to be focused on literary arts
  • Focuses on an African American who could have but chose not to “pass

The first biography of performing artist, writer, and civil and human rights activist Fredi Washington.

Following Fredi Washington’s debut in her first dramatic role in 1926, Alfred Spengler of the New York North Side News reported that she was “astonishingly pretty for a real Negro girl.” Throughout her career, Washington was vulnerable to discrimination because her near-white skin and hazel eyes, coupled with her self-identification as Negro, cast her as too physically white to play black and too culturally black to play white. The multifaceted Washington was of course a great deal more than her looks; she was a performing artist, a writer, and a civil and human rights activist. Embracing the genres of dance, theater, and film, she used her talent, creativity, and determination to sustain a thirty-year career in the arts and in labor and political activism during the New Negro Renaissance and beyond.

Although Fredi Washington has been largely forgotten, A Real Negro Girl shows that, at the zenith of her career, she was a household name in the black community, well known in mainstream America, and a darling of the European press. Most famous for her role in the film “Imitation of Life,” she was a part of a cohort that included Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Delving into her professional and personal experiences in Harlem, nationally, and internationally, this book illuminates Washington’s significance to the New Negro Renaissance and reveals the vital influence of black performing artists and of black women on the movement. Over the years, Washington expanded her social and political consciousness and anti-racism activism, encompassing journalism, labor organizing, protests, and support of progressive politics. As a founder and executive director of the Negro Actors Guild of America, she sought to protect black artists from professional exploitation and physical abuse.

Incorporating close readings of images and films, interviews, and fan mail, as well as writings by and about Washington, A Real Negro Girl highlights Fredi Washington as an influential actor in the African American quest for civil and human rights.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Setting the Stage: The Roots of the New Negro Renaissance
  • Chapter 2: Dancing All Day: Reading Blackface and Black Bodies
  • Chapter 3: Boxers, Blacks, and a Real Negro Girl: White Expectations and Imagined Conceptions of Authentic Blackness
  • Chapter 4: Race, Place, and Miscegenation: Fredi Washington in Imitation of Life
  • Chapter 5: Beyond the Footlights: New Negro Performing Artists and More Tangible Forms of Activism
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index
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Mirror Girls

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-02-09 02:55Z by Steven

Mirror Girls

Little, Brown Young Readers
2022-02-08
304 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9780759553859
eBook ISBN-13: 9780759553859
Audiobook ISBN-13: 9781549165962

Kelly McWilliams

A thrilling gothic horror novel about biracial twin sisters separated at birth, perfect for fans of Lovecraft Country and The Vanishing Half

As infants, twin sisters Charlie Yates and Magnolia Heathwood were secretly separated after the brutal lynching of their parents, who died for loving across the color line. Now, at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, Charlie is a young Black organizer in Harlem, while white-passing Magnolia is the heiress to a cotton plantation in rural Georgia.

Magnolia knows nothing of her racial heritage, but secrets are hard to keep in a town haunted by the ghosts of its slave-holding past. When Magnolia finally learns the truth, her reflection mysteriously disappears from mirrors—the sign of a terrible curse. Meanwhile, in Harlem, Charlie’s beloved grandmother falls ill. Her final wish is to be buried back home in Georgia—and, unbeknownst to Charlie, to see her long-lost granddaughter, Magnolia Heathwood, one last time. So Charlie travels into the Deep South, confronting the land of her worst nightmares—and Jim Crow segregation.

The sisters reunite as teenagers in the deeply haunted town of Eureka, Georgia, where ghosts linger centuries after their time and dangers lurk behind every mirror. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, to break the mirrors’ deadly curse—and to discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land.

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Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-12-03 15:18Z by Steven

Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen

Modernism/modernity
Volume 6, Cycle 2 (2021-11-10)

Rafael Walker, Assistant Professor of English
Baruch College, City University of New York

Fig. 1. Promotional poster for Rebecca Hall’s Passing (2021). Image via IMDB.

Director Rebecca Hall’s recent adaptation of Nella Larsen’s exquisite second novel, Passing (1929), is visually stunning. I had the pleasure of seeing the film on the big screen, during its limited theatrical run and before its Netflix release. It was the ideal atmosphere for absorbing this cinematic rendering of Larsen’s eerie, anxiety-ridden plot: ensconced with a sparse audience (my companion and I comprising two of the four patrons for the 5:10pm showing) in a small independent theater in Manhattan, just a few miles from where the story is set, and with Halloween everywhere looming on this late-October evening.1

These qualities of the novel were only enhanced by Hall’s decision to film it in black and white, a daring choice that she, a first-time filmmaker, had to fight for, as Alexandra Kleeman of the New York Times reports. On the one hand, this artistic decision conjures all the nervous palpitations that Hitchcock made synonymous with black-and-white mise-en-scène, maintaining the unshakable uneasiness one experiences while reading Larsen’s novel. On the other, it hurls the either-or terms of Jim Crow racial binarism into conflict with a predominating grayscale—an all-pervading sign of the fictionality of the dichotomizations structuring American culture. Nothing could be more in the spirit of Nella Larsen’s novel. I suspect, however, that Hall’s departures from the source text will attract the attention of modernists far more than her convergences…

Read the entire review here.

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Passing

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-11-11 21:43Z by Steven

Passing

Signet Classics (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2021-07-06 (Originally published in 1929)
176 Pages
4-3/16 x 6-3/4
Paperback ISBN: 9780593437841
Ebook ISBN: 9780593439074

Nella Larsen (1891–1964)

Introduction by Brit Bennett

Nella Larsen’s fascinating exploration of race and identity—the inspiration for the Netflix film directed by Rebecca Hall, starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga.

This Signet Classics edition of Passing includes an Introduction by Brit Bennett, the bestselling author of The Vanishing Half.

Irene Redfield is a Black woman living an affluent, comfortable life with her husband and children in the thriving neighborhood of Harlem in the 1920s. When she reconnects with her childhood friend Clare Kendry, who is similarly light-skinned, Irene discovers that Clare has been passing for a white woman after severing ties to her past—even hiding the truth from her racist husband.

Clare finds herself drawn to Irene’s sense of ease and security with her Black identity and longs for the community (and, increasingly, the woman) she lost. Irene is both riveted and repulsed by Clare and her dangerous secret, as Clare begins to insert herself—and her deception—into every part of Irene’s stable existence. First published in 1929, Larsen’s brilliant examination of the various ways in which we all seek to “pass,” is as timely as ever.

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A Death in Harlem, A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2019-10-07 00:44Z by Steven

A Death in Harlem, A Novel

Northwestern University Press
2019-09-15
248 pages
Trim size 6 x 9
Trade Paper ISBN: 978-0-8101-4081-3
E-Book ISBN: 978-0-8101-4082-0

Karla FC Holloway, James. B. Duke Professor Emerita of English and Law
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

In A Death in Harlem, famed scholar Karla FC Holloway weaves a mystery in the bon vivant world of the Harlem Renaissance. Taking as her point of departure the tantalizingly ambiguous “death by misadventure” at the climax of Nella Larsen’s Passing, Holloway accompanies readers to the sunlit boulevards and shaded sidestreets of Jazz Age New York. A murder there will test the mettle, resourcefulness, and intuition of Harlem’s first “colored” policeman, Weldon Haynie Thomas.

Clear glass towers rising in Manhattan belie a city where people are often not what they seem. For some here, identity is a performance of passing—passing for another race, for another class, for someone safe to trust. Thomas’s investigation illuminates the societies and secret societies, the intricate code of manners, the world of letters, and the broad social currents of 1920s Harlem.

A Death in Harlem is an exquisitely crafted, briskly paced, and impeccably stylish journey back to a time still remembered as a peak of American glamour. It introduces Holloway as a fresh voice in storytelling, and Weldon Haynie Thomas as an endearing and unforgettable detective.

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Color Me In, A Novel

Posted in Books, Judaism, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Religion, United States on 2019-08-20 13:28Z by Steven

Color Me In, A Novel

Delacorte Press (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2019-08-20
384 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525578239
eBook ISBN: 9780525578246
Audiobook ISBN: 9781984889140

Natasha Díaz

Color Me In

Debut YA author Natasha Díaz pulls from her personal experience to inform this powerful coming-of-age novel about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds.

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

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EXCLUSIVE: Afro-Latina Slam Poet, Elizabeth Acevedo, Debuts First Novel ‘Poet X’

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-03-20 01:51Z by Steven

EXCLUSIVE: Afro-Latina Slam Poet, Elizabeth Acevedo, Debuts First Novel ‘Poet X’

Latina
2018-03-05

Jenifer Calle, Politics and Culture Writer


@acevedowrites/Instagram

Elizabeth Acevedo has been empowering Afro-Latinas for years by bringing attention to the various experiences of women of color through her powerful words in poetry.

As a Latina, you might remember a certain poem or a book that changed your life, a verse so precise it gave you chills. Acevedo’s debut novel, Poet X, will do just that with its raw emotions that are universal to all young girls, wrapped up in beautiful lyrical verses.

Poet X is a Young Adult novel that follows the story of an unapologetic 15-year-old girl, Xiomara Batista, growing up in Harlem. As a Dominican-American teen stepping into adulthood she takes to her journal to deal with the emotions and frustrations she feels at home and at school. In this three-part novel, Xiomara struggles with her conservative mother, an absent father, her faith in God, her sexuality, and much more. Xiomara’s awakening through slam poetry helps her find her voice but her journey of self-discovery doesn’t come easy…

Read the entire article here.

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Incognegro: Renaissance #1

Posted in Articles, Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2018-02-20 03:31Z by Steven

Incognegro: Renaissance #1

Dark Horse Comics
2018-02-07
32 pages
b&w, Miniseries
UPC: 7 61568 00235 5 00111

Writer: Mat Johnson
Artist: Warren Pleece
Editor: Karen Berger

After a black writer is found dead at a scandalous interracial party in 1920s New York, Harlem’s cub reporter Zane Pinchback is the only one determined to solve the murder. Zane must go ”incognegro” for the first time–using his light appearance to pass as a white man–to find the true killer, in this prequel miniseries to the critically acclaimed Vertigo graphic novel, now available in a special new 10th Anniversary Edition.

With a cryptic manuscript as his only clue, and a mysterious and beautiful woman as the murder’s only witness, Zane finds himself on the hunt through the dark and dangerous streets of ”roaring twenties” Harlem in search for justice.

A page-turning thriller of racial divide, Incognegro: Renaissance explores segregation, secrets, and self-image as our race-bending protagonist penetrates a world where he feels stranger than ever before.

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Incognegro: Renaissance Author Mat Johnson Talks About Living a Black Life With Skin That Can Look White

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-02-20 03:12Z by Steven

Incognegro: Renaissance Author Mat Johnson Talks About Living a Black Life With Skin That Can Look White

Comics
Gizmodo
2018-02-12

Charles Pulliam-Moore


Dark Horse

In Dark Horse’s Incognegro: Renaissance, Zane Pinchback—a young black journalist and New York transplant by way of Tupelo, Mississippi—finds himself smack dab in the middle of Harlem at the height of its Renaissance during the 1920s. Zane, like Incognegro: Renaissance creator Mat Johnson, is a black man with a light enough complexion that people are sometimes unsure or entirely unaware of his race.

To those who know him, Zane’s identity isn’t a question, but for many of the new people he encounters in New York—particularly the white ones—Zane is able to pass as white, and thus move through certain spaces that other black people can’t. Drawn by Warren Pleece, Incognegro: Renaissance opens on a very taboo and illegal book party in Harlem where black and white people co-mingle as the champagne flows freely.

When a black guest suddenly turns up dead of an apparent suicide, the authorities show up on the scene to shut the gathering down, but have zero interest in investigating whether the death may be a homicide because the man is black. Realizing that his ability to pass (and willingness to do work others won’t) might allow him to dig deeper into the potential crime, Zane sets out on a mission to uncover the truth.

When I spoke with Johnson recently about his inspiration for the new series, he explained that much of the core premise is based on his own experiences and a life-long love of Walter Francis White, the civil rights activist who was the head of the NAACP from 1931 to 1955. But what Johnson really wants readers to get out of the series, he said, was a better understanding of the fact that identity in all its forms is fluid…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Signifyin(g) Saint: Encoding Homoerotic Intimacy in Black Harlem

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Gay & Lesbian, History, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion on 2017-03-15 01:36Z by Steven

The Signifyin(g) Saint: Encoding Homoerotic Intimacy in Black Harlem

Black Perspectives
2017-03-14

James Padilioni Jr, Ph.D Candidate and Teaching Fellow in American Studies (Africana-affiliated)
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia

On June 25, 1942, Edward Atkinson arrived at 101 Central Park West to sit for a photo shoot in the home studio of Carl Van Vechten. Van Vechten, author of the infamous 1926 novel Nigger Heaven, was a white patron of the Harlem Renaissance and amateur photographer who took hundreds of photographs of Black Harlem’s who’s who such as Paul Robeson, Billie Holiday, and James Weldon Johnson. Atkinson, an off-Broadway actor no stranger to playing a role, transformed himself into Martin de Porres (1579-1639), a Peruvian friar who became the first Afro-American saint when the Vatican canonized him in 1962 as the patron of social justice. I trace Martin’s iconography and ritual performances across Black communities in Latin and Anglo America to reveal the historical relations of power that structure and materialize the networks harnessed by Black peoples to mobilize resources in their varied yet persistent efforts to create meaningful lives out of the fragments of the Middle Passage

Read the entire article here.

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