Running from Race

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-02-22 20:37Z by Steven

Running from Race

On Wisconsin
Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (alumni and friends of the University of Wisconsin, Madison)
2021-03-01

Harvey Long MA’16, Librarian, Assistant Professor
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina

Ethelene Whitmire, Professor
Departments of Afro-American Studies; German, Nordic, and Slavic; andGender & Women’s Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Louise Butler Walker as a young Chicagoan: while she was growing up and as a UW student, she identified as Black. Later in her career, facing the limitations Black Americans experienced, she began to pass as white. COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS

Librarian Louise Butler Walker ’35 took desperate measures to survive in a racist society.

During the Great Depression, Louise Butler Walker ’35 completed her bachelor’s in French and earned a library diploma from what is now UW–Madison’s Information School. Walker had been an outstanding student, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and completed a prestigious internship at the American Library Association (ALA) headquarters in Chicago. The school’s career placement office said her assets were her “brilliant mind” and “excellent academic background.” Her limitations, they said, were “racial (she is a mulatto).”

As a local librarian, Walker (at right in photo) became a prominent figure in Fort Atkinson. COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS

Although Walker was not privy to the egregious behind-the-scenes machinations and handwringing about her being Black, she knew that her race was detrimental to her career, so she eventually passed as white to work as a librarian in rural Wisconsin. Her story reveals the extraordinary pressures that African Americans faced…

Read the entire article here.

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Their interracial romance ended painfully after college. They reunited 42 years later — and now live together.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2022-01-05 03:16Z by Steven

Their interracial romance ended painfully after college. They reunited 42 years later — and now live together.

The Washington Post
2021-10-04

Sydney Page, Freelance Reporter

Steve Watts and Jeanne Gustavson, while they were dating in secret in the 1970s. The couple met in college at a German Club meeting, when Gustavson was a freshman and Watts was a senior. They dated for eight years. (Courtesy of Jeanne Gustavson)

When Jeanne Gustavson spontaneously booked a trip to Chicago last summer, she had no idea what to expect. She was going to visit her first love — whom she had not seen in 42 years.

The last time Gustavson, now 68, spoke to Steve Watts was in the spring of 1979. They were young and in love, but there was one persistent issue: Watts was Black, and Gustavson’s family forbade her to see him.

“They had this mentality that Blacks and Whites don’t belong together,” said Gustavson, who was raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and now lives in Portland, Ore. “In my heart, I knew it wasn’t right.”

So, she flouted her family’s strict rule and dated Watts in secret.

Although she did not like disobeying her parents, “I couldn’t let him go,” Gustavson said…

Read the entire article here.

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The Rediscovery of Florence Price

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-11-28 02:10Z by Steven

The Rediscovery of Florence Price

The New Yorker
2018-01-29

Alex Ross

Price’s Second Violin Concerto explores unstable harmonic terrain. Illustration by Paul Rogers

How an African-American composer’s works were saved from destruction.

In 2009, Vicki and Darrell Gatwood, of St. Anne, Illinois, were preparing to renovate an abandoned house on the outskirts of town. The structure was in poor condition: vandals had ransacked it, and a fallen tree had torn a hole in the roof. In a part of the house that had remained dry, the Gatwoods made a curious discovery: piles of musical manuscripts, books, personal papers, and other documents. The name that kept appearing in the materials was that of Florence Price. The Gatwoods looked her up on the Internet, and found that she was a moderately well-known composer, based in Chicago, who had died in 1953. The dilapidated house had once been her summer home. The couple got in touch with librarians at the University of Arkansas, which already had some of Price’s papers. Archivists realized, with excitement, that the collection contained dozens of Price scores that had been thought lost. Two of these pieces, the Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, have recently been recorded by the Albany label: the soloist is Er-Gene Kahng, who is based at the University of Arkansas.

The reasons for the shocking neglect of Price’s legacy are not hard to find. In a 1943 letter to the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, she introduced herself thus: “My dear Dr. Koussevitzky, To begin with I have two handicaps—those of sex and race. I am a woman; and I have some Negro blood in my veins.” She plainly saw these factors as obstacles to her career, because she then spoke of Koussevitzky “knowing the worst.” Indeed, she had a difficult time making headway in a culture that defined composers as white, male, and dead. One prominent conductor took up her cause—Frederick Stock, the German-born music director of the Chicago Symphony—but most others ignored her, Koussevitzky included. Only in the past couple of decades have Price’s major works begun to receive recordings and performances, and these are still infrequent.

The musicologist Douglas Shadle, who has documented the vagaries of Price’s career, describes her reputation as “spectral.” She is widely cited as one of the first African-American classical composers to win national attention, and she was unquestionably the first black woman to be so recognized. Yet she is mentioned more often than she is heard. Shadle points out that the classical canon is rooted in “conscious selection performed by individuals in positions of power.” Not only did Price fail to enter the canon; a large quantity of her music came perilously close to obliteration. That run-down house in St. Anne is a potent symbol of how a country can forget its cultural history…

Read the entire article here.

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The Ghost of Hendrix, and Fans Who Think I’m White

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-11-04 20:32Z by Steven

The Ghost of Hendrix, and Fans Who Think I’m White

The New York Times
2021-11-03

Tom Morello

Mr. Morello has spent over three decades melding music and political activism as a power guitarist with Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with the acoustic chords of the Nightwatchman and in protests around the country.

In 1965, I literally integrated the town of Libertyville, Ill., at least according to the real estate agent who helped my mom and me find our first apartment.

My Irish-Italian mom had excellent teaching credentials, but the school boards in Northern Illinois made clear that while as a single mother she was welcome to teach in their town, we would have to live elsewhere because we were an interracial family.

I was the interracial part, as my dad is from Kenya. Libertyville, however, was willing to give my mom a shot, with the caveat that the residents of the apartment complex across the street from the school approved. Our helpful real estate agent assured the neighbors that this was no ordinary 1-year-old “Negro” child entering their building, but rather an exotic East African princeling. This false tale haunted me throughout my youth, but it gave my mom and me a toehold among the locals…

Read the entire article here.

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Jeremiah Paprocki becomes Cubs’ first African American public-address announcer

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2021-10-11 23:36Z by Steven

Jeremiah Paprocki becomes Cubs’ first African American public-address announcer

The Chicago Sun-Times
2021-05-17

Russell Dorsey


Jeremiah Paprocki is the Cubs’ first Black PA announcer and at the age of 21 also becomes one of the youngest in baseball. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

Many fans dream of having their voices echo around historic Wrigley Field while reading the names of Cy Young Award winners, MVPs and future Hall of Famers.

One lifelong Cubs fan is getting a chance to do just that.

There’s a booming new voice in Wrigleyville, and it belongs to 21-year-old Jeremiah Paprocki. The Cubs hired Paprocki to be their new public-address announcer, making him the first African American in team history to hold the position. He also is thought to be the youngest P.A. announcer in Major League Baseball

Read the entire article here.

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Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2021-10-11 18:22Z by Steven

Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments

Noemi Press
2021-10-01
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-934819-97-5

Jackson Bliss

From fragmented ransom notes to hanging footnotes, contemporary fairy tales to coded text, interconnecting pieces of modal flash fiction to backwards fractal narratives about gradual blindness, transgressive listicles to how-to guides for performative wokeness, variable destinies in downtown Chicago to impossible dating applications, counterfactual relationships to the French translation of adolescence, the conceptual, language-driven short stories in Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments are an exploration of not just mixed-race/hapa identity in Michigan (and the American Midwest), but also of the infinite ways in which stories can be told, challenged, celebrated, and subverted.

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Revisiting The Pioneering Composer Florence Price

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2020-06-18 00:10Z by Steven

Revisiting The Pioneering Composer Florence Price

All Things Considered
National Public Radio
2019-01-21

Tom Huizenga, Music Producer


Florence Price was the first African-American woman to have her music performed by a major symphony orchestra.
Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries

In 1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Symphony No. 1 by a then little-known composer named Florence Price. The performance marked the first time a major orchestra played music by an African-American woman.

Price’s First Symphony, along with her Fourth, has just been released on an album featuring the Fort Smith Symphony, conducted by John Jeter.

Fans of Price, especially in the African-American community, may argue that her music has never really been forgotten. But some of it has been lost. Not long ago, a couple bought a fixer-upper, south of Chicago, and discovered nearly 30 boxes of manuscripts and papers. Among the discoveries in what turned out to be Price’s abandoned summer home was her Fourth Symphony, composed in 1945. This world-premiere recording is another new piece of the puzzle to understanding the life and music of Price, and a particular time in America’s cultural history.

Read the story here. Listen to the story (00:04:00) here.

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The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Judaism, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2019-12-02 01:17Z by Steven

The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl

Agate Bolden (an imprint of Agate Publishing)
2019-11-12
256 pages
5.25 x 0.5 x 8 inches
Paperback ISBN-13: 9781572842755

Marra B. Gad, Inde­pen­dent Film and Tele­vi­sion Producer
Los Angeles, California

9781572842755.jpg

An unforgettable memoir about a mixed-race Jewish woman who, after fifteen years of estrangement from her racist great-aunt, helps bring her home when Alzheimer’s strikes

In 1970, three-day-old Marra B. Gad was adopted by a white Jewish family in Chicago. For her parents, it was love at first sight—but they quickly realized the world wasn’t ready for a family like theirs.

Marra’s biological mother was unwed, white, and Jewish, and her biological father was black. While still a child, Marra came to realize that she was “a mixed-race, Jewish unicorn.” In black spaces, she was not “black enough” or told that it was OK to be Christian or Muslim, but not Jewish. In Jewish spaces, she was mistaken for the help, asked to leave, or worse. Even in her own extended family, racism bubbled to the surface.

Marra’s family cut out those relatives who could not tolerate the color of her skin—including her once beloved, glamorous, worldly Great-Aunt Nette. After they had been estranged for fifteen years, Marra discovers that Nette has Alzheimer’s, and that only she is in a position to get Nette back to the only family she has left. Instead of revenge, Marra chooses love, and watches as the disease erases her aunt’s racism, making space for a relationship that was never possible before.

The Color of Love explores the idea of yerusha, which means “inheritance” in Yiddish. At turns heart-wrenching and heartwarming, this is a story about what you inherit from your family—identity, disease, melanin, hate, and most powerful of all, love. With honesty, insight, and warmth, Marra B. Gad has written an inspirational, moving chronicle proving that when all else is stripped away, love is where we return, and love is always our greatest inheritance.

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From Mississippi to Chicago to Belarus, ancestors guide her way

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Media Archive, United States on 2019-10-07 01:56Z by Steven

From Mississippi to Chicago to Belarus, ancestors guide her way

Berkeley News
Berekeley, California
2019-10-03

Gretchen Kell, Director of Special Projects and Outreach
Office of Communications and Public Affairs
University of California, Berkeley

Tina Sacks, assistant professor of social welfare
“My ancestors give me a sense of profound empathy and also a sense that humans have dealt with racism, xenophobia, for so long. … It makes me both deeply sad and activated to try and do whatever I can to interrupt that,” says Tina Sacks, assistant professor of social welfare. (Photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz)

During the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to the English colonies, we’re highlighting members of the campus community whose personal stories, often marked by racism and discrimination, inform their life’s work. We begin with Tina Sacks, UC Berkeley assistant professor of social welfare, who tells of the struggles, self-determination and achievements of her African American and Jewish ancestors.

“Like many young people, when I was growing up I didn’t think much about my mother’s origins. I knew she was from Mississippi, and she had a strong Southern accent, but it washed over me. Most of the black people I knew in Chicago sounded like her, because the vast majority of them were Southerners who were part of the Great Migration.

My mom, Bette Parks Sacks, was born in 1939 and came of age at a difficult time. She was the middle child of 10 kids; one was stillborn, and her brother died when he was only 7 years old. When she was 13, her mother, Lucille, died. My grandfather, J.B. Parks, and his family were sharecroppers in the town of Walnut, about an hour south of the Mississippi/Tennessee border. My mom talked all the time about their deep, deep poverty, the hunger, the cold. She talked all the time about being hungry and cold. She didn’t have shoes — she may have had one pair of shoes a year, but often walked barefoot. By the time she was 6, she was picking cotton and could drag 100 pounds of it behind her. She described having a long burlap bag that she put cotton in. It hooked around her arm and trailed behind her. Sometimes, in the fields, it was so hot that she said she’d literally vomit, and then just keep going…

…The story of my dad, Stanley, is also one of movement. His people were Jewish and came from a different part of the world. They’re less known to me, because my father doesn’t know much about them. But I was very close to my dad’s mother, Dora. She did not read or write in English. Yiddish was her first language. Once I learned to drive, I would take her to the grocery store, and she had her list written in Yiddish. I heard bits and pieces about her life in the Old Country, now probably Belarus, in a shtetl outside of Minsk. As a teenager, she survived many programs [pogroms?]  before World War II that essentially were ethnic cleansing, and she once hid in a barn under hay for a week while soldiers looted and burned. She was 19 when she came to the U.S. on a ship with my paternal grandfather. They had met in Belarus, but got married here. Many of my grandmother’s relatives died in the camps during World War II. She never saw her parents again. But she would never talk about it. Only once she spoke about one of her cousins, whose infant was shot by an SS guard in front of her, and she is said to have died of a heart attack, right there…

Read the entire article here.

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Women in Philosophy: Cramblett, Race, Disability, and Liberatory Politics

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Social Work, United States on 2019-09-04 02:43Z by Steven

Women in Philosophy: Cramblett, Race, Disability, and Liberatory Politics

Blog of the APA
The American Philosophical Association
2019-08-14

Desiree Valentine, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

In October of 2014, news outlets began reporting on a case of a lesbian couple suing a sperm bank for receiving the wrong donor’s sperm. As the lawsuit Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank alleged, not only did the couple receive the wrong donor’s sperm, but they had specifically chosen a white donor with blonde hair and blue eyes and the sperm they received had been from a black donor. Both women were white. The couple gave birth to a black/mixed-race child in 2012 and claimed that their daughter’s race posed particular challenges for their family, from facing prejudice in their nearly all-white community to difficulties dealing with their daughter’s hair. The couple sued for “wrongful birth” and “breach of warranty,” citing emotional and economic difficulties.

Clearly, there are legal issues at stake—the particular sperm bank was negligent in their handling of the transaction. But the claim of ‘wrongful birth’ brings up myriad sociopolitical and ethical concerns as well. Effectively, the plaintiff was alleging that her daughter’s blackness generated emotional suffering and economic burdens for Cramblett, and moreover, that she should be compensated for ‘damages’.

Unsurprisingly, many commentators reacted with outrage, disbelief, and dismay—outrage that a mother would sue on account of having a non-white, but healthy child, disbelief that this claim could even be legally articulable, and dismay at the fact that one day this child would learn that her mother implicitly claimed that she should have never been born because she was black/mixed race.

While obviously problematic (the case was thrown out by an Illinois Circuit Court Judge in 2015), the fact that this case was legally and thus on some level, socially and culturally intelligible, sets the stage for an array of philosophical interventions. For my purposes here, I’ll focus primarily on the problems and possibilities of various conceptualizations of race and disability that are illuminated by a politically-aware and historically-situated reading of Cramblett

Read the entire article here.

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