A Mixed Bag: Examining the College Experience of Multi-Racial Students

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2013-04-02 02:51Z by Steven

A Mixed Bag: Examining the College Experience of Multi-Racial Students

INSIGHT Into Diversity
April/May 2012 (2012-03-29)

Andrea Williams, Contributing Writer

To most American youth, college is the requisite rite of passage into adulthood, an experience marked as much by self-exploration and discovery as biology lectures and late night cram sessions.
From managing the excitement of living away from home for the first time, to coping with the stresses of time management, college can be simultaneously exhilarating and intimidating. And for biracial students who don’t fit neatly into the predetermined ethnic categories of many colleges and universities, the journey can be especially challenging.

For Theresa Lopez, the daughter of a white mother and a Latino father, the issues started with her application to the University of Illinois. “I was not given the option to be both white and Hispanic because the boxes were marked ‘White (Non-Hispanic)’ and ‘Hispanic (Non-White),’ making me feel as though whoever created the application was under the impression that white people and Hispanics could not have babies together,” says Lopez. “I would prefer, however, to call myself both white and Hispanic without denying either ancestry.”

The problems didn’t stop there for the college senior. In a society where people are confident in their own assumptions, even going to dinner becomes a lesson in cultural sensitivity. “When we go to eat at the local Mexican restaurant here in town, my friend, who is Columbian but does not speak Spanish, is always waited on in Spanish while I am always greeted in English because of the way I look,” says Lopez, whose blonde hair and blue eyes belie her Hispanic roots. “It makes me upset sometimes because even though I continue to speak Spanish to them, they seem to think I’m just some white girl who is trying to speak their language and be a part of their people. But I’m their people, too.”…

…Luckily for Matt Kelley, he discovered during the fall semester of his freshman year at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University that the school sponsored a mixed heritage student organization. “It was the first time I was made aware of ‘people like me’ who shared the experience of not fitting neatly into generally accepted racial boxes and boundaries,” he says. Kelley subsequently learned about similar clubs at other schools and in 1998 decided to launch a national magazine that would create a community among those organizations.

The publication – given the Yiddish name MAVIN, which means “one who understands” – was immediately well received, leading Kelley to form the nonprofit MAVIN Foundation in 2000 to further the work and reach of the magazine…

Read the entire article here.

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Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-02-24 22:48Z by Steven

Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction

University of Michigan Press
232 pages
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-472-11861-8
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-472-02890-0

Andreá N. Williams, Associate Professor of English
Ohio State University

Photograph of John and Lugenia Burns Hope and family, undated, Atlanta University Photographs—Individuals, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library
(Pictured from left to right: Dr. John Hope, Edward Hope, John Hope, II, and and Lugenia Burns Hope)

New insights on the intersection of race and class in black fiction from the 1880s to 1900s

Dividing Lines is one of the most extensive studies of class in nineteenth-century African American literature. Clear and engaging, this book unveils how black fiction writers represented the uneasy relationship between class differences, racial solidarity, and the quest for civil rights in black communities.

By portraying complex, highly stratified communities with a growing black middle class, these authors dispelled popular notions that black Americans were uniformly poor or uncivilized. But even as the writers highlighted middle-class achievement, they worried over whether class distinctions would help or sabotage collective black protest against racial prejudice. Andreá N. Williams argues that the signs of class anxiety are embedded in postbellum fiction: from the verbal stammer or prim speech of class-conscious characters to fissures in the fiction’s form. In these telling moments, authors innovatively dared to address the sensitive topic of class differences—a topic inextricably related to American civil rights and social opportunity.

Williams delves into the familiar and lesser-known works of Frances E. W. Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Charles W. Chesnutt, Sutton Griggs, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, showing how these texts mediate class through discussions of labor, moral respectability, ancestry, spatial boundaries, and skin complexion. Dividing Lines also draws on reader responses—from book reviews, editorials, and letters—to show how the class anxiety expressed in African American fiction directly sparked reader concerns over the status of black Americans in the U.S. social order. Weaving literary history with compelling textual analyses, this study yields new insights about the intersection of race and class in black novels and short stories from the 1880s to 1900s.


  • Introduction: Contending Classes, Dividing Lines
  • 1. The Language of Class: Taxonomy and Respectability in Frances E. W. Harper’s Trial and Triumph and Iola Leroy
  • 2. Working through Class: The Black Body, Labor, and Leisure in Sutton Griggs’s Overshadowed
  • 3. Mapping Class Difference: Space and Social Mobility in Paul L. Dunbar’s Short Fiction
  • 4. Blood and the Mark of Class: Pauline Hopkins’s Genealogies of Status
  • 5. Classing the Color Line: Class-Passing, Antiracism, and Charles W. Chesnutt
  • Epilogue: Beyond the Talented Tenth
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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