Elevating Social Status by Racial Passing and White Assimilation: in George Schuyler’s Black No More

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-11-11 02:15Z by Steven

Elevating Social Status by Racial Passing and White Assimilation: in George Schuyler’s Black No More

Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies
Volume 3, Number 4, October 2019
pages 24-35
DOI: 10.24093/awejtls/vol3no4.3

Menia Mohammad Almenia
Department of English Language and Translation
College of Arabic Language and Social Sciences
Qassim University, Buraidah, Saudi Arabia

This paper examines the legacy of the 1932 novel Black No More by George Schuyler with its message promoting assimilation. Racial divisions within the United States have a complex history, either insisting on separation or promoting unity, but advocates of assimilation have traditionally been viewed negatively. This paper aims to reconcile the assimilationist views of Schuyler against his larger purpose of empowerment through change. Schuyler focuses on issues of education, economy, and social status to demonstrate his thesis: meaningful change is possible if action is taken. Numerous theorists such as Jane Kuenz (1997), Hee-Jung Serenity Joo (2008), Jason Haslam (2002), and Ann Rayson (1978) have considered that Schuyler as an assimilationist. Schuyler’s novel builds a case for assimilation of individuals into the dominant culture as the practical course for improvement on both a personal and social scale.

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For someone so utterly unsentimental and sternly rational about race and blackness, he indulged his wife’s strange neoessentialist belief in “hybrid vigor”—that is, her belief that their daughter’s racial fusion of black and white represented the birth of a new, superior race.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-19 23:04Z by Steven

He [George Schuyler] was a man of contradictions. For someone so utterly unsentimental and sternly rational about race and blackness, he indulged his wife’s [Josephine Cogdell] strange neoessentialist belief in “hybrid vigor”—that is, her belief that their daughter’s racial fusion of black and white represented the birth of a new, superior race. With Schuyler’s help, his wife turned their only daughter into a social experiment, raising Philippa on a scientifically prepared diet of raw meat, unpasteurized milk, and castor oil, and keeping her in near isolation from other children. The child’s strange upbringing was both a raging success and a terrible failure. Philippa learned to read at two, became an accomplished pianist at four, and a composer by five. She was a child celebrity, a kind of black Shirley Temple with a high IQ who became the subject of scores of articles in publications such as Time, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, and was roundly hailed as a genius. There is a poignant moment in Kathryn Talalay’s biography of Philippa Schuyler, Composition in Black and White, when Philippa is thirteen and her parents finally show her the detailed scrapbook they’ve been keeping about her upbringing and career—notes and articles they’ve been keeping diligently over the years. Philippa, rather than being touched, was horrified to realize, with sudden clarity, all the ways she’d been her parents’ social experiment and “puppet.” In the years that followed, she grew increasingly disillusioned with America, her own blackness, and the musical career of her youth. Like a character out of Black No More, she eventually changed her name and began to pass as white—as an Iberian-American named Filipa Montera. She spent most of her adult life overseas, still playing music, but less seriously, and trying to find herself in various romantic affairs. She eventually tried to reinvent herself as an international journalist and children’s advocate, and in 1967 she died in a helicopter crash while attempting to evacuate war orphans out of Vietnam.

Danzy Senna, “George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time,” The New York Review of Books, January 19, 2018. https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/01/19/george-schuyler-an-afrofuturist-before-his-time/.

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George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2019-09-17 17:18Z by Steven

George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time

The New York Review of Books

Danzy Senna

Jacob Lawrence: Harlem Street Scene, 1942
Private Collection/Christie’s Images/Bridgeman Images/The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The first time I read George Schuyler’s 1931 novel, Black No More, it confused and unsettled me. Black No More is based on a fantastical, speculative premise: What if there were a machine that could turn black people permanently white? What if such a machine were invented in and introduced to 1920s America, a time of both increasing racial pride and persistent racial violence? What would the social and political implications be of such a race-reversal machine? What would it reveal about society? What lies and hypocrisies about blackness and whiteness and American identity would be revealed by the chaos that would ensue?

I was in college at the time I first read the book, and not quite ready for its cynical, almost misanthropic vision of race and society.

I had just reached that stage of racial identity that psychologist William Cross, in his 1971 “Negro-to-Black Conversion Experience,” called “immersion.” The immersion stage (number three of five) is when you eat, drink, and excrete blackness. It’s when you bite off the head of anybody who questions whether you, no matter how high your yellow, are anything less than Afrika Bambaataa.

What unsettled me about Black No More wasn’t just what I knew of Schuyler’s vaguely messed-up politics (which became a whole lot less vague and a whole lot more messed up in the decades following the novel’s publication). It was also that Schuyler was so merciless—about everyone. At the exact moment I was finding power and purpose in my black identity, he was telling me race didn’t exist…

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Reassignment Surgery and the Dissolution of the Color Line: Afrofuturist Satire in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Jess Row’s Your Face in Mine

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-08-30 23:55Z by Steven

Racial Reassignment Surgery and the Dissolution of the Color Line: Afrofuturist Satire in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Jess Row’s Your Face in Mine

Third Stone: devoted to Afrofuturism and other modes of the Black Fantastic
Volume 1, Issue 1 (2019)
Article 17
12 pages

Christopher A. Varlack, Lecturer
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Racial passing, during the antebellum period, was a way in which African-American peoples sought to escape the throes of slavery and the physical and psychological abuse associated with the plantation tradition. In time, racial passing became a way of obtaining the social, economic, and political opportunities denied people of color in the discriminatory and racially-biased United States. This study, however, examines a specific form of racial passing–that of racial reassignment surgery–as explored in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Jess Row’s Your Face in Mine as a way to test the theory that assimilation and miscegenation would one day resolve the color line that had left generations of African-American peoples disenfranchised and dispossessed. At the same time, this study examines the Afrofuturist sensibilities in these two key works of the Harlem Renaissance era and present day to understand how such authors not only counter the troubling histories of their time but also propose counter-futures that would otherwise have been buried beneath the cultural oppression of Jim Crow and other more modern forms of racism.

Read the entire article here.

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Negro-White Marriages Here Show Rise Despite Problems of Prejudice

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-08 00:40Z by Steven

Negro-White Marriages Here Show Rise Despite Problems of Prejudice

The New York Times

Fred Powledge

Marriages between Negroes and whites have been increasing in New York and have become a poignant part of the life of the city.

The precise number of such marriages may never be known. Documents on file at the City License Bureau do not reveal clear figures because many couples refuse to state their color in the applications. But City Clerk Herman Katz, who issues licenses and performs marriages at the Municipal Building, said that on the basis of observations the number of mixed marriages had definitely risen in the last two years.

Civil rights organizations, other interested observers and interracial couples themselves said they were aware of an obvious increase in the number of marriages between Negroes and whites.

Some of them interpreted the increase as a logical extension of the desegregation movement, which has captured the emotions and attention of the country. “There’s more interracial everything these days,” said one observer.

The Negro-white couples lead special lives in New York—lifetimes of curious stares, of subtle expressions of prejudice, of occasional signs of outright hostility, and of the constant awareness that as couples they are set apart in the eyes of the city…

…”It is very often evidence of a sick revolt against society,” said a psychiatrist who studies the emotions of race relations.

But a clergyman who has married interracial couples said:

“Fundamentally, the mixed marriage is a demonstration of the tightness and justice of it all, the feeling that human: beings may marry whomever; they please.”…

…Staring Not Unusual

The experience in the Village was not unusual. Dr. Charles E. Smith, a New York psychotherapist who wrote a doctoral dissertation in 1960 on the subject of interracial marriage, found that being stared at was a part of the lives of 22 New York couples he interviewed. Dr. Smith is a Negro.

He wrote in his thesis that the couples “considered staring by far to be the most difficult reaction from others to which interracial couples must become accustomed. This was described as a tremendous phenomenon to which to adjust…

…There are two problems of interracial marriages that are not generally shared by Negro couples. The men and women who were interviewed agreed that these two problems—children and acceptance by friends, family and society—were perhaps their greatest concerns.

In his study of 22 interracial couples, Dr. Smith found that none had decided against having children. His respondents were aware that their children would be considered Negroes by society, and that society would show some hostility toward the offspring.

“Yet,” he wrote, “these factors did not act as deterrents, as the couples felt not to have children would be acquiescing to societal restrictions and would also represent an unfulfilled marriage. In some way a childless marriage would be seen as an actual threat to the marriage.” He added:

“The parents were actually getting the main brunt of societal reactions. Generally the couples felt that the true test for the children could be expected to come as they reached pubescence and adolescence and begin to expand their area of socialization.

“It is then that the restrictions from society are expected to be strongest and will probably have the greatest effect upon the children. For the most part,  the  experiences of the children are expected to be very much similar to those of other Negro  children  in the United States.” …

…Married 35 Years

George S. Schuyler, 68-year-old associate editor of The Pittsburgh Courier, a Negro newspaper with offices in New York, has been married to a white Texan since 1928.

He observed that other couples were “not worried about the children,” and explained: “They know that’s inevitable. They’re concerned, sure. They’re concerned about what effect it will have on the children’s future, and what degree of discrimination they’ll meet. But that doesn’t keep anybody from having children.”…

Andrew D. Weinberger, New York attorney who has made studies of miscegenation statutes, used a projection to arrive at an estimate of one million couples in the nation, 70.000 of them in the New York metropolitan area.

His figures include a large number of light-skinned Negroes who pass for white. Mr. Weinberger used previously published scientific tables to calculate that one million American Negroes of marriage age are “passing.” He reduced the figure to 810,000 to allow for persons not married or not interracially married…

…High Jewish Percentage

Researchers, including Dr. Smith, have found in most cases that the Negro partner was the husband. They also re port that in New York the percentage of whites who also are Jews is high enough to attract notice…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, AD 1933-1940

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2012-08-08 01:58Z by Steven

Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, AD 1933-1940

Random House
1999 (Originally Published: 1931)
208 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-375-75380-0

George S. Schuyler (1895-1977)

Introduction by Ishmael Reed

What would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white? Would everybody be happy? These questions and more are answered hilariously in Black No More, George S. Schuyler’s satiric romp. Black No More is the story of Max Disher, a dapper black rogue of an insurance man who, through a scientific transformation process, becomes Matthew Fisher, a white man. Matt dreams up a scam that allows him to become the leader of the Knights of Nordica, a white supremacist group, as well as to marry the white woman who rejected him when he was black. Black No More is a hysterical exploration of race and all its self-serving definitions. If you can’t beat them, turn into them.

Ishmael Reed, one of today’s top black satirists and the author of Mumbo Jumbo and Japanese by Spring, provides a spirited Introduction.

The fertile artistic period now known as the Harlem Renaissance (1920-1930) gave birth to many of the world-renowned masters of black literature and is the model for today’s renaissance of black writers.

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The Absurdity of America: George S. Schuyler’s Black No More

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-02-26 03:52Z by Steven

The Absurdity of America: George S. Schuyler’s Black No More

EnterText: an interdisciplinary humanities e-journal
Volume 1, Number 1 (Winter 2000) Americas, Americans
pages 127-148

Joseph Mills, Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professor of the Humanities
North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…. One ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro—two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled striving; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

What do we want?… We want to be Americans, full-fledged Americans, with all the rights of other American citizens. But is that all?… We who are dark can see America in a way that white Americans can not. And seeing our country thus, are we satisfied with its present goals and ideals?
– W. E. B. DuBois, “Criteria of Negro Art” (1921)

In 1931 George S. Schuyler published Black No More, a satire about Americans’ obsession with race. The book was controversial, in part, because Schuyler mocked African-American leaders. The novel contains parodies of Marcus Garvey, N.A.A.C.P. figures, and Tuskegee leaders. For example, Shakespeare Agamemnon Beard, a caricature of W.E. B. DuBois, writes ornate overblown editorials for The Dilemma, claims an “exotic” heritage, and “like most Negro leaders, he deified the black woman but abstained from employing aught save octoroons.” DuBois, himself, however, praised the book. He recognized that it would be “abundantly misunderstood,” because, “the writer of satire . . . is always misunderstood by the simple.” Although Black No More contained “scathing criticism of Negro leaders,” DuBois noted with admiration that the satire then “passes over and slaps the white people just as hard and unflinchingly straight in the face.” In many ways, Black No More demonstrates satire’s democratic potential. Mockery becomes the great leveller, and by ridiculing all, the novel calls into question racial and class hierarchies. In a letter to H. L. Mencken, Schuyler stated his intentions: “What I have tried to do in this novel is to laugh the color question out of school by showing up its ridiculousness and absurdity…I have tried… to portray the spectacle as a combination madhouse, burlesque show and Coney Island.”

Unfortunately, as DuBois anticipated, the novel has been misunderstood. In a 1971 introduction to the book, Charles Larson states, “It would be easy—and some people would perhaps say better—to ignore Schuyler’s first novel,” and Margaret Perry’s comment that “we cannot dismiss [Black No More] entirely” reveals a desire to do just that. In fact, for decades Schuyler’s work overall has been denigrated or overlooked. To give only one example, in Cary Wintz’s Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance, a table of “Year-by-Year Publication of Major Works of the Harlem Renaissance, 1922-1935” has almost fifty titles but does not include Schuyler’s books. In the 1990s, however, Robert A. Hill and R. Kent Rasmussen recovered a significant amount of Schuyler’s pulp fiction, and, in doing so, they demonstrated the need to re-evaluate Schuyler’s work. In particular, Black No More, Schuyler’s major literary achievement, needs to be reassessed. Considered by Arthur Davis to be “the best work of prose satire to come from the New Negro Movement,” and one of the few works of the time to use satire, the novel makes an important contribution to the discourse of race and national identity…

…The book’s most damning indictment of this “urge towards whiteness” is a shocking lynching scene. Southern aristocrat Arthur Snobbcraft, the head of an elitist Anglo-Saxon association, joins forces with the Knights of Nordica to run a presidential campaign. Snobbcraft organizes a massive genealogy project to determine how much of the population has Negro blood. He intends to use the results to whip up national hysteria over the dangers of miscegenation; however, the plan backfires when his chief researcher, Dr. Buggerie, discovers that at least fifty million people who are considered “white” have a mixed heritage, including Buggerie, Knights of Nordica leader Givens, and Snobbcraft himself. After his opponents steal the information and give it to the newspapers, Snobbcraft tries to flee the country, but his plane runs out of gas and has to land in Mississippi. Snobbcraft and Buggerie decide to disguise themselves with shoe-polish blackface, but they run into members of the True Love Christ Lover’s Church, a group which has been praying for one last Negro to lynch. When they wipe off their blackface, they are accepted as Caucasians until one of the few church members who can read sees a newspaper article detailing their mixed ancestry. Snobbcraft and Buggerie are then mutilated, tortured and killed in an orgiastic frenzy…

…There occur two dynamics in Black No More: a whitening at the level of skin and a blackening at the level of blood. Although the process of Black No More, Inc. “whitens,” the genealogical research of Buggerie “blackens” at least half of the population by revealing their mixed ancestry. When he learns of the research, Givens acknowledges, “I guess we’re all niggers now;” his comment echoes one made earlier by one of the owners of Black No More who noted that “Everything that looks white ain’t white in this man’s country.” In fact, almost nothing is white in the country. Schuyler dedicates Black No More to “all Caucasians in the great republic who can trace their ancestry back ten generations and confidently assert that there are no Black leaves, twigs, limbs of branches on their family trees.” The tone conveys his doubt that anyone can do this. Schuyler believed that America refused to admit that it consisted of a mulatto culture. In this sense, when he states in “The Negro-Art Hokum” that “the American Negro is just plain American,” he is insisting not only on the “Americanness” of the Negro, but also on the “Negroness” of America…

Read the entire article here.

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African-American Reflections on Brazil’s Racial Paradise

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-12-12 17:30Z by Steven

African-American Reflections on Brazil’s Racial Paradise

Temple University Press
February 1992
276 pages
5.5 x 8.25
Cloth ISBN: 0-87722-892-2
eBook ISBN: 978-1-59213-104-4

Edited by

David J. Hellwig, Professor Emeritus of Interdisciplinary Studies
St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Essays that focus on the authors’ observations of race relations in Brazil from the first decade of the century through the 1980s

At the turn of the twentieth century, the popular image of Brazil was that of a tropical utopia for people of color, and it was looked upon as a beacon of hope by African Americans. Reports of this racial paradise were affirmed by notable black observers until the middle of this century, when the myth began to be challenged by North American blacks whose attitudes were influenced by the civil rights movement and burgeoning black militancy. The debate continued and the myth of the racial paradise was eventually rejected as black Americans began to see the contradictions of Brazilian society as well as the dangers for people of color.

David Hellwig has assembled numerous observations of race relations in Brazil from the first decade of the century through the 1980s. Originally published in newspapers and magazines, the selected commentaries are written by a wide range of African-American scholars, journalists, and educators, and are addressed to a general audience.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Introcution: The Myth of the Racial Paradise
  • Part I: The Myth Affirmed (1900-1940)
    • 1. “Brazilian Visitors in Norfolk”
    • 2. “Brazil vs. United States”
    • 3. “Brazil and the Black Race”
    • 4. “Brazil” – W.E.B. Du Bois
    • 5. “Opportunities in Brazil: South American Country Offers First Hand Knowledge of the Solving of the Race Question”
    • 6. “Brazil” – Cyril V. Briggs
    • 7. “Wonderful Opportunities Offered in Brazil for Thrifty People of All Races” – Associated Negro Press
    • 8. “South America and Its Prospects in 1920” – L. H. Stinson
    • 9. “Brazil as I Found It” – E.R. James
    • 10. “Sidelights on Brazil Racial Conditions” – Frank St. Claire
    • 11. “My Trip Through South America” – Robert S. Abbott
    • 12. “Sightseeing in South America” – William Pickens
  • Part II: The Myth Debated (1940-1965)
    • 13. “The Color Line in South America’s Largest Republic” – Ollie Stewart
    • 14. “Stewart in Error – No Color Line in Brazil” – James W. Ivy
    • 15. Letter by W.E.B. Du Bois to Edward Weeks, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2, 1941
    • 16. “Brazil Has No Race Problem” – E. Franklin Frazier
    • 17. “A Comparison of Negro-White Relations in Brazil and the United States” – E. Franklin Frazier
    • 18. Excerpt from Quest for Dignity: An Autobiography of a Negro Doctor – Thomas Roy Peyton
    • 19. “Brazilian Color Bias Growing More Rampant” – George S. Schuyler
    • 20. “The Negro in Brazil” – Lorenzo D. Turner
  • Part III: The Myth Rejected (1965-)
    • 21. “From Roxbury to Rio-and Back in a Hurry” – Angela M. Gilliam
    • 22. “Brazil: Study in Black, Brown and Beige” – Leslie B. Rout, Jr.
    • 23. “Equality in Brazil: Confronting Reality” – Cleveland Donald, Jr.
    • 24. “‘Mestizaje’ vs. Black Identity: The Color Crisis in Latin America” – Richard L. Jackson
    • 25. “Black Consciousness vs. Racism in Brazil” – Niani (Dee Brown)
    • 26. “Brazil and the Blacks of South America” – Gloria Calomee
    • 27. “In Harmony with Brazil’s African Pulse” – Rachel Jackson Christmas
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