Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2012-09-04 21:40Z by Steven

Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd

University Press of Kentucky
208 pages
On Demand paperback ISBN: 978-0-8131-0948-0

Wade Hall

In 1976, Kentucky state legislator Mae Street Kidd successfully sponsored a resolution ratifying the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It was fitting that a black woman should initiate the state’s formal repudiation of slavery; that it was Mrs. Kidd was all the more appropriate. Born in Millersburg, Kentucky, in 1904 to a black mother and a white father, Kidd grew up to be a striking woman with fair skin and light hair. Sometimes accused of trying to pass for white in a segregated society, Kidd felt that she was doing the opposite—choosing to assert her black identity. Passing for Black is her story, in her own words, of how she lived in this racial limbo and the obstacles it presented. As a Kentucky woman of color during a pioneering period of minority and women’s rights, Kidd seized every opportunity to get ahead. She attended a black boarding academy after high school and went on to become a successful businesswoman in the insurance and cosmetic industries in a time when few women, black or white, were able to compete in a male-dominated society. She also served with the American Red Cross in England during World War II. It was not until she was in her sixties that she turned to politics, sitting for seventeen years in the Kentucky General Assembly—one of the few black women ever to do so—where she crusaded vigorously for housing rights. Her story—presented as oral history elicited and edited by Wade Hall—provides an important benchmark in African American and women’s studies and endures as a vital document in Kentucky history.

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Keeping up with the Joneses

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Social Science, United States on 2010-03-05 03:04Z by Steven

…Like many families of mixed ancestry and interracial families in the Northeast, the Joneses seemed to live in an ambiguous space in the American system of racial classification.  They seemed to be neither denying nor actively claiming a black racial identity.  Sociologists of the time and current historians have documented a number of cases—indeed a pattern—of mixed-race or mixed-marriage families living quietly in small “white” towns.  Unlike the model of “passing,” in with formerly black-identified individuals or families would become white-identified, many of these individuals and families simply lived in the spaces between absolutes.  Less consciously a political act of affirmation or denial of self, racial ambiguity enabled such individuals and families to embrace the multiple histories that constituted them.  They were black and white and other.  They understood that American society lacked a suitably dexterous category for those who defied the conventions of perception and boundary.  Former Kentucky politician Mae Street Kidd, born to a black mother and white father in 1904, summarized the sentiment of many when she wrote, “I never made an issue of my race.  I let people think or believe what they wanted to.  If it was ever a problem, then it was their problem, not mine.”…

Lewis, Earl and Heidi Adrizzone. Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White.  New York: W. W. Norton. 2002. Pages 36-37.

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