21. Fredi’s Migration: Washington’s Forgotten War on Hollywood

Posted in Articles, Biography, Books, Chapter, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2022-02-22 21:07Z by Steven

21. Fredi’s Migration: Washington’s Forgotten War on Hollywood

Chapter in the anthology: Women and Migration: Responses in Art and History
Deborah Willis, Ellyn Toscano and Kalia Brooks Nelson (ed.)
(2019-09-12, Open Book Publishers)
Printed ISBN: 9781783745654
eBook ISBN: 9791036538070

Pamela Newkirk, Professor of Journalism
New York University

Fig. 21.1. Portrait of Fredi Washington. Courtesy of Schomburg Center, New York Public Library.

Nearly eight decades before #OscarsSoWhite focused attention on the dearth of roles for Blacks and other people of color in Hollywood, actress Fredi Washington became one of the most vocal critics of the industry’s racial bias. But despite her trailblazing work on stage and screen beginning in the 1920s, Washington has largely been forgotten as one of the pioneering African-American leading ladies, and for her noteworthy civil rights activism.

The eldest of five children, Washington was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1903 and relocated to Philadelphia aged eleven following the death of her mother, a former dancer. In 1919 Washington launched her own career as a chorus girl in Harlem’s Alabam Club, and, in 1926, landed a coveted role in the landmark Broadway play Shuffle Along. When the show closed she sailed to Europe to tour with her dance partner Al Moiret. Two years later she returned to the United States and starred in a string of successful films and plays including the short film Black and Tan Fantasy with Duke Ellington (1929); Black Boy starring Paul Robeson (1930); Emperor Jones with Robeson again (1933); and Drum in the Night (1933); with an equal number of plays, including Singing the Blues (1930), Sweet Chariot (1930) and Run Lil’ Chillun (1933).

Washington’s stardom was secured with her performance as Peola, the tortured bi-racial daughter who passes for white in Imitation of Life, the 1934 feature film starring Claudette Corbert and Louise Beavers. However, after achieving critical acclaim for her performance Washington was routinely passed over for lead roles. This was in part due to Hollywood’s Hays Codes, which, beginning that year, explicitly prohibited the depiction of miscegenation in film. The Hays Codes made life especially challenging for Washington, whose green eyes and pale complexion rendered her too light to be cast in films with all-Black casts. In 1937 her skin was darkened for her co-starring role in One Mile from Heaven with Bill Robinson

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The Myth of a Post-Racial America

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2016-11-20 01:48Z by Steven

The Myth of a Post-Racial America

Literary Hub

Pamela Newkirk, Professor of Journalism
New York University

Pamela Newkirk Wonders How Much Further Back We Can Go…

For the past eight years, many African-Americans instinctively presumed that the venom spewed at President Obama was on account of his race. More recently, we endured a steady stream of chilling videotaped killings of unarmed blacks by police, and the harsh realization that despite all our protests and all our tears, for much of white America, Black Lives Don’t Much Matter. In case after case, the police went unpunished and most whites, when polled, supported impunity.

By the time Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination, he vowed to ban Muslims, build a wall to keep out Mexicans, and had scapegoated blacks. We who are black, unlike many of our fellow Americans, were hardly surprised.

For years, Trump attempted to illegitimize Obama’s presidency by stoking the Birther movement and yet still managed to win the support of a cross-section of Republican leaders, including US senators and governors, from North and South. We hoped in vain for a chorus of condemnation, and instead watched a shameful parade of Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, pledge their support or remain silent. Rather than an aberration, Trump’s rise seems the inevitable undraping of a sizable portion of white America that has always lurked in the shadows, stubbornly refusing to sync their customs with national ideals…

…Trump’s nomination and strong appeal in the general election recalls a more candid period at the turn-of the 20th century when many of the nation’s most esteemed leaders proudly flaunted their anti-immigration and anti-Black rhetoric. It behooves us to recall that, in 1916, Madison Grant’s wildly popular book The Passing of the Great Race advocated the cleansing of America from “inferior races” through birth control, racial segregation, and anti-miscegenation and anti-immigration laws. Grant, a New York high-society lawyer and co-founder of the Bronx Zoo, infamously warned:

Whether we like to admit it or not, the result of the mixture of two races, in the long run, gives us a race reverting to the more ancient, generalized and lower type. The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a negro is a negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.

The book was hailed by President Roosevelt as “a capital book—in purpose, in vision, in grasp of the facts,” and was later praised by Hitler

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The End of the ‘Postrace’ Myth

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-06 18:13Z by Steven

The End of the ‘Postrace’ Myth

The Conversation: Online opinion on ideas and higher education
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Pamela Newkirk, Professor of Journalism
New York University

Over the past four years, it had become increasingly difficult to mount a public discussion about how racial bias continues to permeate our society, North and South, in boardrooms and newsrooms. Despite glaring signs of racial segregation in our schools, prisons, and pews, many commentators—including some scholars—idealistically clung to President Obama’s 2008 election as evidence of a new, postracial era.

John H. McWhorter, a linguist and fellow at the Manhattan Institute, was among the first to proclaim that Obama’s 2008 election proved that we had moved beyond race as a major impediment for black people. His optimism was widely embraced by the media…

…Now, as President Obama is set to begin his second term, after an election marred by blatant forms of black and Latino voter suppression that evoked post-Reconstruction practices, our blinders have been yanked aside, exposing claims of a postracial nation as premature.

What can be said of the spectacle of prominent men reduced to “birthers” demanding that the nation’s first black president reveal his birth certificate and college transcript? Or state officials and a defeated presidential candidate openly lamenting the strength of black and Latino voter turnout? Residents of some states have called for secession rather than face the reality of a multiracial America. White college students in Mississippi rioted over Barack Obama’s re-election…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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