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.

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Adventures in Black and White

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2018-05-30 23:37Z by Steven

Adventures in Black and White

2Leaf Press
2018-05-28 (originally published in 1960)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-940939-77-3
eBook ISBN: 978-1-940939-89-6

Philippa Duke Schuyler (1931-1967)

Edited and with a critical introduction by:

Tara Betts, Lecturer
University of Illinois, Chicago; Chicago State University

Adventures in Black and White, a memoir-travelogue, was first published by world-renown child prodigy Philippa Duke Schuyler in 1960. In this first revised edition of Adventures in Black and White since its initial publication, scholar Tara Betts provides a critical introduction to this updated volume, including minor edits, and annotations of the original text. Recognized as a prodigy at an early age, Schuyler was heralded as America’s first internationally-acclaimed mixed race celebrity. Her father, a conservative African American journalist, and her mother, a white Texan heiress, dedicated Schuyler’s development to the cause of integration with the claim that racial mixing could produce a superior hybrid human, a claim that Schuyler resisted, but would nonetheless hurl her into a destructive identity crisis that consumed her throughout her life. When the transition from child prodigy to concert pianist proved challenging in America, like many black performers before her, she went abroad during the 1950s for larger audiences. Schuyler’s witnessing first-hand the dissemblage of European colonies in Africa and the Middle East, is the focus of Adventures in Black and White. Luckily, this narrative connects the twenty-first century to right after the Harlem Renaissance, and the prelude to the forthcoming Civil Rights Movement at a time when interracial identity was just becoming part of a public conversation in America. As Schuyler begins to write about Africa—”the homeland of her ancestors”—readers can begin to understand how the young musician would eventually find her way as an author and a journalist, and the books that followed.

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Tragic Mulatto Girl Wonder: The paradoxical life of Philippa Duke Schuyler

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-06-12 22:27Z by Steven

Tragic Mulatto Girl Wonder: The paradoxical life of Philippa Duke Schuyler

QBR The Black Book Review
February/March 1996

Lise Funderburg

Composition in Black and White: The Life of Philippa Schuyler. By Kathryn Talalay. Illustrated. 317 pp. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509608-8.

As a child prodigy, pianist and composer, Philippa Duke Schuyler incited both awe and envy. Performing at the 1939 New York World’s Fair when she was just eight, she seemed to live a charmed life, full of whirlwind concert tours in distant lands, where she met politicians, artists and royals. But while she was known as a gifted and serious musician and, later, a journalist, she was also viewed as the quintessential tragic mulatto. (Her father was the conservative black journalist and satirical novelist George Schuyler; her mother, a rebellious white Southern belle who married across the color line.) She seemed trapped at times by her talents and the constraints of relentlessly watchful parents whose aspirations for her were often suffocating. She acquired a reputation both as a temptress whose greatest interest in life was men and sex and as a perpetually frightened child. When she died in 1967, at age 35, in a helicopter crash in Vietnam during a war-orphan airlift, she met with a final irony. For all her achievements and worldliness, she could not swim to save her life…

Read the entire review here.

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Prodigy and Prejudice

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-06-10 03:27Z by Steven

Prodigy and Prejudice

The New York Times

Phyllis Rose

Composition in Black and White: The Life of Philippa Schuyler. By Kathryn Talalay. Illustrated. 317 pp. New York: Oxford University Press

This enthralling, heartbreaking book restores to attention Philippa Schuyler, child prodigy of the 1930’s, pianist, composer, Harlem’s Mozart, “the Shirley Temple of American Negroes.” Her father was George Schuyler, a well-known black journalist. Her mother was Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, the white daughter of a Texas rancher. Insisting that her daughter was the normal product of “hybrid vigor” and good nutrition, Jody Schuyler dedicated her to the cause of integration: Philippa’s brilliance would break down racial barriers in America. Instead, as Kathryn Talalay tells this important story, racial barriers and a manipulative, demanding mother broke Philippa.

Based on fascinating family papers in New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, “Composition in Black and White: The Life of Philippa Schuyler” begins by plunging us into a 1920’s world of race enthusiasm: “Nordics” go to Harlem for the night life and white girls date black men to rattle their families and prove to themselves they have interesting lives. Josephine Cogdell arrived in New York in 1927, wanting to write. She had contributed pieces to The Messenger, a left-wing black publication whose editor was George Schuyler. They met and were immediately attracted to each other.

A fanatic diarist, Jody even described their first kiss, revealing (or boasting) that she found George’s lips “softer and more sensuous than white lips.” Her primitivist ideas — the flip side of racism—glorified everything African and saw salvation in miscegenation. She encouraged herself to marry Schuyler with the thought that “the white race . . . is spiritually depleted and America must mate with the Negro to save herself.”…

…From the age of 8, Philippa concertized constantly, a darling of both the black and the white press, a role model in black communities throughout America. Her visibility was achieved through George’s press connections and Jody’s tireless management. At 15, she soloed with the New York Philharmonic at Lewisohn Stadium before an audience of 12,000, in a program that included one of her own compositions. (A symphony she wrote at 13 was, Virgil Thomson said, as interesting as the symphonies Mozart wrote at that age.)

But some thought her playing had been undermined by her relentless performance schedule, and the older she got the more it seems emotional turmoil prevented her from being a great artist. She made the transition from child prodigy to concert pianist, but by her mid-teens, whether because of her own inadequacies or racial barriers or both, she had gone as far as she would go as a performer in America—she was a success with black audiences, but of limited appeal to whites…

Read the entire review here.

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Tragic No More: Mixed Race Women and the Nexus of Sex and Celebrity

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2013-01-10 01:38Z by Steven

Tragic No More: Mixed Race Women and the Nexus of Sex and Celebrity

University of Massachusetts Press
December 2012
176 pages
6 x9; 6 illustrations
ISBN (paper): 978-1-55849-985-0
ISBN (cloth): 978-1-55849-984-3

Caroline A. Streeter, Associate Professor of English
University of California, Los Angeles

A timely exploration of gender and mixed race in American culture

This book examines popular representations of biracial women of black and white descent in the United States, focusing on novels, television, music, and film. Although the emphasis is on the 1990s, the historical arc of the study begins in the 1930s. Caroline A. Streeter explores the encounter between what she sees as two dominant narratives that frame the perception of mixed race in America. The first is based on the long-standing historical experience of white supremacy and black subjugation. The second is more recent and involves the post–Civil Rights expansion of interracial marriage and mixed race identities. Streeter analyzes the collision of these two narratives, the cultural anxieties they have triggered, and the role of black/white women in the simultaneous creation and undoing of racial categories—a charged, ambiguous cycle in American culture.

Streeter’s subjects include concert pianist Philippa Schuyler, Dorothy West’s novel The Wedding (in print and on screen), Danzy Senna’s novels Caucasia and Symptomatic, and celebrity performing artists Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Halle Berry. She opens with a chapter that examines the layered media response to Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Senator Strom Thurmond’s biracial daughter. Throughout the book, Streeter engages the work of feminist critics and others who have written on interracial sexuality and marriage, biracial identity, the multiracial movement, and mixed race in cultural studies.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s Secrets and Strom Thurmond’s Lies
  • 2. The Wedding’s Black/White Women in Prime Time
  • 3. Sex and Femininity in Danzy Senna’s Novels
  • 4. Faking the Funk? Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and the Politics of Passing
  • 5. From Tragedy to Triumph: Dorothy Dandridge, Halle Berry, and the Search for a Black Screen Goddess
  • 6. High (Mulatto) Hopes: The Rise and Fall of Philippa Schuyler
  • Afterword
  • Notes
  • Index
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A Philippa Schuyler moment

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2012-02-07 02:02Z by Steven

A Philippa Schuyler moment

On an Overgrown Path

John McLaughlin Williams

Philippa Schuyler. Just hearing the name takes me back to a place in my childhood I have not revisited in memory more than a couple of times in decades. Philippa Schuyler’s name was but one of dozens lodged in my parent’s large sheet music library, occupying shelf space alongside the giants and talented lesser lights of our canonic music literature. Even among those lesser lights Schuyler seemed to me an odd duck a the time, for here peering at me from the cover of the sole piece of music by her in our possession was a picture of a seven year old girl of mixed race, rather than an aged, wizened and likely bearded Caucasian man. Wasn’t that what a composer was supposed to look like?

My being a beginning pianist of about ten or eleven at the time caused me to be extremely curious about the yellowed sheets containing nine pieces of progressive difficulty penned by Schuyler between the ages of four to nine. The fact that she was considered to be an exemplar of mid-twentieth century black achievement added to her music’s mystique. My parents played piano music of timeless worth; my dad enamored of Beethoven and Brahms, my mom all quicksilver and light in Chopin and Mozart. I was learning to play Scarlatti sonatas, my mind filled with the melody and counterpoint by masters of compositional craft. I sat down to play Schuyler’s music and was immediately filled with disappointment. “This is bad”, I thought to myself! It didn’t sound like what my parents played, much less like the music I was studying. Compared with the masters Schuyler’s work seemed trite, short breathed, and to my young mind, immature. (In retrospect and in defense of Schuyler’s work, because of the unusual way in which I began to play the piano, the valuable didactic nature of these pieces eluded me completely.) I played through the music, put it away and never looked at it again. Until last week.

When Bob Shingleton asked me if I knew anything about Philippa Schuyler, I said I knew a little. That little bit comprised my early impressions of her music coupled with knowledge acquired later of her reputation as a racial role model. (I was given Kathryn Talalay’s biography of Schuyler a few years ago, but I considered her such a marginal figure that to this day I have not read it.) Remembering dimly that my mother (Mrs. Norma McLaughlin Nelson) had some sheet music by Schuyler as well as her autograph (acquired at a concert my mom attended as a child in Greensboro, North Carolina), I offered to ask my mom if she still had these items in her possession, and if so would she share them with us. Mom looked and confirmed that indeed she did, and she would. Mom sent me scans of the material that I soon forwarded to Bob. After perusing the music he asked if I might consider making an informal recording of the little pieces, and that is when my trip down memory lane began…

Read the entire article and listen to a performance of one of Schuyler’s compositions here.

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A Jazz Celebration – Remembering the Life of Philippa Schuyler

Posted in Arts, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2012-01-04 00:41Z by Steven

A Jazz Celebration – Remembering the Life of Philippa Schuyler

Southbank Centre
London, England
The Clore Ballroom
2012-01-27, 17:30Z

The Abram Wilson Quartet

Charismatic New Orleans trumpeter and vocalist Abram Wilson debuts original music inspired by the life of the Harlem born, mixed race classical piano prodigy, Philippa Schuyler, who died tragically young in 1967.

Wilson and his band of musicians explore new compositional ground with music ranging from the roughest blues to the most melodic swing. Soulful trumpet playing complements the vocals as Wilson tells the sensitive story of an extraordinary and gifted musician’s troubled life.

With a band featuring Alex Davies (bass), Dave Hamblett (drums) and Reuben James (piano), the multi-award winning Wilson has created a unique style of melodic compositions that swing and groove. His sound is reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis.

For more information, click here.

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Black devils, white saints and mixedrace femme fatales: Philippa Schuyler and the winds of change

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2011-10-27 03:12Z by Steven

Black devils, white saints and mixedrace femme fatales: Philippa Schuyler and the winds of change

Critical Arts
Volume 25, Issue 3 (2011)
Special Issue: The Afropessimism Phenomenon
pages 360-376
DOI: 10.1080/02560046.2011.615140

Daniel R. McNeil, Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies
Newcastle University, United Kingdom

This article sheds new light on abstract definitions of Afropessimism by analysing the self-fashioning of Philippa Schuyler in southern and central Africa during the Cold War. Schuyler had achieved prominence as an African-American child prodigy in the 1930s and 40s, and a peripatetic concert pianist in the 1950s, before becoming an ultra-conservative writer who opposed African decolonisation in the 1960s. Rather than relying on the tired cliché of the American tragic mulatto to explain Schuyler’s existential choices, or limiting the scope of her story to an (Afro)Americocentric frame, this article argues that her virulent anti-black racism threatened purportedly respectable forms of colonial whiteness. In doing so it uses a New Historicist approach to contend that pessimistic positions about resistance can be combined with the study of practices that unveil the ironies and limits of power. In addition, it addresses Frantz Fanon’s diagnosis of ‘the woman of colour and the white man,’ and argues that Fanon’s work in the 1950s and 60s can be used to question Schuyler’s desire to 1) condemn the ‘force vitale’ of Negritude, 2) praise white colonialists and 3) adopt an ‘off-white’ identity.

Read or purchase the article here.

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More than a ‘tragic mulatto’

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, United Kingdom, United States on 2011-07-06 21:38Z by Steven

More than a ‘tragic mulatto’

Runnymede Bulletin
Spring 2011, Issue 365
pages 26

Zaki Nahaboo
Department of Politics & International Studies
The Open University, UK

Daniel R. McNeil. Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs. London: Routledge, 2009, 186 pp. Hardback ISBN 978-0-415-87226-3, Paperback ISBN 978-0-415-89391-6, eBook ISBN 978-0-203-85736-6.

Daniel McNeil illuminates harrowing accounts and insidious perceptions of mixed-race that exist across Canada, America and Britain. His monograph charts the transgression of the ‘colour-line’, exploring the subjectivity of those compelled to negotiate a mixed-race heritage while providing a critical intervention into the discourse of mixed-race as the contemporary cosmopolitan signifier of a post-racial future. These issues leap from the pages as he draws upon influential figures and popular culture ranging from Philippa Schuyler to Barack Obama.

As the title suggests, these issues cannot be analysed without considering the gendered forms of violence and the masculine structuring of desire, which snare the mixed race woman, particularly, between a rock and a hard place.

This is best exemplified in the second chapter of the book, in which McNeil seeks to uncover the linkages between the likes of W. E. B Du Bois, Frantz Fanon and Otto Rank. McNeil does not undermine recent poststructuralist readings of these theorists, instead choosing to delve into their perceptions about the mulatto. Here he finds that within their masculinist framework the mixed-race woman, in particular, is perceived as a hindrance, a problem, a neurotic and an object of pity. McNeil has provided a novel contribution, subtly showing that mixed-race is not simply a position of the petty bourgeoisie, but rather is seen as a shameful reminder of colonialism and ‘dilution’.

McNeil’s account of renowned American child prodigy Philippa Schuyler is a strategically deployed case study for elucidating a far more complex identity than the ‘tragic mulatto‘: i.e. “a feminised and neurotic figure who desires a white lover and either dies or returns to the black community”. Schuyler’s life is deployed to expose how the black/white binary is paradoxically and simultaneously transcended, escaped, denied and repudiated, while also remaining a continuous weight upon her life…

Read the entire review here.

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“The devil made the mulatto”: Race, religion and respectability in a Black Atlantic, 1931-2005

Posted in Africa, Biography, Canada, Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2010-11-18 23:12Z by Steven

“The devil made the mulatto”: Race, religion and respectability in a Black Atlantic, 1931-2005

University of Toronto
312 pages
Publication Number: AAT NR39517
ISBN: 9780494395172

Daniel R. McNeil, Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies
Newcastle University, United Kingdom

According to The Historical Journal there has only been one scholarly study of mixed- race history. This text—New People: Mulattoes and Miscegenation in the United States—fails to address events after 1930 in any detail, and ends its historical analysis with a discussion of the mixed-race people who committed themselves to a “New Negro” group. In an attempt to cover this gap in the academic literature, my dissertation analyses the creative artistry of individuals who were born after 1930 and were told, by governmental agencies in the US, UK and Canada, that they had a Black father and a white mother. My first case study looks at Philippa Schuyler, the daughter of George Schuyler, the most prominent African American journalist of the early twentieth century. I acknowledge that George Schuyler’s journalistic peers marketed his daughter as a “Negro” child prodigy during the 1930s and 1940s, but I also document how she fashioned herself as a “mulatto” writer or a vaguely aristocratic “off-white” femme fatale during the 1950s and 1960s. My second case study looks at Lawrence Hill, a writer who grew up in the suburbs of Toronto during the 1950s and 1960s and has achieved a degree of prominence in Canada by casting himself as a middle-class Black “race man” like his African American father, the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Agency. Subsequent case studies investigate the legacy of the “Black is beautiful” movements of the 1960s on a wider variety of individuals—from working-class folks in Nova Scotia and Merseyside to American idols—and provide further evidence for my argument that a Black identity has been masculinized in opposition to the stigma attached to a “mulatto” identity associated with young “brown girls”. In doing so, I draw heavily on the work of Otto Rank, W.E.B Du Bois and Frantz Fanon. In particular, I link Rank’s ideas about creative artistry – that it was a masculine attempt to give birth to a new self, community or nation—to the theories of Du Bois and Fanon that defined “honest intellectuals” in a Black Atlantic against mixed-race women and children.

Purchase the dissertation here.

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