Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2017-07-16 02:09Z by Steven

Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture

University of Massachusetts Press
December 2016
310 pages
16 b&w illustrations
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 978-1-62534-231-7
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-62534-230-0

Edited by:

Sara Lennox, Professor Emerita of German Studies
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

A major contribution to Black-German studies

In 1984 at the Free University of Berlin, the African American poet Audre Lorde asked her Black, German-speaking women students about their identities. The women revealed that they had no common term to describe themselves and had until then lacked a way to identify their shared interests and concerns. Out of Lorde’s seminar emerged both the term “Afro-German” (or “Black German”) and the 1986 publication of the volume that appeared in English translation as Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out. The book launched a movement that has since catalyzed activism and scholarship in Germany.

Remapping Black Germany collects thirteen pieces that consider the wide array of issues facing Black German groups and individuals across turbulent periods, spanning the German colonial period, National Socialism, divided Germany, and the enormous outpouring of Black German creativity after 1986.

In addition to the editor, the contributors include Robert Bernasconi, Tina Campt, Maria I. Diedrich, Maureen Maisha Eggers, Fatima El-Tayeb, Heide Fehrenbach, Dirk Göttsche, Felicitas Jaima, Katja Kinder, Tobias Nagl, Katharina Oguntoye, Peggy Piesche, Christian Rogowski, and Nicola Lauré al-Samarai.

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Through an Indian’s Looking-Glass: A Cultural Biography of William Apess, Pequot

Posted in Biography, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, United Kingdom on 2017-07-16 01:50Z by Steven

Through an Indian’s Looking-Glass: A Cultural Biography of William Apess, Pequot

University of Massachusetts Press
January 2017
310 pages
16 b&w illustrations
6.125 x 9.25
Paper ISBN: 978-1-62534-259-1
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-62534-258-4

Drew Lopenzina, Associate Professor of English
Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

New insights on an important Native American writer

The life of William Apess (1798–1839), a Pequot Indian, Methodist preacher, and widely celebrated writer, provides a lens through which to comprehend the complex dynamics of indigenous survival and resistance in the era of America’s early nationhood. Apess’s life intersects with multiple aspects of indigenous identity and existence in this period, including indentured servitude, slavery, service in the armed forces, syncretic engagements with Christian spirituality, and Native struggles for political and cultural autonomy. Even more, Apess offers a powerful and provocative voice for the persistence of Native presence in a time and place that was long supposed to have settled its “Indian question” in favor of extinction.

Through meticulous archival research, close readings of Apess’s key works, and informed and imaginative speculation about his largely enigmatic life, Drew Lopenzina provides a vivid portrait of this singular Native American figure. This new biography will sit alongside Apess’s own writing as vital reading for those interested in early America and indigeneity.

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Dolezal Controversy Sharpens Focus on Racial Identity

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing on 2015-07-02 01:33Z by Steven

Dolezal Controversy Sharpens Focus on Racial Identity

University of Massachusetts Press

The recent controversy concerning Rachel Dolezal’s racial identity steered many readers to a 2008 UMass Press book by Baz Dreisinger, Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture, which explores cases in which legally white individuals are imagined, by themselves or by others, as passing for black.

Many news venues—the New York Times, CNN, LA Times, The Atlantic, and others—found their way to Dreisinger to ask her thoughts. The controversy, Dreisinger told the New York Times, “taps into all of these issues around blackface and wearing blackness and that whole cultural legacy, which makes it that much more vile.”

In The Atlantic, Dreisinger said “I think it’s critical to recognize the ways in which American whites have a long legacy of fetishizing blackness, whether they’re literally passing or not, but the ways in which their notions of blackness are based upon caricatures, and not characters. They’re based on idealized or cartoonish notions of what blackness is.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Of Many Colors: Portraits of Multiracial Families

Posted in Arts, Books, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-03 18:46Z by Steven

Of Many Colors: Portraits of Multiracial Families

University of Massachusetts Press
160 pages
0.5 x 8 x 10.5 inches
ISBN (paper): 978-1-55849-101-4
ISBN (cloth): 978-1-55849-100-7 (out of print)

Gigi Kaeser, Co-director
Family Diversity Projects, Inc., Amherst, Massachusetts

Peggy Gillespie, Co-director
Family Diversity Projects, Inc., Amherst, Massachusetts

Photographs by Gigi Kaeser. Interviews by Peggy Gillespie.

Based on an award-winning photo exhibit, this book documents the feelings and experiences of Americans who live in multiracial families. Of Many Colors tells the stories of thirty-nine families who have bridged the racial divide through interracial marriage or adoption. In these pages, parents and children speak candidly about their lives, their relationships, and the ways in which they have dealt with issues of race.

Although the number of mixed-race families in America is steadily rising, this trend remains controversial. For centuries, America has depended on distinct racial categories for its social, political, and economic organization. The current debate over the inclusion of a “multiracial” category on census forms illustrates the extent to which the deeply embedded construct of race continues to divide our society.

Transracial adoption has also generated fierce controversy and debate. As in the case of racial categories, the discussion of transracial adoption reflects ever-changing social standards. As recently as 1987, thirty-five states had laws prohibiting the adoption of black children by white families. In 1996, however, President Clinton signed a bill making it illegal to prohibit adoptions based on race.

The interviews in this book provide the reader with a clear understanding of how mixed-race families contradict stereotypes, challenge racism, and demonstrate that people of different races can indeed live together in harmony. Family members also have much to say about the most intimate form of integration, familial love, and this love is made visible in the superb photographs by Gigi Kaeser.

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Race Relations in Virginia & Miscegenation in the South, 1776-1860

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2013-01-31 04:29Z by Steven

Race Relations in Virginia & Miscegenation in the South, 1776-1860

University of Massachusetts Press
362 pages
ISBN-10: 0870230506; ISBN-13: 978-0870230509

James Hugo Johnston (1891-1974), Professor of History
University of Virginia


    • 1. Friendly Relations
    • 2. Violent Relations
    • 3. Free Negro Relations
    • 4. The Humanitarians
    • 5. The Growth of Antislavery
    • 6. The Convention of 1829 and Nat Turner’s Insurrection
    • 7. The Intermixture of Races in the Colonial Period
    • 8. The Problem of Racial Identity
    • 9. The White Man and His Negro Relations
    • 10. The Status of the White Woman in the Slave States
    • 11. Indian Relations
    • 12. Mulatto Life in the Slave Period
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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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Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes

Posted in Books, Canada, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, United States, Women on 2012-02-05 02:10Z by Steven

Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes

University of Massachusetts Press
December, 2001
256 pages
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN (paper):  978-1-55849-310-0

Susan Sleeper-Smith, Professor of History
Michigan State University

An innovative study of cultural resilience and resistance in early America

A center of the lucrative fur trade throughout the colonial period, the Great Lakes region was an important site of cultural as well as economic exchange between native and European peoples. In this well-researched study, Susan Sleeper-Smith focuses on an often overlooked aspect of these interactions—the role played by Indian women who married French traders. Drawing on a broad range of primary and secondary sources, she shows how these women used a variety of means to negotiate a middle ground between two disparate cultures. Many were converts to Catholicism who constructed elaborate mixed-blood kinship networks that paralleled those of native society, thus facilitating the integration of Indian and French values. By the mid-eighteenth century, native women had extended these kin linkages to fur trade communities throughout the Great Lakes, not only enhancing access to the region’s highly prized pelts but also ensuring safe transport for other goods. Indian Women and French Men depicts the encounter of Old World and New as an extended process of indigenous adaptation and change rather than one of conflict and inevitable demise. By serving as brokers between those two worlds, Indian women who married French men helped connect the Great Lakes to a larger, expanding transatlantic economy while securing the survival of their own native culture. As such, Sleeper-Smith points out, their experiences illuminate those of other traditional cultures forced to adapt to market-motivated Europeans.


  • Illustrations
  • Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Fish to Furs: The Fur Trade in Illinois Country
  • 2. Marie Rouensa and the Jesuits: Conversion, Gender, and Power
  • 3. Marie Madeleine Réaume L’archêveque Chevalier and the St. Joseph River Potawatomi
  • 4. British Governance in the Western Great Lakes
  • 5. Agriculture, Warfare, and Neutrality
  • 6. Being Indian and Becoming Catholic
  • 7. Hiding in Plain View: Persistence on the Indiana Frontier
  • 8. Emigrants and Indians: Michigan’s Mythical Frontier
  • Notes
  • Index
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Race Passing and American Individualism

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2011-01-17 00:19Z by Steven

Race Passing and American Individualism

University of Massachusetts Press
February 2003
176 pages
Cloth ISBN: 1-55849-377-8 (Print on Demand)

Kathleen Pfeiffer, Professor of English
Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

A literary study of the ambiguities of racial identity in American culture

In the literature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, black characters who pass for white embody a paradox. By virtue of the “one drop” rule that long governed the nation’s race relations, they are legally black. Yet the color of their skin makes them visibly-and therefore socially-white.

In this book, Kathleen Pfeiffer explores the implications of this dilemma by analyzing its treatment in the fiction of six writers: William Dean Howells, Frances E. W. Harper, Jean Toomer, James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, and Nella Larsen. Although passing for white has sometimes been viewed as an expression of racial self-hatred or disloyalty, Pfeiffer argues that the literary evidence is much more ambiguous than that. Rather than indicating a denial of “blackness” or co-optation by the dominant white culture, passing can be viewed as a form of self-determination consistent with American individualism. In their desire to manipulate personal identity in order to achieve social acceptance and upward mobility, light-skinned blacks who pass for white are no different than those Americans who reinvent themselves in terms of class, religion, or family history.

In Pfeiffer’s view, to see race passing as a problematic but potentially legitimate expression of individualism is to invite richer and more complex readings of a broad range of literary texts. More than that, it represents a challenge to the segregationist logic of the “one drop” rule and, as such, subverts the ideology of racial essentialism.

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Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Europe, Media Archive, Women on 2010-05-11 02:25Z by Steven

Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out

Orlanda Frauenverlag (German)
University of Massachusetts Press (English)
ISBN: 0-87023-759-4
Likely out of print.

Edited by

May Opitz [Ayim]
Katharina Oguntoye
Dagmar Schultz

Translated by Anne V. Adams

Foreword by Audre Lorde

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Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture

Posted in Books, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing on 2010-04-05 21:45Z by Steven

Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture

University of Massachusetts Press
November 2008
224 pages
paper ISBN 978-1-55849-675-0; cloth ISBN 978-1-55849-674-3

Baz Dreisinger, Associate Professor of English
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

A provocative look at the shifting contours of racial identity in America

In the United States, the notion of racial “passing” is usually associated with blacks and other minorities who seek to present themselves as part of the white majority. Yet as Baz Dreisinger demonstrates in this fascinating study, another form of this phenomenon also occurs, if less frequently, in American culture: cases in which legally white individuals are imagined, by themselves or by others, as passing for black.

In Near Black, Dreisinger explores the oft-ignored history of what she calls “reverse racial passing” by looking at a broad spectrum of short stories, novels, films, autobiographies, and pop-culture discourse that depict whites passing for black. The protagonists of these narratives, she shows, span centuries and cross contexts, from slavery to civil rights, jazz to rock to hip-hop. Tracing their role from the 1830s to the present day, Dreisinger argues that central to the enterprise of reverse passing are ideas about proximity. Because “blackness,” so to speak, is imagined as transmittable, proximity to blackness is invested with the power to turn whites black: those who are literally “near black” become metaphorically “near black.” While this concept first arose during Reconstruction in the context of white anxieties about miscegenation, it was revised by later white passers for whom proximity to blackness became an authenticating badge.

As Dreisinger shows, some white-to-black passers pass via self-identification. Jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow, for example, claimed that living among blacks and playing jazz had literally darkened his skin. Others are taken for black by a given community for a period of time. This was the experience of Jewish critic Waldo Frank during his travels with Jean Toomer, as well as that of disc jockey Hoss Allen, master of R&B slang at Nashville’s famed WLAC radio. For journalists John Howard Griffin and Grace Halsell, passing was a deliberate and fleeting experiment, while for Mark Twain’s fictional white slave in Pudd’nhead Wilson, it is a near-permanent and accidental occurrence.

Whether understood as a function of proximity or behavior, skin color or cultural heritage, self-definition or the perception of others, what all these variants of “reverse passing” demonstrate, according to Dreisinger, is that the lines defining racial identity in American culture are not only blurred but subject to change.

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