Meet the Viscountess Transforming the Idea of British Aristocracy

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2018-04-26 02:10Z by Steven

Meet the Viscountess Transforming the Idea of British Aristocracy

Vanity Fair
2018-04-25 (May 2018 Issue)

David Kamp, Contributing Editor

Photograph by Simon Upton.
Emma Thynn, the Viscountess Weymouth, on the roof of Longleat House, in Wiltshire, England

Emma Thynn, an extraordinary cook and mother who is positioned to become Britain’s first black marchioness, has recast the mold of aristocracy with her stylish, entrepreneurial spirit—despite a strained relationship with her in-laws.

So there we were, the future ninth Marquess of Bath and me, on a boat patrolling a lake on his family’s estate, each of us holding a plastic cup full of sprats. All at once, some sea lions surfaced starboard, barking expectantly, their whiskery maws wide open. We hustled to the boat’s railing, emptying our cups, tossing the silvery fish to the appreciative beasts. The marquess-to-be took to this task with particular relish, unsqueamish about getting his fingers slimy and barking back at the sea lions, “Urt! Urt! Urt!” As was only appropriate: he is three and a half years old.

The boy’s mother, Emma, Viscountess Weymouth, was leading me on a tour of the estate, Longleat, which includes a drive-through safari park open to the public. John, my fish-tossing comrade and the elder of Emma’s two sons, was tagging along. The park’s animals include tigers, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, red pandas, gorillas, monkeys, rhinos, hippopotamuses, and an Asian elephant, Anne, who was restored to good health after years of abuse in a circus and now lives at Longleat in her own purpose-built facility with a trio of companion goats. There are also walk-through enclosures where visitors can feed smaller animals, such as tamarins and rainbow lorikeets, and there is the boat ride, where a cup of sprats usually goes for £1, a fee that was waived for his lordship and his adult guest…

Emma McQuiston was born in 1986 to a Nigerian father and an English mother. When her husband, Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth, assumes the title held at the moment by his 86-year-old father, Alexander, the current, and seventh, Marquess of Bath, Emma will become Britain’s first black marchioness. In the ranks of British peerage, a marquess and marchioness are second only to a duke and duchess. And someday, young John, a sweet and precociously eloquent boy with caramel skin and loose black curls, will assume his father’s title and become the United Kingdom’s first marquess of color…

Read the entire article here.

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The Photograph That Helped Misty Copeland Realize Her Responsibility as a Black Woman in Ballet

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Women on 2016-12-26 17:08Z by Steven

The Photograph That Helped Misty Copeland Realize Her Responsibility as a Black Woman in Ballet

Vanity Fair

Misty Copeland

Ahead of her new book, the first African-American female principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre reveals the power of seeing a portrait of Raven Wilkinson, who broke color barriers in ballet more than 50 years ago.

“I saw this image of dancer Raven Wilkinson for the first time in Ballets Russes, the 2005 documentary. I cried upon hearing a history I didn’t know much about. As a black woman in the classical-ballet world, I realized then that, although things have evolved in the 50 years since Raven faced severe racism while performing with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, black women still face an uphill battle finding their place as professionals in classical ballet…

Read the entire article here.

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Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-08-23 19:52Z by Steven

Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil

Vanity Fair
September 2016

Charles Bolden, Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Katherine Johnson, photographed at Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia.
Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

NASA chief Charles Bolden recalls the historic trajectory of the “human computer” who played a key role in the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as a female African-American in the 1960s, shattered stereotypes in the process.

When I was growing up, in segregated South Carolina, African-American role models in national life were few and far between. Later, when my fellow flight students and I, in training at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, clustered around a small television watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, little did I know that one of the key figures responsible for its success was an unassuming black woman from West Virginia: Katherine Johnson. Hidden Figures is both an upcoming book and an upcoming movie about her incredible life, and, as the title suggests, Katherine worked behind the scenes but with incredible impact…

..“In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong,” she said. Her succinct words belie a deep curiosity about the world and dedication to her discipline, despite the prejudices of her time against both women and African-Americans. It was her duty to calculate orbital trajectories and flight times relative to the position of the moon—you know, simple things. In this day and age, when we increasingly rely on technology, it’s hard to believe that John Glenn himself tasked Katherine to double-check the results of the computer calculations before his historic orbital flight, the first by an American. The numbers of the human computer and the machine matched.

With a slide rule and a pencil, Katherine advanced the cause of human rights and the frontier of human achievement at the same time. Having graduated from high school at 14 and college at 18 at a time when African-Americans often did not go beyond the eighth grade, she used her amazing facility with geometry to calculate Alan Shepard’s flight path and took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon to orbit it, land on it, and return safely to Earth…

Read the entire article here.

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“I think she [Rachel Dolezal] was a bit of a hero, because she kind of flipped on society a little bit.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-10-06 17:53Z by Steven

“I think she [Rachel Dolezal] was a bit of a hero, because she kind of flipped on society a little bit. Is it such a horrible thing that she pretended to be black? Black is a great thing, and I think she legit changed people’s perspective a bit and woke people up.” —Rihanna (Robyn Rihanna Fenty)

Lisa Robinson, “Rihanna in Cuba,” Vanity Fair, November 2015.

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Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-21 02:29Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies

Vanity Fair

Allison Samuels

Justin Bishop, Photography

Photograph by Justin Bishop.

For a time this summer, it seemed all anyone could talk about was the N.A.A.C.P. chapter president whose parents had “outed” her as white. The tornado of public attention has since moved on, but Rachel Dolezal still has to live with her choices—and still refuses to back down.

It’s safe to say that Rachel Dolezal never thought much about the endgame. You can see it on her face in the local-TV news video—the one so potently viral it transformed her from regional curiosity to global punch line in the span of 48 hours in mid-June. It is precisely the look of a white woman who tanned for a darker hue, who showcased a constant rotation of elaborately designed African American hairstyles, and who otherwise lived her life as a black woman, being asked if she is indeed African American.

It is the look of a cover blown…

Read the entire interview here.

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Going to College and Learning You’re Black: The Moving Story of Little White Lie

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-11-28 18:30Z by Steven

Going to College and Learning You’re Black: The Moving Story of Little White Lie

Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair’s Hollywood

Chase Quinn

“You boys are black, and don’t you forget that.”

From an early age I was taught that both my black identity and my white-Irish identity were important, and that I was never to relinquish either from my understanding of who I was. Watching Lacey Schwartz’s thought-provoking documentary Little White Lie— now in limited release and airing on PBS March 23—I was reminded of this formative experience, the wisdom of these seemingly competing messages and the diverse range of biracial narratives out there.

Little White Lie traces the story of Schwartz’s discovery of her mixed-race heritage after 18 years believing she was the product of two white, Jewish parents. After submitting a photo of herself with her undergraduate application to Georgetown and being contacted by their black student alliance, she begins to question the story she’s been told about who she is and that of her parents’ picture-perfect marriage. Ultimately she’s forced to confront her mother about a secret affair with Schwartz’s biological father, a black man and longtime family friend, and reexamine who she is as person…

Read the entire review here.

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William Makepeace Thackeray: Racist?

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2014-10-26 17:07Z by Steven

William Makepeace Thackeray: Racist?

OUPblog: Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World

John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature
University College, London

We can never know the Victorians as well as they knew themselves. Nor–however well we annotate our texts–can we read Victorian novels as responsively as Victorians read them. They, not we, own their fiction. Thackeray and his original readers shared a common ground so familiar that there was no need for it to be spelled out. The challenge for the modern reader is to reconstruct that background as fully as we can. To ‘Victorianize’ ourselves, one might say.

It goes beyond stripping out the furniture of everyday life (horses not motorised transport, no running hot water, rampant infectious diseases) into attitudes. Can we—to take one troublesome example—in reading, say, Vanity Fair, ‘Victorianize’ our contemporary feelings about race? Or should we accept the jolt that overt 19th-century racism gives the modern reader, take it on board, and analyse what lies behind it?

It crops up in the very opening pages of Vanity Fair. Thackeray’s first full-page illustration in the novel shows the coach carrying Amelia and Becky (she hurling her Johnson’s ‘Dixonary’ out of the window) from Miss Pinkerton’s to the freedom of Russell Square. Free, free at last. Looked at closely, we may also note a black footman riding postilion in the Sedley coach. He is, we later learn, called Sambo. He features a couple of times in the first numbers and his presence hints, obliquely, that the slave trade is one field of business that the two rich merchants, Mr Sedley and Mr Osborne, may have made money from. The trade was, of course, abolished by Wilberforce’s act in 1805, but slaves continued to work in the British West Indies on the sugar plantations until the 1830s. The opening chapters of Vanity Fair are set in 1813…

…There is another character in the novel with an interest in the West Indies. Amelia’s and Becky’s schoolmate at Miss Pinkerton’s academy, Miss Swartz, is introduced as the rich woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt’s.’ St. Kitt’s, one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, had (until well into the twentieth century) a monoculture economy based on one crop, sugar. The plantations were worked, until the mid-1830s, by slaves–of whom Miss Swartz’s mother must have been one. Dobbin’s and George’s regiment, the ‘—-th,’ has recently been garrisoned at St. Kitts just before we encounter them. One of their duties would be to put down the occasional slave rebellions.

Miss Swartz is, we deduce, the daughter of a sugar merchant (the name hints at Jewish paternity) who has consoled himself with a black concubine. This was normal practice. It was also something painfully familiar to Thackeray. His father had been a high-ranking official in the East India Company. Thackeray, we recall, was born in Calcutta and educated himself on money earned in India. Before marrying, Thackeray’s father, as was normal, had a ‘native’ mistress and by her an illegitimate daughter, Sarah Blechynden. It was an embarrassment to the novelist, who declined any relationship with his half-sister in later life. In the truly hideous depiction Thackeray made of Miss Swartz (he illustrated his fiction, of course) in chapter 21 (‘Miss Swartz Rehearsing for the Drawing-Room’) one may suspect spite and an element of shame. What was the abolitionist’s motto—‘Am I not a Man and a Brother’? What was Miss Swartz’s mute cry, ‘Am I not a Woman and a Sister?’ No is the answer Thackeray returns.

Thackeray’s views on race remained unreconstructed. In a letter sent to his mother from America, on his first trip there (now a world-famous as the author of Vanity Fair) he wrote of the black slaves he saw in the south: ‘They are not my men and brethren, these strange people with theire retreating foreheads, and with great obtruding lips and jaws . . . Sambo is not my man and my brother.’ Thackeray died during the American Civil War. He proclaimed himself a firm supporter of the Confederacy and slavery…

Read the entire article here.

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Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United Kingdom, Women on 2009-10-12 23:07Z by Steven

Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture

Duke University Press
272 pages
13 b&w photographs
Cloth ISBN: 0-8223-2105-X, ISBN13: 978-0-8223-2105-7
Paperback ISBN: 0-8223-2120-3, ISBN13 978-0-8223-2120-0

Jennifer DeVere Brody, Professor, African and African American Studies
Duke University

Using black feminist theory and African American studies to read Victorian culture, Impossible Purities looks at the construction of “Englishness” as white, masculine, and pure and “Americanness” as black, feminine, and impure. Brody’s readings of Victorian novels, plays, paintings, and science fiction reveal the impossibility of purity and the inevitability of hybridity in representations of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and race. She amasses a considerable amount of evidence to show that Victorian culture was bound inextricably to various forms and figures of blackness.

Opening with a reading of Daniel Defoe’s “A True-Born Englishman,” which posits the mixed origins of English identity, Brody goes on to analyze mulattas typified by Rhoda Swartz in William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, whose mixed-race status reveals the “unseemly origins of English imperial power.” Examining Victorian stage productions from blackface minstrel shows to performances of The Octoroon and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she explains how such productions depended upon feminized, “black” figures in order to reproduce Englishmen as masculine white subjects. She also discusses H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau in the context of debates about the “new woman,” slavery, and fears of the monstrous degeneration of English gentleman. Impossible Purities concludes with a discussion of Bram Stoker’s novella, “The Lair of the White Worm,” which brings together the book’s concerns with changing racial representations on both sides of the Atlantic.

This book will be of interest to scholars in Victorian studies, literary theory, African American studies, and cultural criticism.

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