New England Identities
Black New England Conference 2009: Lecture Summaries
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Thursday, June 11: Portland, Maine Black Heritage Tour
10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Portland Freedom Trail
PORTLAND FREEDOM TRAIL
The Portland Freedom Trail, the first project of the Maine Freedom Trails, Inc, is a permanent walking trail of thirteen marked sites throughout the Portland peninsula that help tell the story of the Underground Railroad and abolitionist movement. Starting in Durham, NH attendees will first visit 8 sites on the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, representing Colonial slavery through the Civil Rights Movement in New Hampshire, before continuing on to Portland Maine.
A box lunch will be provided. Involves some walking.
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Thursday, June 11: MUB Theatre 1
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Movie & Discussion
THE HUMAN STAIN
Starring: Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins
The Human Stain is the story of Coleman Silk (Hopkins), a classics professor with a terrible secret that is about to shatter his life in a small New England town. When his affair with a young troubled janitor (Kidman) is uncovered, the secret Silk had harbored for over fifty years from his wife, his children and colleague, writer Nathan Zuckerman, fast explodes in a conflagration of devastating consequences. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled.
Discussion Facilitated by: Delia Konzett, Assistant Professor of English and Cinema/American/ Women's Studies at UNH.
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Friday, June 12: UNH Holloway Commons
9:00 - 10:30 am
Session #1: Re-Visioning Color: Race in the Arts
Woman of the Red Atlantic: Nancy Elizabeth Prophet's Shifting Racial Identities
Nancy Elizabeth Prophet was a sculptor of Narragansett/African-American heritage who traveled to Paris in the 1920s to work. There she was embraced by Countee Cullen and other prominent African-American intellectuals—celebrated in magazines and exhibits—as a modern Black artist. At the same time, Prophet is on the record as identifying more strongly as Native American. To a degree, this presentation will try to ‘reclaim’ Prophet as Narragansett. I do not mean to argue that Prophet was Narragansett and not African-American. Rather, I would like to think about her as a case study in competing claims for and of ethnicity—particularly in Southern New England, where Native people who have long intermarried with other races are especially plagued by the vanishing-race trope; and in the early decades of the twentieth century, when Native peoples were pursuing complicated forms of cultural revitalization and sovereignty. In many ways the Black (and Red) Prophet provides an exemplary case of dismantling and breaking down constructions of race and ethnicity. However, Native American Studies these days is more concerned with questions of sovereignty, and of how Native intellectuals reaffirmed Indigenous difference and traditions. Can these two strains of theory be made to talk to each other? As one who faced extreme penury and discrimination as a racialized woman, Nancy Prophet offers some new purchase on the deep entangling of race, gender, and modernity.
Siobhan Senier is an Associate Professor of English and American Studies at the University of New Hampshire. Her fields of research include Native American Studies, 19th century American literature, and Women’s Studies.
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Nomads in Plain Sight: Creole as a Concept or Post Identity Crisis Syndrome
The United States of America has a propensity to embrace or deny the truth when squarely in its presence. "Creole[lization]" is the issue that still troubles this society greatly. All of the discourse that swirled around Obama, as to his "racial" identity/category is evidence of this confliction. Those who traffic in this confliction, I think, are suffering from post identity crisis syndrome and many of the unthinking public accept it as a "real" issue to be consumed with or about are thusly suffering the same affliction. This will be a spicy dialogue of visual delight.
Napoleon Jones Henderson, a New England artist, attended the Sorbonne in Paris , received a B.A. of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago and did his graduate studies at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. He is a founding member of Africobra, one of the most important visual arts collectives to come out of the Chicago Black Arts Movement. He received the Mayor of Boston "Award of Recognition for Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit," the Massachusetts State Senate "Omical Citation for Cultural Excellence," and an "Award of Excellence" from the National Conference of Artists.
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Interracial New England in Cinema
This presentation will look at different forms of racial and ethnic mixing, including the concepts of "passing", miscegenation, and various hybridity. It will explore a range of representations of race mixing and how they challenge or affirm the New England cultural and racial status quo.
Delia Konzett is Assistant Professor of English and Cinema/American/ Women's Studies at UNH. She is the author of Ethnic Modernisms and is currently working on WWII Film and Orientalism.
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10:45 - 12:15 pm
Session #2: The Power to Name: New England in Red & Black
Mixed-Blood Indians of Southern New England
Today, eight out of ten Native Americans are of mixed-blood as a result of slavery and post-slavery intermarriage, particularly in New England. The infamous "one-drop rule," which is also tied to the colonial slave system, decreed that a single drop of black blood, or a single ancestor who was African, made an individual of mixed-race black. Racial classifications were eventually introduced to codify and strengthen segregation, discrimination, and the disfranchisement of Native people. The federal government continues to use blood laws as part of the phasing-out process of Indians, when in fact, modern science shows the reality of race only to exist on paper. In 2007 I had the state of Rhode Island amend the racial category on my birth certificate from "Negro" to "American Indian." Amending my birth certificate should not be seen as a rejection of my African-American or white ancestry. It is an affirmation of my Indian identity that was central to my upbringing. I assert my tri-racial identity, but most of America’s forms, like birth certificates, at present allow listing only one race. To employ biological over cultural definitions of American Indians reflects a fundamental ignorance of American history and Native traditions. Asserting my right to choose my ancestry is an act of self-determination in a country that has gone so far as to erase my ancestry from history.
Julianne Jennings is a Cheroenhaka Nottoway who is an adjunct professor in the Department of Anthropology at Eastern Connecticut State University. Jennings served as associate co-producer for the Emmy Award winning PBS documentary, Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War, where she wrote and performed several original songs in the lost languages of the Massachusett Narragansett and Pequot.
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MELISSANE PARM SCHREMS
A "Very bad outcry": The Mashpee-Wampanoag Proprietors’ Struggle Against the Theft of Political Autonomy, 1788-1789
By 1788 the Mashpee Wampanoag had suffered the loss of their political autonomy. Undaunted, members of the Simon, Mye and Babcock families fought back through the court to have the architect of their hardship removed, their once protector, the Rev. Gideon Hawley. A fascinating history in its own right, this narrative serves as a prologue to the Apess-led "quiet riot" of 1834. It addresses "the complex interactions, conflicts, resistance efforts and experiences of Black, white, Indigenous and multiracial" inhabitants of Mashpee Plantation on Cape Cod. This work draws on the presenter’s manuscript as well as additional information from the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Massachusetts States Archives.
Melissane Parm Schrems is an Assistant Professor of History at St. Lawrence University, where she teaches courses on Native American and Colonial American history. Dr. Parm has written an article entitled "The Forging of Independence: The Mashpee Indians, Gideon Hawley, and the Balance of Power," to be published in The Proceedings of the Third Annual Mashantucket Pequot Conference: 18th Century Native Communities of Southern New England in the Colonial Context.
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William S. Yellow Robe, Jr., and Margo Lukens
Rez Politics: Re-examining the realities of blood quantum and intertribal relationships
William Yellow Robe, a well-known Native American playwright, and Margo Lukens, an associate professor of English, will present their two year project of discussing multiple identities through Native American playwrights at the University of Maine and its surrounding communities. These literary discussions included presentations of Yellow Robe’s play "Rez Politics", a play that is designed to demonstrate how the indoctrination of young people around race begins at an early age.
Post-show discussions provided the means for all audience and production members to engage in an open dialogue dealing with their own experiences and feelings, as well as thoughts and observations about race and racism in present-day Maine. The post-show conversations revealed the largely unexplored and complex territory of racial identities in New England.
William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. is an Assiniboine playwright, director, poet, actor, writer, and educator from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, in Montana. He has written more than forty-five plays including: The Independence of Eddie Rose, Sneaky, The Star Quilter, The Body Guards, The Council, Falling Distance, A Great Thing, Native American Paranormal Society (NAPS), Wink-da, Hate: Old Ways Learn New Ways, The Pendleton Blanket, and A Broken Bottle-A Broken Family.
He is a recipient of the "First Nations Book Award for Drama. " He is the first playwright to receive a Princess Grace Foundation Theater Fellowship, and the first Native American playwright to receive a Jerome Fellowship from the Minneapolis Playwrights' Center, and a New England Theater Foundation award for Excellence.
William Yellow Robe , Jr. is presently a lecturer at the University of Maine and faculty affiliate with the University of Montana Creative Writing department. He and Dr. Margo Lukens recently published a collection of his full-length plays Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers and other untold stories (UCLA 2009); they also have a chapter in a forthcoming book, American Indian Performing Arts: Critical Directions edited by Hanay Geiogamah and Jaye Darby. For more about the book visit: http://www.books.aisc.ucla.edu/toc/grandchildren.html
Margo Lukens teaches various American literatures in the department of English and directs the academic program in Innovation at the University of Maine. Her work has evolved to include teaching Native American drama and staging Native community theatrical events with a group known as the Penobscot Intertribal Players. She has been collaborating with William Yellow Robe since 2003 on intertribal theatre performances including readers’ theater, radio productions, and full productions; their critical work on intertribal theater “Two Worlds on One Stage: working in collaboration &c” is forthcoming in a book from UCLA American Indian Studies Center.
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1:00 - 1:30 pm
MWALIM (MORGAN JAMES PETERS)
You're An Indian?
"You’re An Indian?" is the performance-lecture version of storyteller, poet, writer, educator Mwalim’s award-winning one-man show, "A Party at the Crossroads." Born in the Northeast Bronx to a Bajan (Barbados) American mother and a Mashpee Wampanoag father, and growing up in both the Bronx and Mashpee, Massachusetts—Mwalim’s experiences and perspectives of the world were a little different than those around him. Accompanying himself with hand-drum and keyboard, Mwalim takes us on a musical and storytelling journey through the Black Indian experience, from Crispus Attucks to Charlie Parker, Chuck Berry, and Jimi Hendrix. hip to the larger black women’s club movement. This paper explores how black women in Newton’spredominately white suburban community exemplify womanist consciousness while redefining rigid racial and gender identities.
Morgan James Peters is Assistant Professor of English & African American Studies at the University of Massachusetts.
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1:45 - 3:15 pm
Session #3: Contending with Tradition: Black Bostonians & the Negotiation of Identities
"We Are Not Your Enemies": Black Americans and the New England Colonization Movement in 1818-1860
This paper explores the white-led colonization movement in New England by situating this movement within broader discourses over the black presence in cities such as Boston, New Haven, and Providence. The presenter examines black Americans’ response to pro-colonization rhetoric as they asserted their right to live unmolested in the land of their birth even with the aggressive efforts to drive them from the nation led by the American Colonization Society and state affiliates between 1817 and 1860. By looking at debates over colonization in New England, this paper will explore broader issues of racial identity and the notion of "Americaness", which drove white New Englanders to advocate deportation of blacks to Liberia, and thus ridding the region and nation of free blacks.
Ousmane Power-Greene is an Assistant Professor of History at Clark University, where he is an affiliate of the Race and Ethnic Relations Program. Dr. Power-Greene teaches courses on African American history, especially those that deal with African American social and political movements. Currently, he is researching twentieth century African American internationalism in the thought and activism of Hubert H. Harrison.
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Womanist Identities in Newton, Massachusetts, 1904-1920
The Daughters of Myrtle, founded in 1921, is a black women’s church club in a predominately black church in West Newton, Massachusetts, a majority-white suburb eight miles west of Boston, Massachusetts. Some scholars have examined black women’s roles within the church from denominational perspectives and their relationship to the larger black women’s club movement. This paper explores how black women in Newton’spredominately white suburban community exemplify womanist consciousness while redefining rigid racial and gender identities.
Deidre Hill-Butler is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Union College, where part of her academic research examines the social geography of race, class and gender in New England African American social institutions. Another research project focuses on the role of African American women in contemporary step-families. Dr. Hill-Butler is also an active member of the Black Women Health Project, a national black women’s grassroots health initiative.
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Elma Lewis, Cultural Brokerage, and Black Community Formation in Boston, 1939-1969
Elma Lewis was a bridge activist whose early institution-building efforts fostered race pride, community consciousness and the development of local networks that facilitated the sustained activism of Boston’s black community in the prolonged struggle for educational equality throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Lewis established cultural institutions (i.e. a school, a national arts organization and a museum) that helped transcend social, ideological, ethnic, regional and generational divisions within Boston’s black community. Her institutional vision was integral to the evolution of notions of black identity, community and consciousness that evolved in Boston throughout the postwar period. I am particularly interested in the ways her personal and professional identities illuminate the dynamics between Boston’s first and second-generation West Indian immigrants, the "black Brahmin" class and the socially and politically active group of transplants who often assumed the role of "middlemen," or "brokers," between various constituencies in black and white communities.
Daniel McClure is a core faculty member in the Department of Liberal Studies and African & African American Studies at Grand Valley State University.
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3:30 - 5:00 pm
Session #4: Writing Race
CAROL B. CONAWAY
Racially-Integrated Education and Racial Uplift in the Antebellum Thought of Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Frederick Douglass
In the late antebellum period, Afro-Canadian and African American intellectuals and activists, Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Frederick Douglass continued to support the concept of racially-integrated education for black children. Although Shadd Cary and Douglass agreed that racially-integrated education was crucial to racial uplift, they differed as to how it was to be achieved. To what were those differences attributable? I suggest that their differences on racially-integrated education were attributable to Shadd Cary’s liminality which complicated the usual gender binary, and to slavery as a complication of race and class. That is, that I argue that their differences may be explained not only by troubling the notion of a binary grid of race and gender, but also by complicating the notion of what we typically refer to as "class."
Carol B. Conaway is an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Communication; her fields of research include mass communication and gender studies. She is the co-editor, along with Kristin Waters, of Black Women’s Intellectual Traditions: Speaking Their Minds.
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Crossing Racial Lines to Advance a Race: The Rhetoric and Politics of Pauline Hopkins
At the turn of the twentieth century, the social and racial dilemma that African Americans found themselves in was one marked by racial hatred and violence; it was one that sought to disenfranchise, debilitate, and destroy them. Maine-born author Pauline Hopkins inserted herself into this embattled discourse on race with the publication of her novel, Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, published in 1900. Hopkins attempted to act as a rhetorical agent countering through the written word the vicious turn public opinion towards African Americans had taken. Through the rhetorical strategies in a speech from Contending Forces, "Will Smith’s Defense of His Race," which mixed-race character Will Smith delivers, her novel attempts to advance African Americans by illustrating to the white audience that African Americans are human beings who not only have white blood running through their veins, but they embody similar social values, manners, and tastes as those of the white upper class. Additionally, by including in her novel an encomium to activist and author Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, also a mixed-race individual, she seeks to appeal across racial lines to members of both the black and white community who had begun to speak on behalf of the "Negro problem." This paper will discuss the rhetorical strategies which she employs and the political philosophy she espouses to elevate the status of blacks.
Lena Amapadu is the Assistant Chair of and Associate Professor in the Department of English at Townson University, where she teaches Composition, Survey of African American Literature, Major Writers of African American Literature, and courses on black women writers. She has published a number of essays on composition and rhetoric, as well as African American literature. Her specialty is oral traditions in African and African American women’s novels. Dr. Amapadu’s book-length publication is entitled, Black Women’s Voices in the 19th Century: Speaking Their Minds.
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Dorothy West’s Classic Recordings of New England Life
This paper will discuss Dorothy West’s career as journalist during the Harlem Renaissance and as news columnist for the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette. For several decades West delved into journalism and the recording of daily life experiences of New Yorkers and Vineyarders from various ethnic backgrounds. She wrote exciting and illuminating columns that remain classic recordings of race, class, and gender that are peculiar to New England life.
Dr. Pearlie-Mae Peters is a Professor of English at Rider University. Dr. Peters' scholarship includes African American literature and folklore, nineteenth century American literature and multi-ethnic American literature. Dr. Peters has published articles and has presented numerous scholarly papers on the life and works of Zora Neale Hurston. She has also contributed scholarly articles on African American literature to The Oxford Companion to African American Literature and The African American Encyclopedia.
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Racism in Dorothy West’s Mother-Daughter Relationships
I argue that a dark-daughter complex inspired some of West’s most compelling fiction about mothers and daughters. I divide her mother-daughter fiction into three phases, each reflecting her relationship with her mother Rachel West. During the author’s first phase in the 1930s, she wrote two short stories—"Funeral" (1930) and "My Baby" (1938)—that depict her own childhood confusion about race and her alienation from her light-complexioned mother. In her second phase West portrays two black mothers—Mrs. Coleman in "Mammy" (1940) and Cleo Judd in the novel The Living Is Easy (1948)—who claim white privilege by passing either physically or psychologically and expect their daughters to join them in imitating whites. The novel captures Rachel West’s desire to mold Dorothy into "a little Boston lady" with Euro-American features and values. After expressing resentment toward Rachel in The Living Is Easy, the author moves on to write fiction that, instead of demonizing black mothers, identifies the causes of racism as beyond their control. Her treatment of racism in her short story "The Happiest Year, the Saddest Year" (1979) and her last novel The Wedding (1995) may have been influenced by her encounters with persons on Martha’s Vineyard who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement, black nationalism, and African American studies because, for the first time, West imagines black daughters who forgive their mother for internalizing white racism and who affirm the beauty of a black identity.
Margaret K. Schramm is a Professor of English at Hartwick College, where she teaches courses in Victorian, modern British, Irish, American ethnic, and women’s literature. Her publications include articles on Ellen Gilchrist, Janette Turner Hospital, Gus Lee, Toni Morrison, Grace Paley, and Alice Walker. Her current research interests are Virginia Woolf’s fiction and gender in American ethnic literature.
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7:00 - 9:30 pm
Keynote Address & Opening Reception (MUB Theatre 1)
Award winning author, Lorene Cary is best known in literary circles for her book Black Ice, which she wrote about her two years boarding experience at St. Paul’s School, a formerly all-white, all-male elite prep school in New Hampshire. She is the author of FREE!, a collection of true-life Underground Railroad Stories for young readers; The Price of A Child, a 1995 novel chosen as a One Book, One Philadelphia selection by the city’s mayor; and Pride. She is currently at work on her fifth book, Blackface.
A Senior Lecturer in creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, Cary is the founder of Art Sanctuary, a non-profit performance series that brings black artists to speak and perform at the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. With its partner Asian Arts Initiative, Art Sanctuary has won Pennsylvania’s 2005 Governor’s Award in the Arts for Creative Community collaboration. For her writing and arts activism, Cary was awarded her city’s highest civic honor, The Philadelphia Award. Her essays have appeared in Newsweek, Time, Essence, Mirabella, and other publications. She is president of the Union Benevolent Society. Cary lives in Philadelphia with her husband, the Rev. Robert C. Smith, and daughters Laura and Zoë.
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Saturday, June 13: UNH Holloway Commons
9:00 - 10:30 am
Session #5: Breaking Boundaries
The Problem of Slavery in Puritan Culture: Religion, Politics, and Community Formation in Black Boston
This paper analyzes the origins and creation of the antislavery movement by African Americans in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary era. While most studies of abolitionism in this period begin with the efforts of Quakers or the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, my analysis begins with the role blacks played in creating a community of activists in the Boston area. This collective activism began in 1773 with the presentation of a petition to the Massachusetts legislature by a committee of blacks, but had its roots in white Puritan churches and religious ideology. As such, my project argues against those historians who claim Christianity was not a driving force in the lives of slaves until the nineteenth century. Instead, I argue that fellowship in Christian churches and religious language was central in the development of antislavery activism among Massachusetts blacks.
Christopher Cameron grew up in New Hampshire, where he attended Keene State College. He received his MA in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008 and is currently a PhD Candidate in History at UNC, with an expected completion date of May 2011. His research interests include slavery, religion, and African American politics before the Civil War.
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"An Impertinent and Unchristian Spirit"
Like the stories of other free persons of color in antebellum New England, the tale of the Due family is one of hardship and struggle, in which their "freedom" is countered by poverty and mistreatment. The family’s experience in the small, rural community of Hancock, New Hampshire, is an example of racial constructs between the post-Revolutionary period and the rising abolitionist movement in New England. While scant information about the Due family exists in today’s sources, there is just enough to piece together a string of dramas that took place between 1794 and 1829. Records from the church, town, court and census reveal some of the drama that consumed the small town periodically for years, but was not mentioned in Hancock’s voluminous centennial history and would later be all but forgotten. This presentation will shed light on the story of one free New Hampshire family of color in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
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Charles Lenox Remond and the Repeal of Massachusetts Interracial Marriage Ban
This paper reveals Charles Lenox Remond’s previously unrecognized role in the 1843 legalization of interracial marriage in Massachusetts. Remond stood at the axis of antebellum New England’s interracial experience. In a reform career spanning half a century, he tirelessly campaigned for international emancipation, desegregation, and equal rights. For many, he became a symbol of the promise (or threat) of a racially integrated society. White abolitionists welcomed him as a colleague. They took great personal pride in dining at the Remond home or inviting the family for conspicuously public carriage rides. Meanwhile, anti-abolitionists cast Remond as a harbinger of "amalgamation." In 1842 he became the first African American to address the state legislature and, using the Jim Crow car and interracial marriage ban as examples, exposed the hypocrisy of Massachusetts’ status as a "free" state. Remond’s advocacy and his insistence upon equating equality and interracial socialization would prove critical to state legislators’ decision to repeal the ban only one year after his historic address.
Amber Moulton-Wiseman is a fourth year graduate student in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Her primary research interests include 19th- and 20th-Century African American history, theories of race, ethnicity and cultural belonging, slavery, lynching and racial violence, and interracial intimacy in the United States. At present, she is conducting research for her dissertation entitled "Marriage Extraordinary: Interracial Marriage and the Politics of Family in Antebellum Massachusetts."
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Race on Trial: Passing and the Van Houten Case in Boston
In 1894 Anna Van Houten sued Asa P. Morse in a controversial "breach of promise" case in Boston after he withdrew his proposal of marriage upon the discovery of her black ancestry. Morse contended it was a promise that he was not bound to keep because Van Houten was passing for white and had misrepresented herself by concealing her true identity. The case caused quite a stir in the delicate social and racial hierarchy of Boston and was watched very closely by the press who fed the public’s appetite for every detail of the scandal. While many in the public sympathized with Morse for having been deceived, the court concluded that the concealment of her race was not a factor and a breach of promise had indeed been committed. As a result, Van Houten won her original case as well as a sizable settlement. However, the verdict caused a public outcry. The case was successfully appealed and eventually overturned using a legal argument that claimed race constituted valid grounds for a breach of promise.
This paper examines the Van Houten case and what it reveals about Northern anxieties over passing and interracial marriage in the late nineteenth century in cities like Boston.
Zebulon Miletsky received his Ph.D. in African American Studies with a concentration in African American History from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Dr. Miletsky recently completed his dissertation entitled "City of Amalgamation: Race, Marriage, Color and Class in Boston, 1890-1930". A scholar-activist specializing in Urban History, History of Boston, Mixed Race and Biracial Identity, and History of Miscegenation /Interracial Marriage, he has published book reviews in The Journal of African American History and The New England Quarterly.
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10:45 - 12:15 pm
Session #6: Tracing the Color Line
Passing in Black and White: Danzy Senna’s Caucasia and New Hampshire’s "Negrobilia"
Danzy Senna’s novel signifies on New Hampshire as the state of Caucasia, a place identifiable for its whiteness, when a white mother decides that her biracial daughter, Birdy, should pass for white when they move here. As a novel of passing, it offers a double-consciousness, through the eyes of a child, of the constructions of racial identity. Senna carefully selects New Hampshire scenes, incidents, and people to represent American whiteness, so this paper explores the history of New Hampshire’s identifications with whiteness as well as its central role in creating racist images of blackness. Birdy has her father’s small collection of racist dolls and advertisements, what he called "Negrobilia," which serves ironically as a touchstone for her lost black identity while also reflecting on the artificiality of whiteness as an unexamined identity for New Hampshire Caucasians. This paper traces the history of New Hampshire’s "negrobilia," those items constructed in the state to articulate whiteness and blackness, from stereoviews of the 1890s to anti-MLK editorials in the 1960-90s, to examine what it means to pass for white or for black in the state of Caucasia in Senna’s novel.
David Watters is a Professor of English and American Studies at the University of New Hampshire, as well as the Director of the Center for New England Culture. Along with Professor Burt Feintuch, he co-edited The Encyclopedia of New England.
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The Changing Same: Competing Notions of Blackness Among Traditionally Defined African-Americans and Immigrants of the African Diaspora in the U.S.
This paper will discuss what it has meant to be "black" for black immigrants and their descendants in twentieth century US. The following three objectives are to be covered: (1) Providing the historical background, based on dissertation research on New England immigrants from the African Diaspora, specifically Cape Verdean and Caribbean immigrants; (2) Exploring the current tenor of this ongoing controversy, for instance the early debate over Barack Obama’s identity and the changing nature of ‘black’ college/ graduate students—many of whom are enrolled in Black Studies courses; and (3) Discussing the critical implications of this research for contemporary academia and laying out suggestions for how this debate may inform scholars’ research agendas as well as teaching. The paper engages with several themes. Specifically, looking at the case(s) of New England immigrants, their notions of identity and responses to US socio-cultural beliefs regarding race and immigration are examined during the period 1900-1980.
Aminah Pilgrim is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Africana Studies Department and the Director of its Cape Verdean Language & Culture Institute.
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VALERIE CUNNINGHAM & LINDA FREEMAN
Colors & Colorism
The purpose of this session is to stimulate self-reflection and open discussion among conferees about the significance of internalized racism as a mixed-race population becomes the majority. Linda Freeman begins with her presentation entitled "Colors," suggesting that, in the 21st century, the "color line" described by Dubois one hundred years ago has evolved into a color circle, more inclusive and far more complex than a simple separation of Blacks and Whites. Using a metaphor of the color wheel, she employs literary references and genealogy to illustrate typical challenges of contemporary bi-racially blended families in New England. Additionally, Valerie Cunningham follows with her paper, "Colorism," in which she observes the ways that lighter and darker skin colors have been used to assign status in a racial hierarchy. Examples from local history, genealogy, oral histories, and popular culture reveal a not-always subtle form of racism that has pervaded American life across generations.
Valerie Cunningham is from Portsmouth, NH. She is co-author of Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African American Heritage and is researching her family tree.
Linda Freeman Linda Casinghino Freeman explores multiracial, multicultural social issues in her writing. Her writing has been published in AIM (America’s Intercultural Magazine), Brown Aluni Monthly, Communiqué: The Bulletin of the Interracial Family Alliance and in Seacoast area publications. She is employed as a computer manager and is a life-long New England resident. She has two adult children and is researching her family genealogy.
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1:00 - 1:30 pm
Connecticut in the early 1830's offered three options for higher education: Yale University in New Haven; Washington College (now Trinity College) in Hartford and Wesleyan University in Middletown. None admitted women nor did any university in the United States, except Oberlin College in Ohio, founded in 1833.
Sarah Harris "a young woman of color, respectable, a teacher of religion and daughter of honorable parents," was born in 1812 in Norwich, Connecticut. Sarah dreamed of opening her own school for African-American children. To fulfill that ambition she required additional education. Sarah approached Prudence about accepting her as a day student at the Canterbury Female Boarding School. This took an act of immense courage, to request an education alongside the daughters of wealthy white citizens.
Hear the rationale of one woman's hopes and aspirations.
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1:45 - 3:15 pm
Session #7: Seperate & Unequal: Creating Black Spaces
Walden Pond and Post-Slavery Segregation in New England
My paper traces the rise and fall of an enclave of former slaves and their descendents on the shores of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. I link the forty-year history of this enclave to Henry David Thoreau’s decision thirty years later to live a subsistence lifestyle in Walden Woods, and I chronicle the subsequent erasure of the enclave’s history when the Walden Pond State Reservation was created in Thoreau’s name. My aim is both to show how an internationally renowned green space is inextricably linked to its history as a black space and to inspire discussion about how Walden Woods might be refigured as an African-American heritage site.
Elise Lemire is Associate Professor of Literature at Purchase College, the State University of New York. She is the author of "Miscegenation": Making Race in America (2002; paperback, 2009) and Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts (2009), both published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.
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KENT A. MCCONNELL
"Fly to arms and smite to death...the hopeless grave": The Contested Meaning of Black Soldiering in New England, 1861-1897
"I urge you to fly to arms and smite to death the power that would bury the government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave." With these words the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave his last public counsel to the men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment as they left Boston headed South in 1863. The arming of colored troops for frontline service was full of controversy throughout the North and Douglass’s words were an effort to bind the meaning of race and soldierly sacrifice to the eternal quality of American liberty. Adapting the theoretical work of Harvard professor Elaine Scarry who has written, "What is ‘remembered’ in the body is well remembered," this paper traces the treatment of African American bodies as an indicator of social marginalization.
Dr. Kent A. McConnell teaches in the History Department at Phillips Exeter Academy and does research and publishing on the Civil War Era. He is currently finishing an edited collection of essays for a monograph entitled Social Conflict: The Gilded Age, Progressive Era, and World War I and will publish his own work on the Civil War, tentatively titled Ambivalent Souls: Religion, Death, and the American Civil War with Johns Hopkins University Press in 2010.
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RACHEL JONES WILLIAMS
"Thou Hast a Right to Noble Pride": An African American Woman Entrepreneur and Activist Transcends Race and Class in New England
Hazel Sinclair was co-owner of Rock Rest Guest Inn in Kittery Point, Maine from 1946 through 1976. An African American entrepreneur, Hazel was innovative in her approach to customer comforts for African American travelers at a time when segregation was the status quo. She created a New England experience for the burgeoning new Black Middle Class while she herself was on a transcendent journey. In her lifetime, Hazel went from donning a maid’s uniform to donning a mink wrap on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth II. She was able to do all of this while displaying a commitment to social responsibility and community involvement.
Rachel Jones Williams is a Historian, Freelance Writer, and Museum Professional. She also a student in the Cooperstown Graduate Program.
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Closing Reception & Rock Rest Exhibit Preview
4:00 - 6:00 pm
Discover Portsmouth Center, Portsmouth, NH
"ROCK REST: RECREATION WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION"
The Discover Portsmouth Center will host a private reception to preview this new exhibit which opens to the public on Juneteeth. "Rock Rest" was a local guest house for African American travelers from 1948 to 1970. The proprietors, Clayton and Hazel Sinclair, were a chauffeur and a maid from New York City, who managed through hard work and frugality to transform their modest home into a summer retreat for vacationers at a time when de facto segregation restricted other accommodations. This traveling exhibition was created by students in the Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies. Dimond Library at UNH holds the Rock Rest Papers, www.library.unh.edu/special/index.php/rock-rest
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