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An African American Family's Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success
Carolyn Wilkins grew up defending her racial identity. Because of her light complexion and wavy hair, she spent years struggling to convince others that she was black. Her family’s prominence set Carolyn’s experiences even further apart from those of the average African American. Her father and uncle were well-known lawyers who had graduated from Harvard Law School. Another uncle had been a child prodigy and protégé of Albert Einstein. And her grandfather had been America's first black assistant secretary of labor.
Carolyn's parents insisted she follow the color-conscious rituals of Chicago's elite black bourgeoisie—experiences Carolyn recalls as some of the most miserable of her entire life. Only in the company of her mischievous Aunt Marjory, a woman who refused to let the conventions of “proper” black society limit her, does Carolyn feel a true connection to her family's African American heritage.
When Aunt Marjory passes away, Carolyn inherits ten bulging scrapbooks filled with family history and memories. What she finds in these photo albums inspires her to discover the truth about her ancestors—a quest that will eventually involve years of research, thousands of miles of travel, and much soul-searching.
Carolyn learns that her great-grandfather John Bird Wilkins was born into slavery and went on to become a teacher, inventor, newspaperman, renegade Baptist minister, and a bigamist who abandoned five children. And when she discovers that her grandfather J. Ernest Wilkins may have been forced to resign from his labor department post by members of the Eisenhower administration, Carolyn must confront the bittersweet fruits of her family's generations-long quest for status and approval.
Damn Near White is an insider’s portrait of an unusual American family. Readers will be drawn into Carolyn’s journey as she struggles to redefine herself in light of the long-buried secrets she uncovers. Tackling issues of class, color, and caste, Wilkins reflects on the changes of African American life in U.S. history through her dedicated search to discover her family’s powerful story.
The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled
Until the recent recognition of Deaf culture and the legitimacy of signed languages, majority societies around the world have classified Deaf people as “disabled,” a term that separates all persons so designated from the mainstream in a disparaging way. Damned for Their Difference offers a well-founded explanation of how this discrimination came to be through a discursive exploration of the cultural, social, and historical contexts of these attitudes and behavior toward deaf people, especially in Great Britain. Authors Jan Branson and Don Miller examine the orientation toward and treatment of deaf people as it developed from the 17th century through the 20th century. Their wide-ranging study explores the varied constructions of the definition of “disabled,” a term whose meaning hinges upon constant negotiation between parties, ensuring that no finite meaning is ever established. Damned for Their Difference provides a sociological understanding of disabling practices in a way that has never been seen before.
The Civil War Letters of William Henry Harrison Clayton
William Henry Harrison Clayton was one of nearly 75,000 soldiers from Iowa to join the Union ranks during the Civil War. Possessing a high school education and superior penmanship, Clayton served as a company clerk in the 19th Infantry, witnessing battles in the Trans-Mississippi theater. His diary and his correspondence with his family in Van Buren County form a unique narrative of the day-to-day soldier life as well as an eyewitness account of critical battles and a prisoner-of-war camp.
Clayton participated in the siege of Vicksburg and took part in operations against Mobile, but his writings are unique for the descriptions he gives of lesser-known but pivotal battles of the Civil War in the West. Fighting in the Battle of Prairie Grove, the 19th Infantry sustained the highest casualties of any federal regiment on the field. Clayton survived that battle with only minor injuries, but he was later captured at the Battle of Stirling's Plantation and served a period of ten months in captivity at Camp Ford, Texas.
Clayton's writing reveals the complicated sympathies and prejudices prevalent among Union soldiers and civilians of that period in the country's history. He observes with great sadness the brutal effects of war on the South, sympathizing with the plight of refugees and lamenting the destruction of property. He excoriates draft evaders and Copperheads back home, conveying the intra-sectional acrimony wrought by civil war. Finally, his racist views toward blacks demonstrate a common but ironic attitude among Union soldiers whose efforts helped lead to the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965 - 2007
A Long Embrace
From ballet to burlesque, from the frontier jig to the jitterbug, Americans have always loved watching dance, whether in grand ballrooms, on Mississippi riverboats, or in the streets. Dance and American Art is an innovative look at the elusive, evocative nature of dance and the American visual artists who captured it through their paintings, sculpture, photography, and prints from the early nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. The scores of artists discussed include many icons of American art: Winslow Homer, George Caleb Bingham, Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, Edward Steichen, David Smith, and others.
As a subject for visual artists, dance has given new meaning to America’s perennial myths, cherished identities, and most powerful dreams. Their portrayals of dance and dancers, from the anonymous to the famous—Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncan, Loïe Fuller, Josephine Baker, Martha Graham—have testified to the enduring importance of spatial organization, physical pattern, and rhythmic motion in creating aesthetic form.
Through extensive research, sparkling prose, and beautiful color reproductions, art historian Sharyn R. Udall draws attention to the ways that artists’ portrayals of dance have defined the visual character of the modern world and have embodied culturally specific ideas about order and meaning, about the human body, and about the diverse fusions that comprise American culture.
Race, Sex, and Stardom
Dance and the Hollywood Latina asks why every Latina star in Hollywood history began as a dancer or danced onscreen. Introducing the concepts of "inbetween-ness" and "racial mobility" to further illuminate how racialized sexuality and the dancing female body operate in film, this book focuses on the careers of Dolores Del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Carmen Miranda, Rita Moreno, and Jennifer Lopez and helps readers better understand how the United States grapples with race, gender, and sexuality through dancing bodies on screen.
Cultural Diplomacy and the Cold War
At the height of the Cold War in 1954, President Eisenhower inaugurated a program of cultural exchange that sent American dancers and other artists to political "hot spots" overseas. This peacetime gambit by a warrior hero was a resounding success.
Among the artists chosen for international duty were Jose Limon, who led his company on the first government-sponsored tour of South America; Martha Graham, whose famed ensemble crisscrossed southeast Asia; Alvin Ailey, whose company brought audiences to their feet throughout the South Pacific; and George Balanchine, whose New York City Ballet crowned its triumphant visits to Western Europe and Japan with an epoch-making tour of the Soviet Union in 1962. The success of Eisenhower's program of cultural export led directly to the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts and Washington's Kennedy Center.
Naima Prevots draws on an array of previously unexamined sources, including formerly classified State Department documents, congressional committee hearings, and the minutes of the Dance Panel, to reveal the inner workings of "Eisenhower's Program," the complex set of political, fiscal, and artistic interests that shaped it, and the ever-uneasy relationship between government and the arts in the US.
CONTRIBUTORS: Eric Foner.
Intimacy and Leisure Among Working-Class Immigrants in the United States
The rise of commercialized leisure coincided with the arrival of millions of immigrants to America's cities. Conflict was inevitable as older generations attempted to preserve their traditions, values, and ethnic identities, while the young sought out the cheap amusements and sexual freedom which the urban landscape offered. At immigrant picnics, social clubs, and urban dance halls, Randy McBee discovers distinct and highly contested gender lines, proving that the battle between the ages was also one between the sexes.
Free from their parents and their strict rules governing sexual conduct, working women took advantage of their time in dance halls to challenge conventional gender norms. They routinely passed certain men over for dances, refused escorts home, and embraced the sensual and physical side of dance to further accentuate their superior skills and ability on the dance floor. Most men felt threatened by women's displays of empowerment and took steps to thwart the changes taking place. Accustomed to street corners, poolrooms, saloons, and other all-male get-togethers, working men tried to transform the dance hall into something that resembled these familiar hangouts.
McBee also finds that men frequently abandoned the commercial dance hall for their own clubs, set up in the basements of tenement flats. In these hangouts, working men established rules governing intimacy and leisure that allowed them to regulate the behavior of the women who attended club events. The collective manner in which they behaved not only affected the organization of commercial leisure but also men and women's struggles with and against one another to define the meaning of leisure, sexuality, intimacy, and even masculinity.