By Allyson Hobbs
Between the eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, numerous African americans handed as white, abandoning households and associates, roots and group. It used to be, as Allyson Hobbs writes, a selected exile, a separation from one racial id and the bounce into one other. This revelatory background of passing explores the chances and demanding situations that racial indeterminacy awarded to women and men dwelling in a rustic captivated with racial differences. It additionally tells a story of loss.
As racial kinfolk in the USA have advanced so has the importance of passing. To go as white within the antebellum South used to be to flee the shackles of slavery. After emancipation, many African american citizens got here to treat passing as a sort of betrayal, a promoting of one’s birthright. while the before everything hopeful interval of Reconstruction proved short-lived, passing grew to become a chance to defy Jim Crow and strike out on one’s own.
even supposing black americans who followed white identities reaped advantages of improved chance and mobility, Hobbs is helping us to acknowledge and comprehend the grief, loneliness, and isolation that accompanied—and frequently outweighed—these rewards. by way of the dawning of the civil rights period, an increasing number of racially combined american citizens felt the lack of relations and group used to be an excessive amount of to undergo, that it used to be time to “pass out” and embody a black id. even supposing fresh many years have witnessed an more and more multiracial society and a transforming into recognition of hybridity, the matter of race and identification continues to be on the heart of public debate and emotionally fraught own decisions.
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Extra info for A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life
The countless men and women who passed successfully demonstrate that there is always some slack even in the most totalizing systems. Passing was an expedient means of securing one’s freedom, and in its broadest and most expansive formulation, passing became a crucial means through which African Americans called for the recognition of their own humanity. The desperate acts of 31 a c h o s e n e x i l e enslaved men and women were not freighted with the same internal conﬂ ict, tension, or moral angst of other historical periods.
Passing is a continuous and enduring historical phenomenon that opens a wide window onto larger issues about inconstant racial deﬁnitions, the changing dynamics of race relations, and the complex and circuitous routes along which African American identity has developed in the United States. The chapters that follow offer a cultural history of racial passing from the late eighteenth century to the moment when it reportedly “passed out” in the 1950s. First, racially ambiguous men and women passed as free in the ﬂuid, bustling, and multiracial world of the eighteenth century midAtlantic, where opportunities for self-fashioning abounded and where not all blacks were enslaved and not all whites were free.
Particularly in societies with relatively open and ﬂuid social orders, the permutations on passing were endless. 19 p r o l o g u e In the early to mid-nineteenth century, middle-class Americans worried that young men and women who were steadily migrating out of rural areas and small towns to seek their fortunes in America’s booming cities could enter social classes to which they did not belong. 27 Loreta Janeta Velazquez, a Cuban-born woman, passed as a Confederate soldier to ﬁght in the Civil War and entered the ranks of numerous women who joined the military or participated in occupations and activities restricted to men.