One extraordinary instance occurred in 1848 whenEllen Craft—the daughter of a master and his slavemistress—escaped from bondage by train, boat, andcarriage on a four-day journey fromMacon, Georgia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Ellen Craft pretended to be white. Her slave husbandwas part of her disguise; he pretended to be herservant. And there was one more twist: Ellen Crafttraveled not as a white woman but as a white man. Toobtain freedom for herself and her husband, shetemporarily traversed gender as well as raciallines.To Escape Bondage
Walter White, working on behalf of the NAACP, gatheredfacts about lynchings and other atrocities and carefullypublicized them in an effort to arouse American publicopinion. However, the daring way in which he pursued thistask brought him close to danger. In 1919, he traveled toPhillips County, Arkansas, to investigate the deaths of some250 blacks killed in an effort to discourage collectiveorganization by African American cotton farmers. Whenwhites in Phillips County became aware of Whitespurpose, he was forced to escape hurriedly. ―You‘re leavingmister, just when the fun is going to start,‖ White recallsbeing told by the conductor of the train on which he madehis getaway. ―A damned yellow nigger is down here passingfor white and the boys are going to get him.‖To Get Information
Goaded by false stories of Negro men raping whitewomen, a white mob terrorized blacks in Georgia‘scapital. Caught in town amidst marauding whites, twoAfrican Americans escaped serious injury only becauseof their light skin. They witnessed, however, terriblecrimes: ―We saw a lame Negro bootblack . . . patheticallytry to outrun a mob of whites. Less than a hundred yardsfrom us the chase ended. We saw clubs and fistsdescending to the accompaniment of savage shoutingand cursing. Suddenly a voice cried, ―There goesanother nigger!‖ Its work done, the mob went after newprey. The body with the withered foot lay dead in a poolof blood in the street.For Safety
Some passed as white during the workday, whilepresenting themselves as African American outside of theworkplace. Chronicling this phenomenon in White By Day .. . Negro by Night, a 1952 article in Ebony magazinerelates the following story: One girl who passed to get workas a clerk in a Chicago loop department store thought shehad lost her job when an old-time, well-meaning friend ofher mother came in and said in happy surprise, ―Well,Baby, it sure is good to see this store is finally hiringcolored girls.‖ Fortunately she was overheard only by oneother clerk who was a liberal and a good friend of the girlwho was passing and the secret did not get out.To Advance Occupational Ambition
Prevented by state law from freeing hisslaves, Michael Healy sent his children to the Northwhere they could be educated and also be free ofbondage in the event of their father‘s demise. JamesAugustine Healy (1830–1900) was a member of thefirst graduating class of the College of the Holy Crossin Worcester, Massachusetts. He pursued clericalstudies in Canada and France, became a priest inBoston, and served for twenty-five years as theCatholic bishop of Portland, Maine.To Pursue Education
To shop, sleep, or eat meals at racially exclusiveestablishments Hospitals were divided into two sections. The whitesection was clean and renovated; the black section, dirtyand dilapidated. The physician took a light-skinned manto the white section of the hospital. Before long, though,a visit by a son-in-law apprized the hospital staff of their―error.‖ His son wrote that his father ―was snatched fromthe examination table lest he contaminate the ‗white‘ air,and taken hurriedly across the street in a drivingdownpour . . . to the ‗Negro‘ ward‖ where he died sixteendays later.To Get Access to Services
Rachel Kennedy passed as white not visually butaurally.When pressed to talk on the telephone with someauthority on an important matter—a consumercomplaint, dealing with police, seeking employment oreducational opportunities—she would adopt an accentthat most listeners would associate with the speech of awhite person. She put on countless stellar performancesbefore an appreciative household audience that viewedthese affairs as comical episodes in the American racialtragedy.To Establish Credibility
St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton report thatsome light-skinned Negroes in Chicago theyinterviewed in the forties spoke of going to whiteestablishments ―just to see what they are like and toget a thrill.‖Curiosity and Fun
The non-fiction literature by and about passers is full of references topassing as a mode of resistance or subversion. Ray Stannard Baker noted that passing awakened glee among manyNegroes because they viewed it as a way of ―getting even with thedominant white man.‖ Langston Hughes repeatedly defended passing as a joke on racism. Gregory Howard Williams relates that his father derived great psychicsatisfaction by defying the rules of segregation when he lived inVirginia as the husband of a white woman and the President of a(supposedly) lily-white chapter of the American Legion. Williams also relates that his brother got a thrill from romancing whitegirls who would surely have spurned him had they perceived him to bea Negro.More Reasons to Pass
The Human StainColeman and the Charges ofRacism• Do you think that Coleman Silk had the intention to insult thestudents by saying ―Do they exist or are they spooks?‖• Why wouldn‘t Coleman‘s [African American] friend at themeeting stand up for him, knowing his friends true feelings?• Why couldn‘t Coleman reveal that he was black at the time hewas getting fired?Do you think that Coleman Silk overreacted tothe judgment by the school?• Did he ever reveal to his wife that he was black? It seems likehe did and she accepted it when they have that talk before shedies.
Coleman and Steena• Why did Coleman introduce […] Steena to his mother, knowingthat she might leave him for that?• Why was Coleman sure that Steena would stay with him afterlearning his lineage?• Why did Coleman not tell his girlfriend about his mother beingblack before they met in person?• After Steena expressed how much she loved Coleman. Why didshe leave him after finding out he was passing as a white male?• Will Steena regret her decision? Will she be better off withoutColeman?• Why didn‘t Coleman go after Steena and try to make things rightwhen she got up and left?
Coleman and Faunia• What made Coleman so attracted to Faunia Farley and whywould he continue to stay with her even after discovering all thetrouble she brings?• Why did Coleman decide to tell Iris that his parents were dead,and completely reject his racial background but reveal his racialidentity to Faunia?• Would Faunia have stayed with Coleman even she had found outhe was black since the beginning rather than the end? Why?• Lester continually attributed part of his anger to Faunia ―fuckingan old Jew‖, which shows that he never realized that Colemanwas biracial. Would this knowledge have changed his attitude, ordid it purely have to do with Faunia being with another man?
• When Coleman was a young man, before he broughtSteena home, did he take an active role in his passing forwhite?• How did Coleman feel about passing? And was it easieremotionally to pass as a white man after his father died?• Did Coleman actually benefit from passing? It almostseems that passing made things worse for him.• After Coleman‘s girlfriend told him that she could not bewith him, Coleman hits his opponent like he hates blackpeople: is he just mad that he can‘t be with his girlfriendbecause he is black?• Can society lead you to hate your own race?Anger, Fear, and Regret
Larger Issues• Does color make that much difference to change yourlove for the person just because of your color?• Can you really love someone if you don‘t knoweverything about them?• Assuming we all think it is moral to allow everyone tohave equal opportunity, is it moral to stillmake/have/keep racial distinctions ?• Is there a difference between intentionally passing andallowing others to believe you are something orsomeone you are not?
"The Passing of Grandison”• What is the significance behind Grandison‘s passing?• What would ever be a good reason for someone to stayenslaved when they have the opportunity for freedom?• Was Grandison‘s well mannered behavior a part of his planto escape?• Why did Grandison take so long to take the opportunity toescape?• Would Grandison want to leave if there was no chance to seehis family again or was his family greater than freedom?• Grandison being the loyal slave he was, when did he decideto part away and plan against his master for the well being ofhis family?• Was Grandison really kidnapped or was that part of his plan?
• Since Dick has a wealthy dad and will inherit hisfortunes, why does he go so far to impress hisgirlfriend when he could get any other girl?• Does the extreme severity of pushing to illegallyfreeing a slave at the time, put Dick in the right lightbut for the wrong reasons?• Dick’s intentions of setting Grandison free wasgood, but was it right?• How did dick feel after knowing that the whole familywas gone and knowing he was a part of why ithappened?
Introduction to Essay 2:―If passing for white will get a fellow better accommodationson the train, better seats in the theatre, immunity frominsults in public places, and may even save his life from amob,‖ wrote William Pickens, ―only idiots would fail to seizethe advantages of passing, at least occasionally if notpermanently‖ (―Racial Segregation,‖ Opportunity, December1927 (3).Write an essay of four to six pages arguing for or againstWilliam Pickens‘s statement. Use support from the textsyou have read so far, The Human Stain, ourdiscussions, and your own insights. Remember to formatyour essay in MLA style. This essay will require citationsand a works cited page.
The Prompt:If passing for white will get a fellow better accommodations on thetrain, better seats in the theatre, immunity from insults in public places, andmay even save his life from a mob,‖ only idiots would fail to seize theadvantages of passing, at least occasionally if not permanently.‖Do you agree with Pickenssstatement?If yes, why?If no, why not?
HOMEWORK Reading: Hughes: "WhosPassing for Who?‖ Post #9 : QHQ: ―Who‘sPassing for Who?‖ Think about Pickens‘sstatement and whether youagree with it or not.Consider which texts youmight use to support yourbeliefs. How would you usethem?