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The invisible line : three American families and the secret journey from black to white

Author: Daniel J Sharfstein
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2011.
Edition/Format:   Book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
This work is a multigenerational saga of three American families crossing the racial divide. In America, race is a riddle. The stories we tell about our past have calcified into the fiction that we are neatly divided into black or white. It is only with the widespread availability of DNA testing and the boom in genealogical research that the frequency with which individuals and entire families crossed the color line
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Details

Genre/Form: Case studies
Named Person: Gibson family.; Spencer family.; Walls family.; Gibson family.; Spencer family.; Walls family.
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Daniel J Sharfstein
ISBN: 1594202826 9781594202827
OCLC Number: 650210744
Description: x, 396 pages, [16] pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Contents: The house behind the cedars --
Gibson: Mars Bluff, South Carolina, 1768 --
Wall: Rockingham, North Carolina, 1838 --
Spencer: Clay County, Kentucky, 1848 --
Gibson: New Haven, Connecticut, 1850-55 --
Spencer: Jordan Gap, Johnson County, Kentucky, 1855 --
Wall: Oberlin, Ohio, September 1858 --
Civil War: Wall, Gibson, and Spencer, 1859-63 --
Civil War: Wall and Gibson, 1863-66 --
Gibson: Mississippi, New Orleans, and New York, 1866-68 --
Wall: Washington, D.C., June 14, 1871 --
Spencer: Jordan Gap, Johnson County, Kentucky, 1870s --
Gibson: Washington, D.C., 1878 --
Wall: Washington, D.C., January 21, 1880 --
Gibson: Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1888-92 --
Wall: Washington, D.C., 1890-91 --
Spencer: Jordan Gap, Johnson County, Kentucky, ca. 1900 --
Wall: Washington, D.C., 1909 --
Spencer: Home Creek, Buchanan County, Virginia 1912 --
Gibson: Paris and Chicago, 1931-33 --
Wall: Freeport, Long Island, 1946.
Responsibility: Daniel J. Sharfstein.

Abstract:

This work is a multigenerational saga of three American families crossing the racial divide. In America, race is a riddle. The stories we tell about our past have calcified into the fiction that we are neatly divided into black or white. It is only with the widespread availability of DNA testing and the boom in genealogical research that the frequency with which individuals and entire families crossed the color line has become clear. In this history, the author unravels the stories of three extraordinary families from different eras of American history to represent the complexity of race in America and to force us to rethink our basic assumptions about who we are. The Gibsons were wealthy landowners in the South Carolina backcountry who became white in the 1760s, ascending to the heights of the Southern elite and, ultimately, to the United States Senate. The Spencers were hardscrabble farmers in the hills of eastern Kentucky, joining an isolated Appalachian community in the 1840s and for the better part of a century hovering on the line between white and black. The Walls were fixtures of the rising black middle class in post-Civil War Washington, D.C., only to give up everything they had fought for to become white at the dawn of the twentieth century. Together, their interwoven and intersecting stories uncover a forgotten America in which the rules of race were something to be believed, but not necessarily obeyed. Defining their identities first as people of color and later as whites, the families provide a lens for understanding how people thought about and experienced race and how these ideas and experiences evolved, how the very meaning of black and white changed over time. This work cuts through centuries of myth and amnesia and poisonous racial politics and change how we talk about race, racism, and civil rights.

One of the nation's most accomplished historians unravels the stories of three extraordinary families from different eras in American history to represent the complexity of race in America, and to force readers to rethink assumptions about race, racism, and civil rights.

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