The idea of someone transitioning from black to white, without science or surgery, seems hard to grasp on the surface. Yet, Vanderbilt Law School professor Daniel J. Sharfstein finds that African Americans have continually crossed the color line and assimilated into white communities from 17th-century America through today. This actual journey has little to do with one’s skin color and more to do with a society’s willingness to look beyond race.
Sharfstein spent almost a decade researching dozens of families who, for social, economic, safety and other reasons, chose to change their race and create new lives. He found court and government records, personal letters and other archives that helped paint vivid pictures of these Americans.
Sharfstein focused much of his research on three families who made their move across the color line from different social positions: the Gibsons, who were wealthy landowners in the South Carolina backcountry; the Spencers, farmers in an Appalachian community in the hills of eastern Kentucky in the mid-1800s; and the Walls, smart and powerful 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 20th century—clinging to the edge of the middle class.
“What this research tells us is that the categories of black and white have never been about blood. There were plenty of people throughout American history who were not just white, but quintessentially white, powerfully white, and had African American ancestors,” says Sharfstein. “Then we’re left thinking, ‘What is black and what is white, then, if it’s not about blood and biology?’ What we wind up with is just the fact of separation and hierarchy.”
(2010, Continuum International)
Rose’s book consists of essays about the diverse spectrum of meaningful signs hidden in music that demand our attention in order for the listener to fully enjoy what is heard.
In this book the Coynes explore the effective use of “brainsteering,” an approach that takes brainstorming and “steers” it in a more productive direction by better reflecting the way human beings actually work in creative problem-solving situations.
Angel Walk is both a compendium of lessons learned by nurses who have served at the front and a guide as they manage their ongoing physical and mental well-being.
© 2014 Vanderbilt University
Conversation guidelines: Vanderbilt Magazine welcomes your thoughts, stories and information related to this article. Please stay on topic and be respectful of others. Keep the conversation appropriate for interested readers across the map.