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Neo-PassingPerforming Identity after Jim Crow$
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Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041587

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041587.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

Why Passing Is (Still) Not Passé after More Than 250 Years

Why Passing Is (Still) Not Passé after More Than 250 Years

Sources from the Past and Present

(p.49) Chapter 1 Why Passing Is (Still) Not Passé after More Than 250 Years

Martha J. Cutter

University of Illinois Press

Some scholars argue that racial passing began in the mid- to late nineteenth century, reached its pinnacle in the early twentieth century, and then abated by the 1930s. This chapter substantiates, however, that as a word and a behavior, passing has a longer and more extensive chronology. By providing a broad historical overview of racial-passing texts, the chapter argues that the most radical ones play on the multivalent possibilities of this behavior, using passing as a mirror, as a sort of “dirty” glass that is held up to the reader. Instead of clarifying the meaning of whiteness or blackness, some of these texts ultimately confuse a stable reading of the meaning of race, revealing dialectical tensions that exist at the heart of identity categories themselves.

Keywords:   passing history, passing chronology, passing etymology, racial ideology, nineteenth-century passing, early twentieth-century passing, postracial passing, runaway slaves, Frank Webb, Charles W. Chesnutt, Nella Larsen, Danzy Senna, Philip Roth, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison

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