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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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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

Chapter:
(p.49) Chapter 1 Why Passing Is (Still) Not Passé after More Than 250 Years
Source:
Neo-Passing
Author(s):

Martha J. Cutter

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5622/illinois/9780252041587.003.0004

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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