“Catching up with History: Night of the Quarter Moon, The Rhinelander Case, and Interracial Marriage in 1959,” in Camilla Fojas and Mary Beltran, eds., Mixed Race Hollywood, NYU Press, 2008, pp 87-112
I found a copy of the long-forgotten B Movie Night of the Quarter Moon, starring John Barrymore, Julie London, Agnes Moorhead, and Nat “King” Cole. Based very loosely on the Rhinelander Case but brought into the then-current political and social scene—the elite white man is a Korean war veteran, psychologically damaged by torturous “mindwashing” techniques, and the “one-quarter black” woman is living in Mexico and therefore naïve to the realities of racialism and racism in the United States. Cole plays an entirely invented character (somewhat an analogue of Alice’s “true Virginia negro” brother-in-law) who owns a local nightclub and therefore provides opportunities for all of the characters of color to sing, dance, or play a musical instrument. Thanks to e-bay I now have a collection of movie posters, theater placards, and even a 7” album of Cole singing the title song and three other songs featured. Anyway, this article makes a case for the significance of this film as the first to feature an interracial marriage, one of the first to show such a relationship positively, and an attempt to make the case that marriage is a civil right… all almost a decade before Loving v. Virginia and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
“'Such Fine Families’: Photography and Race in the Work of Caroline Bond Day, Visual Studies, October, 2006, pp 106-132
Caroline Bond Day’s anthropological study of Some Negro-White Families, including her own, has been haunting me since I first came across it as a graduate student in the dusty off-site storage of the University Michigan libraries. It took me a long time to figure out what she thought she was doing with her work, which included anthropometric analysis and blood-quantum breakdowns of people of mixed ancestry. I found part of my answer in her use of photographs. I first presented this angle to the International Visual Studies Association, and it resulted in this article in their journal. (Link to Article)
An essay on the uneven shift in gender expectations, solicited by Notre Dame Magazine to accompany a series of narratives about female Domers over the last thirty years.
A newspaper editorial reflecting on the significance of Essie May Washington Williams’ 2004 announcement that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond and a young woman, Carrie Butler, who worked in the Thurmond household as a maid.