Lost Histories of Bilingualism

A week ago, while watching the Superbowl with friends, I saw Coca Cola’s now-famed ad E Pluribus Unum. At first, I was puzzled why I wasn’t following the lyrics to America the Beautiful, then realized they were being sung in multiple languages — English, Spanish, Keres (an indigenous American language), Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French and […]

Legacy of Slavery in the Family

What would you do if you were white and discovered a legacy of slavery, which many of us did whether we know it or not? That is exactly the question Katrina Browne, Thomas DeWolf, and several of their relatives confronted. In the preface to the book Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts its Legacy […]

Racism, Inheritance and Family Financial Aid

“I didn’t own slaves, why should I feel guilty?” is a common response of White people to hearing about racism today. This response regards slavery and theft of Indigenous peoples’ land as so ancient that paying attention to them today only invites anger and guilt. But I will show how racial privilege is a living […]

Becoming White: Putting Race Back into a Family Story

I grew up hearing stories about a great-great-grandmother who immigrated from Switzerland to the U.S. by way of New Orleans. According to stories, she was a linguist who spoke four or five languages fluently, an accomplished seamstress, and a medium. (My siblings and I loved the idea of a New Orleans fortune-teller in the family […]

“Black People Don’t Float and Swim:” Another Jim Crow Lie

Unfortunately, the phrase “Black people don’t float and swim” has been interwoven as a deterministic Jim Crow lie deep within the fabric of this nation. There were skewed social science studies of our buoyancy and muscle density in relation to our White peers to suggest that we can’t float. From this conclusion, it was determined […]

Using New Interracial Family Evidence to Trouble Jim Crow

“Did You Know Yo’ Mama was White?” In this installment, I discuss using new interracial family evidence to trouble Jim Crow. I will use a pseudonym to protect the anonymity of the subject of my critical family history. I am related to the “Kayfred” family of North Carolina by marriage. “Grandpa Kayfred” was a widower and […]

Preparing to Share and Receive Sensitive Family History

“I Don’t Think That’s My Daddy!” Preparing to share and receive sensitive family history is crucial. We talk a lot today in the U.S. about the symptoms of poverty, but little about how families became poor in the first place. Edmund Hughes, my grandfather was not always a poor Black man in Camden, NC, but Old […]

Can Census Data Reveal Racism in Employment?

Recently I was asked whether opportunities were any better for European immigrants in the late 1800s than for freed African Americans in the North. The asker of the question assumed that after the Civil War, opportunities had evened out. I wanted to examine this question with data, and do so specifically with relationship to my own […]

DNA Testing

DNA testing has become an increasingly popular, and gradually more affordable, way to obtain information about one’s genealogy. Several years ago, I completed a DNA test to attempt to verify whether I had Native American ancestry, as I had grown up hearing was the case. It is very easy to locate online companies that do […]

Peopling a White Nation

While it is common knowledge that the Founding Fathers envisioned the U.S. to be white , most of us of European descent avoid (or don’t think about) situating the history of our own families within an intentional project aimed at peopling a white nation. A very common story among white people (not only in the U.S. […]