Mixed-race leadership in African America: The regalia of race and national identity in the U.S., 1862-1916
by Dineen-Wimberly, Ingrid, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2009 , 528 pages; AAT 3379455
"Mixed-Race Leadership in African America" examines the scope and quality of Black leadership during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, while it uncovers the relevance of a disproportionate number of mixed-race people in those very leadership positions. This study considers the possibility that, rather than their White ancestry accounting for their position of status; it was, instead, their Black identity that pulled them toward leadership. The years immediately following the Civil War provided increased opportunities for Black leadership. For example, P.B.S. Pinchback, who was near-White in appearance, became the first Black governor of Louisiana. In 1877, when the last federal troops withdrew from the South, Reconstruction-era leaders did not simply drift into obscurity. Rather, they shifted their focus from political representation, toward property ownership and entrepreneurial pursuits. Other former Reconstruction-era activists looked overseas for opportunities to lead. At the turn of the twentieth century, when the U.S. redefined itself as a potential Imperial power, Black foreign diplomats, in order to extend American interests abroad, held positions in Haiti, Cuba, Hawaii, the Philippines and Vladivostok, Russia. During the Progressive Era women like Victoria Earle Matthews, E. Azalia Hackley, and Josephine Willson Bruce gained national prominence, as a result of their work in racial uplift. Had any of these individuals chosen to pass as White, the record of their lives would be lost among a host of other middle or upper-class Whites. My research finds that for many mixed-race people, a Black identity, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, offered positions of power, upward mobility, and notoriety. In essence, blackness became a way up rather than a way down."