Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Damn Near White: An African American Family's Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success Hardcover – October 10, 2010
|New from||Used from|
Featured resources in history
Explore these featured titles, sponsored by Springer. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Wilkins, a jazz musician and scholar, grew up in a very accomplished family so light-skinned that many could—and some did—cross the color line. Her grandfather was J. Ernest Wilkins, the nation’s first black cabinet member, likely forced from his position as labor secretary during the Eisenhower administration because of his race. Following the death of her aunt Marjory, the family’s colorful and unofficial history keeper, Wilkins found herself curious about the details of her family’s life astride the color line and went in search of details. She found a great-grandfather, John Bird Wilkins, born into slavery, who became a teacher, inventor, radical Baptist minister, and bigamist. On her mother’s side, she traced the family back to a slave from Madagascar. This is more than a history of black firsts; it is also a woman’s long, arduous process of discovering long-buried secrets and how her family of achievers chose whether or how to defy racial and social conventions and how she herself fits into that legacy. A fascinating look at the complexities of race, class, and caste from the perspective of one family’s history. --Vanessa Bush
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
The author's great-grandfather, John Bird Wilkins, was born into slavery circa 1850, possibly the son of a female slave and a white slave-owner. A chameleon-like figure who used various names, he taught school after the Civil War, first in Oxford, Mississippi, then in Memphis, Tennessee. He later became an inventor and a newspaperman. Still later, he became widely known as a charismatic Baptist minister.
He was also a bigamist, fathering several children with two different women.
One was the author's grandfather, J. Ernest Wilkins. After a detailed investigation of the John Bird Wilkins saga, the book focuses on J. Ernest Wilkins, and deservedly so.
During the 1950s, J. Ernest Wilkins rose to national prominence during the Eisenhower administration as the first "Negro" to serve in a high-ranking cabinet position. From 1953 to 1955 he served as Assistant Secretary of Labor. He also served on the first Civil Rights Commission (1957-1958) at a time when racial tensions in the South were high, a time when "Negroes" could legally be denied the right to use a public toilet.
The author's painstaking research involves multiple visits to many libraries--from a tiny library in Farmington, Missouri, to Harvard's Widener Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts--and countless interviews, by phone and in person. Her travels take her far and wide, from St. Louis to Chicago, even to a rural cemetery in Missouri.
Damn Near White is much more than the story of an African-American family's rise from mid-19th century slavery to national prominence during the 1950s and beyond. The racial discrimination and obstacles faced by the men and women of the Wilkins family is not abstract prose, but personalized in the ugly experiences endured by J. Earnest Wilkins while serving his country in the military, as a prominent member of Eisenhower's cabinet, and while traveling the South as a member of a Civil Rights Commission tasked with determining if black voters were being denied the right to vote. As the author puts it: "Light and bright perhaps, but definitely not white."
Liberally sprinkled with fascinating family photographs, this is a book you can't afford to miss.
Some of it was quite funny while other parts brought back memories of racial discrimination.
Thank you Carolyn so much for doing the research
As a light skinned " white african american " myself who grew up privileged in south africa , I resonate very much to the sub texts in the narrative and as a fellow jazz musician I rejoice in the fusion of african and european cultures that make Jazz possible . This personal memoir succeeds in taking the particular story of this family and illuminates a much more universal story that we can all share , care about and enjoy.
I additional to sharing historical facts, Ms. Wilkins shares many stories about her research journey and her obsession with finding the answer to a genealogical mystery to which many family historians can relate. The book is thoroughly researched. It contains a wealth of endnotes and a very detailed bibliography.
I often speak to genealogy groups on the importance of preserving local history. My goal is to encourage family historians to preserve the history of the communities where their families lived, worked or had an affiliation. Ms Wilkins’ work is a perfect example of what all family historians should do.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book could not put it down