Monday, June 22, 2015

She Wasn't the First!

Rachel Dolezal in black and white 
So, Rachel Dolezal has been all over the news since her parents outed her as white! I'd never heard of her, but studying her image, I never would have suspected that she wasn't black.

Fair-skinned blacks have passed for white throughout the ages, but it's certainly out of the ordinary for a white person to want to pass as black. As strange as Ms. Dolezal's situation is, she isn't the first white person to do that. You've probably never heard of Clarence King, but his
story is told in Martha A. Sandweiss's book, Passing Strange.

Clarence King is a hero of nineteenth century western history.  He was also a brilliant scientist, best-selling author and architect of the great surveys that mapped the West after the Civil War. Secretary of State John Hay declared King “the best and brightest of his generation.”

However, King hid a secret from his friends, as well as the prominent Newport family from which he hailed:  He lived a double life.  For thirteen years King was known  as a celebrated white explorer, geologist and writer.  But he was also known as James Todd, a black Pullman porter and steel worker.
Clarence King

The fair skinned blue-eyed son born to a wealthy China trader passed across the color line.  This was not the usual case of a black man passing as white--but a white man passing as black!  And he didn't reveal his secret  to his black common-law wife, Ada Copeland, until his dying day.

Why did King do this?  To be with the woman he loved.  To marry Ada publicly, as the white man Clarence King, would have scandalized him and destroyed his career.

Passing Strange is a fascinating account of a sacrifice made for love.  If you like history, romance and forbidden love stories, then you'll enjoy Passing Strange!

All right, Clarence King passed for love, so what was Ms. Dolezal's motivation?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


Jennette Marie Powell said...

First thing I thought of when I read about Dolezal, was all the black movie stars who passed as white--that I learned about here!

Wow, what an interesting story about Clarence King! And what a great deal of sacrifice for love.

Norma said...

I'd never heard of him...but his is a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing!

William Kendall said...

Mr. King at least had the right motive. Miss Dolenzal, on the other hand, is coming across as a fraud and delusional.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I think Clarence King's motivation was more noble than this woman's, who I'm still not sure what her purpose was.