I'm finally blogging again after a couple of weeks with no computer access. It's nice to be back, and I'm surprised that "passing" is back in the news again! A few years ago, it was former college instructor and NAACP
chapter president Rachel Dolezal, now it’s former University professor Jessica
Krug. Both of these white women chose to pass as black.
Everyone is familiar
with the term trans-gender, so should a new term be created for what these
women were doing? In other words, if someone chooses to racially pass, should
they be considered trans-racial? If you're unfamiliar with the term
"passing," here's a definition from Wikipedia:
Racial passing refers
to a person classified as a member of one racial group attempting to be accepted
as a member of a different racial group. The term was used especially in the
U.S. to describe a person of mixed-race heritage assimilating into the white
majority during times when legal and social conventions...classified the person
as a minority, subject to racial segregation and discrimination.
Back in the days of segregation, lots of mixed race
individuals of black and white ancestry chose to pass as white for social and
economic reasons. Effa Manley, however,
was a white woman who chose to pass as black!
Her biological parents were white, but she was raised by her white
mother, and her step-father who was African-American.
I'd never heard of Effa Manley, but here's some of her story
from a Negro Leagues Legacy article, "The First Lady of Black Baseball," by Aimee Crawford.
Effa Manley was ahead of her time.
In the 1930s and '40s, women were often viewed as
second-class citizens, and blacks were accorded few rights. According to the
established rules of society, neither were considered qualified to contend at
baseball's highest level. But Effa Manley had little use for those rules -- or
for establishment, for that matter.
Like greats Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, she was a
pioneer in breaking down baseball's racial barriers. Unlike those two, Manley
faced the additional obstacle of gender bias.
Aggressive and progressive, glamorous and magnanimous,
Manley overcame each to make her mark as one
of the most fascinating and significant figures in Negro League
"She was unique and effervescent and
knowledgeable," says Monte Irvin, the Hall of Famer who played shortstop
and outfield for the Newark Eagles, the Negro League team Manley co-owned with
her husband, Abe. "She ran the whole business end of the team."
A born entrepreneur,
Manley was the only female in the history of Negro Leagues. Effa and Abe ran the Eagles, a Negro National
League team, from 1935-48. And her considerable influence extended beyond
baseball as well; she was also active in the black civil rights movement.
Manley was born March 27, 1900. Her birth, like much of her
life, was controversial. Within the black community, Manley rarely discussed
her heritage, and most people assumed she was a light-skinned black. But Manley
claimed in an interview in 1973 that she was white.
Her mother, Bertha Ford Brooks, was white, of German and
Asian-Indian descent. Effa explained that Bertha, who earned a living as a seamstress, became pregnant by
her white employer, John M. Bishop, a wealthy Philadelphian. Manley's black
stepfather, Benjamin Brooks, sued Bishop and received a settlement of $10,000
before he and Bertha divorced. Bertha remarried, and Effa was raised in a
household with a black step-father and black half-siblings, and so chose to
live as a black person.
Effa Manley was a fascinating individual, and the first woman I'd ever heard of to "pass as black!" Had you ever heard of
her, or perhaps someone else who chose to pass as something other than white?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!