Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons

Duke University Press
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"I am Black," Jane Lazarre's son tells her. "I have a Jewish mother, but I am not 'biracial.' That term is meaningless to me." In this moving memoir, Jane Lazarre, the white Jewish mother of now adult Black sons, offers a powerful meditation on motherhood and racism in America as she tells the story of how she came to understand the experiences of her African American husband, their growing sons, and their extended family. Recounting her education, as a wife, mother, and scholar-teacher, into the realities of African American life, Lazarre shows how although racism and white privilege lie at the heart of American history and culture, any of us can comprehend the experience of another through empathy and learning. This Twentieth Anniversary Edition features a new preface, in which Lazarre's elegy for Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and so many others, reminds us of the continued resonance of race in American life. As #BlackLivesMatter gains momentum, Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness is more urgent and essential than ever. 
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About the author

Jane Lazarre is the author of many books, including the memoirs Wet Earth and Dreams: A Narrative of Grief and Recovery and The Mother Knot, both also published by Duke University Press, and the novels Inheritance and Some Place Quite Unknown. She founded and directed the undergraduate writing program at Eugene Lang College at the New School for ten years and taught creative writing and literature there for twenty years. She has also taught at the City College of New York and Yale University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Apr 8, 2016
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Pages
184
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ISBN
9780822374145
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In a letter to his baby grandson, Bill Lazarre wrote that "unfortunately, despite the attempts by your grandpa and many others to present you with a better world, we were not very successful." Born in 1902 amid the pogroms in Eastern Europe, Lazarre dedicated his life to working for economic equality, racial justice, workers' rights, and a more just world. He was also dedicated to his family, especially his daughters, whom he raised as a single father following his wife’s death. In The Communist and the Communist's Daughter Jane Lazarre weaves memories of her father with documentary materials—such as his massive FBI file—to tell her father's fascinating history as a communist, a Jew, and a husband, father, and grandfather.

Soon after immigrating to the United States as a young man, Lazarre began a long career as a radical activist, being convicted of sedition, holding leadership positions in the American Communist Party, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, organizing labor unions, testifying in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and resisting the FBI’s efforts to recruit him as an informant. Through periods of heroism and deep despair Lazarre never abandoned his ideals or his sustained faith in the fundamental goodness of people.

This is also the story of Jane as she grew up, married an African American civil rights activist, and became a mother and a writer while coming to terms with her father’s legacy. She recounts her arguments with her father over ideology, but also his profound influence on her life. Throughout this poignant and beautifully written work, Jane examines memory, grief, love, and conscience while detailing the sacrifices, humanity, and unwavering convictions of a man who worked tirelessly to create a brighter future for us all.
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Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

 

In a letter to his baby grandson, Bill Lazarre wrote that "unfortunately, despite the attempts by your grandpa and many others to present you with a better world, we were not very successful." Born in 1902 amid the pogroms in Eastern Europe, Lazarre dedicated his life to working for economic equality, racial justice, workers' rights, and a more just world. He was also dedicated to his family, especially his daughters, whom he raised as a single father following his wife’s death. In The Communist and the Communist's Daughter Jane Lazarre weaves memories of her father with documentary materials—such as his massive FBI file—to tell her father's fascinating history as a communist, a Jew, and a husband, father, and grandfather.

Soon after immigrating to the United States as a young man, Lazarre began a long career as a radical activist, being convicted of sedition, holding leadership positions in the American Communist Party, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, organizing labor unions, testifying in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and resisting the FBI’s efforts to recruit him as an informant. Through periods of heroism and deep despair Lazarre never abandoned his ideals or his sustained faith in the fundamental goodness of people.

This is also the story of Jane as she grew up, married an African American civil rights activist, and became a mother and a writer while coming to terms with her father’s legacy. She recounts her arguments with her father over ideology, but also his profound influence on her life. Throughout this poignant and beautifully written work, Jane examines memory, grief, love, and conscience while detailing the sacrifices, humanity, and unwavering convictions of a man who worked tirelessly to create a brighter future for us all.
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