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Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line

by

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The secret double life of the man who mapped the American West, and the woman he loved

Clarence King is a hero of nineteenth century western history; a brilliant scientist and witty conversationalist, best-selling author and architect of the great surveys that mapped the West after the Civil War. Secretary of State John Hay named King“the best and brightest of his generation” But King hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family in Newport: for thirteen years he lived a double life—as the celebrated white explorer, geologist and writer Clarence King and as a black Pullman porter and steel worker named James Todd. The fair blue-eyed son of a wealthy China trader passed across the color line, revealing his secret to his black common- law wife, Ada Copeland, only on his deathbed.

King lied because he wanted to and he lied because he had to. To marry his wife in a public way – as the white man known as Clarence King – would have created a scandal and destroyed his career. At a moment when many mixed-race Americans concealed their African heritage to seize the privileges of white America, King falsely presented himself as a black man in order to marry the woman he loved.

Noted historian of the American West Martha Sandweiss is the first writer to uncover the life that King tried so hard to conceal from the public eye. She reveals the complexity of a man who while publicly espousing a personal dream of a uniquely American“race” an amalgam of white and black, hid his love for his wife, Ada, and their five biracial children. Passing Strange tells the dramatic tale of a family built along the fault lines of celebrity, class, and race—from the“Tod‛” wedding in 1888, to the 1964 death of Ada King, one of the last surviving Americans born into slavery.

Review:

"Sandweiss (Print the Legend) serves a delicious brew of public accomplishment and domestic intrigue in this dual biography of the geologist-explorer Clarence King (1842 — 1901) and Ada Copeland (c. 1861 — 1964), a 'black, working-class woman' who was 'born a slave.' Rendered as fiction, this true tale, would seem quite implausible — 'a model son of Newport and one of the most admired scientists in America,' Clarence kept secret for 13 years his marriage to Ada and their apparently contented domestic life. He kept his patrician past and celebrated present concealed as well from his wife, who believed herself the wife of James Todd, a black Pullman porter. Sandweiss provides a fascinating account of King's 'extraordinary double life as an eminent white scientist and a black workingman'; Ada's struggle 'through the legal system to assert her rightful name, give her children their true familial history, and [unsuccessfully] claim the trust fund she believed to be hers'; and rich insights into the 'distinctive American ideas about race' that allowed King to 'pass the other way across the color line, claiming African ancestry when he had none at all.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

"Passing Strange" is a uniquely American biography of Clarence King, who hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family: for 13 years he lived a double life--as the celebrated white explorer, geologist, and writer King and as a black Pullman porter and steelworker named James Todd.

Synopsis:

Read Martha A. Sandweiss's posts on the Penguin Blog

The secret double life of the man who mapped the American West, and the woman he loved

Clarence King was a late nineteenth-century celebrity, a brilliant scientist and explorer once described by Secretary of State John Hay as "the best and brightest of his generation." But King hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family in Newport: for thirteen years he lived a double life-the first as the prominent white geologist and writer Clarence King, and a second as the black Pullman porter and steelworker named James Todd. The fair, blue-eyed son of a wealthy China trader passed across the color line, revealing his secret to his black common-law wife, Ada Copeland, only on his deathbed. In Passing Strange, noted historian Martha A. Sandweiss tells the dramatic, distinctively American tale of a family built along the fault lines of celebrity, class, and race- a story that spans the long century from Civil War to civil rights.

About the Author

Martha A. Sandweiss is Professor of History at Princeton University. She began her career as a museum curator and taught for twenty years at Amherst College. She is the author of numerous works on western American history and the history of photography, including Print the Legend: Photography and the American West, winner of the Organization of American Historians' Ray Allen Billington Award, and Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace, and is the co-editor of the Oxford History of the American West.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594202001
Subtitle:
A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
Author:
Sandweiss, Martha
Author:
Sandweiss, Martha A.
Publisher:
Penguin Books
Subject:
United States - 19th Century
Subject:
Married people
Subject:
History
Subject:
cultural heritage
Subject:
Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - Histor
Subject:
United States - 19th Century/Gilded Age
Subject:
Marriage
Subject:
New york (n.y.)
Subject:
African-American women
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20100126
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
8-page b/w photo insert on insert stock
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
9.24x6.38x1.23 in. 1.35 lbs.
Age Level:
17-17

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » US History » 1860 to 1920

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line Used Hardcover
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$7.95 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Penguin Press - English 9781594202001 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Sandweiss (Print the Legend) serves a delicious brew of public accomplishment and domestic intrigue in this dual biography of the geologist-explorer Clarence King (1842 — 1901) and Ada Copeland (c. 1861 — 1964), a 'black, working-class woman' who was 'born a slave.' Rendered as fiction, this true tale, would seem quite implausible — 'a model son of Newport and one of the most admired scientists in America,' Clarence kept secret for 13 years his marriage to Ada and their apparently contented domestic life. He kept his patrician past and celebrated present concealed as well from his wife, who believed herself the wife of James Todd, a black Pullman porter. Sandweiss provides a fascinating account of King's 'extraordinary double life as an eminent white scientist and a black workingman'; Ada's struggle 'through the legal system to assert her rightful name, give her children their true familial history, and [unsuccessfully] claim the trust fund she believed to be hers'; and rich insights into the 'distinctive American ideas about race' that allowed King to 'pass the other way across the color line, claiming African ancestry when he had none at all.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , "Passing Strange" is a uniquely American biography of Clarence King, who hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family: for 13 years he lived a double life--as the celebrated white explorer, geologist, and writer King and as a black Pullman porter and steelworker named James Todd.
"Synopsis" by ,
Read Martha A. Sandweiss's posts on the Penguin Blog

The secret double life of the man who mapped the American West, and the woman he loved

Clarence King was a late nineteenth-century celebrity, a brilliant scientist and explorer once described by Secretary of State John Hay as "the best and brightest of his generation." But King hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family in Newport: for thirteen years he lived a double life-the first as the prominent white geologist and writer Clarence King, and a second as the black Pullman porter and steelworker named James Todd. The fair, blue-eyed son of a wealthy China trader passed across the color line, revealing his secret to his black common-law wife, Ada Copeland, only on his deathbed. In Passing Strange, noted historian Martha A. Sandweiss tells the dramatic, distinctively American tale of a family built along the fault lines of celebrity, class, and race- a story that spans the long century from Civil War to civil rights.

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