The Clamorgans by Julie Winch
One Family's History of Race in America

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Synopsis

The historian Julie Winch uses her sweeping, multigenerational history of the unforgettable Clamorgans to chronicle how one family navigated race in America from the 1780s through the 1950s. What she discovers overturns decades of received academic wisdom. Far from an impermeable wall fixed by whites, race opened up a moral gray zone that enterprising blacks manipulated to whatever advantage they could obtain.  The Clamorgan clan traces to the family patriarch Jacques Clamorgan, a French adventurer of questionable ethics who bought up, or at least claimed to have bought up, huge tracts of land around St. Louis. On his death, he bequeathed his holdings to his mixedrace, illegitimate heirs, setting off nearly two centuries of litigation. The result is a window on a remarkable family that by the early twentieth century variously claimed to be black, Creole, French, Spanish, Brazilian, Jewish, and white. The Clamorgans is a remarkable counterpoint to the central claim of whiteness studies, namely that race as a social construct was manipulated by whites to justify discrimination. Winch finds in the Clamorgans generations upon generations of men and women who studiously negotiated the very fluid notion of race to further their own interests. Winch’s remarkable achievement is to capture in the vivid lives of this unforgettable family the degree to which race was open to manipulation by Americans on both sides of the racial divide.
 

About Julie Winch

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Julie Winch is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She is the author of three books on African American history.
 
Published May 24, 2011 by Hill and Wang. 433 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Of the many branches of the twisted family tree, the story of Cyprian Clamorgan, Apoline's youngest son, proves most captivating.

Jun 01 2011 | Read Full Review of The Clamorgans: One Family's ...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Clamorgans was known as a "colored" shop, with a newspaper describing its "octoroon" proprietors, but a third son of Apoline's, Cyprian, lived as a white man during stints outside of St. Louis (although in 1858 he published The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis, a biting satire about the city's fr...

May 27 2011 | Read Full Review of The Clamorgans: One Family's ...

The Roanoke Times

The story of their struggle provides a focal point for us to follow the story of the United States as it worked through some uncomfortable growing pains caused by a kind of color-induced myopia.

Aug 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Clamorgans: One Family's ...

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