Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920

Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920

4.0 1
by James M. O'Toole
     
 

ISBN-10: 1558494170

ISBN-13: 9781558494176

Pub. Date: 10/07/2003

Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press

Through the prism of one family's experience, this book explores questions of racial identity, religious tolerance, and black-white "passing" in America. Spanning the century from 1820 to 1920, it tells the story of Michael Morris Healy, a white Irish immigrant planter in Georgia; his African American slave Eliza Clark Healy, who was also his wife; and their nine

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Overview

Through the prism of one family's experience, this book explores questions of racial identity, religious tolerance, and black-white "passing" in America. Spanning the century from 1820 to 1920, it tells the story of Michael Morris Healy, a white Irish immigrant planter in Georgia; his African American slave Eliza Clark Healy, who was also his wife; and their nine children. Legally slaves, these brothers and sisters were smuggled north before the Civil War to be educated. In spite of the hardships imposed by American society on persons of mixed racial heritage, the Healy children achieved considerable success. Rejecting the convention that defined as black anyone with "one drop of Negro blood," they were able to transform themselves into white Americans. Their unlikely ally in this transition was the Catholic church, as several of them became priests or nuns. One brother served as a bishop in Maine, another as rector of the Cathedral in Boston, and a third as president of Georgetown University. Of the two sisters who became nuns, one was appointed the superior of convents in the United States and Canada. Another brother served for twenty years as a captain in the U.S. Coast Guard, enforcing law and order in the waters off Alaska. The Healy children's transition from black to white should not have been possible according to the prevailing understandings of race, but they accomplished it with apparent ease. Relying on their abilities, and in most cases choosing celibacy, which precluded mixed-race offspring, they forged a place for themselves. They also benefited from the support of people in the church and elsewhere. Even those white Americans who knew the family's background chose to overlook their African ancestry and thereby help them to "get away" with passing. By exploring the lifelong struggles of the members of the Healy family to redefine themselves in a racially polarized society, this book makes a distinctive contribution to our understanding of the enduring dilemma of race in America.

University of Massachusetts Press

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558494176
Publisher:
University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date:
10/07/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
902,134
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

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Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Priestie More than 1 year ago
This book tells the unusual story of an Irish immigrant (James Healy) who fell in love with and (by all appearances) lived in a monogamous relationship with his common law wife Eliza, a woman everyone would have considered a slave. It tells, basically, how his children were saved from slavery and educated by the Catholic Church. I was fascinated to see how Church officials basically had to fight from within and without to ensure that these kids were treated justly. If you like civil war period history, this is a story that is probably from a perspective that you won't hear anywhere else.