NIOT Princeton

Passing Strange: Martha Sandweiss

Of potential interest:

Dr. Martha A. Sandweiss, Professor of History at Princeton University will discussing her book
“Passing Strange : A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line” on Wednesday, April 28th at 4:30 p.m. in Princeton Universiy’s Lewis Library Room 138.

The publicity materials say:

Clarence King is a hero of nineteenth-century western history : a brilliant scientist and witty conversationalist, bestselling author and architect of the great surveys that mapped the West after the Civil War. Secretary of State John Hay called 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 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.

A book signing will follow.


Next Continuing Conversations

A crowd of more than 90 people packed the Princeton Public Library community room for a showing of “Traces of the Trade” last Thursday. It will be the subject for the next session of “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege” on Monday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the second floor conference room. Another session is set for Monday, May 3. All are invited.

For March: Continuing Conversation and More

Eighteen people — Not in Our Town members and guests — gathered on March 1 at the Princeton Public Library for our “first Monday” Continuing Conversation series, a safe space to discuss difficult topics. We focused on the movie “Precious” as well as Jennifer Baszile’s “The Black Girl Next Door.” We heard personal observations that will stay in that room.

We each came away with different insights, but we pretty much agreed with the following ideas. These ideas may seem obvious when stated as generalities, but they were backed up with the specific examples that we told to each other. To request a summary, email

Thanks go to the Princeton Public Library for co-sponsoring these opportunities. Other announcements:

Here is a link to the New York Times article “Race in the South in the Age of Obama,” discussed at the meeting.

We just learned that Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. will speak at the Carl A. Fields Center on “Genealogy, Genetics, and African American History” on Friday, March 5, at 2 p.m., co-sponsored by the Center for African American Studies, though the program is not yet on that center’s website nor the Fields website.

Please remember Shirley Tilghman’s James Baldwin lecture on “the Meaning of Race in the Post Genome Era” on Tuesday, March 9, at 5:30 p.m. in Alexander Hall.

And the “Traces of the Trade” documentary to be shown on Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at the library will be the focus of our next Continuing Conversation on Monday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m.

Just announced, on Wednesday, March 17, at 7 p.m., the Princeton Public Library will screen “Standing on My Sister’s Shoulders,”, about the grassroots leaders of the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi in the ’50s and ’60s. Joan Sadoff, the producer, will be on hand for discussion afterwards.

We welcome any dialogue, either with emails or in writing for the blog, or commenting on it. Here is the link to our blog.

Invitation: Continuing Conversation on March 1

Dear participants — past, present, future — in Not in Our Town’s “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege” at the Princeton Public Library. Our next conversation will be Monday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the conference room, and we are also set for first Mondays in April and May. Please also put Thursday, March 11, on your calendar for the showing of the documentary “Traces of the Trade.

Last month we focused on Jennifer Baszile’s “The Black Girl Next Door” and some of us were able to come to her presentation the following Sunday. She spoke of how stories remain untold, unpleasant things are simply not discussed. She told her story from the child’s viewpoint. “Childhood is a more inviting and less intense place, where people find a lot more places to connect, and it tends to make them less defensive.”

A posting on NIOT Princeton’s blog compared that book with the movie “Precious” quoting Ishmael Reed who pointed out the big differences between black reaction and white reaction to the movie.

So in the “safe space” that Continuing Conversations provides, perhaps we can each tell of some event, or movie, or book that we experienced during Black History Month, and what it meant to us.

Was it a useful story (and how) or was it hurtful? Would someone from a different background agree?

And, do you have a frequently repeated story — or a previously untold story? As a result of seeing/hearing during this month, are you encouraged to tell that story, and why?

We aim to have an enlightening, useful, and safe discussion. We hope you can join us, and anyone, everyone, is welcome.

Fern Spruill and Barbara Fox

for Not in Our Town, Princeton

Melissa Harris Lacewell at Unitarian Church Feb 21

Dr. Harris-Lacewell, a familiar commentator on Rachel Maddow and the Countdown with Keith Olbermann, will speak at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton on Sunday February 21 at 9:15 and 11:15.

Her topic: Seeing Each Other, Building Community

Recognition is a critical aspect of building community. We must be able to see one another if we are to be in respectful relationships. Recognition is active and requires us to address our blindness. Melissa Harris-Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University. Her academic research is inspired by a desire to investigate the challenges facing contemporary black Americans and to better understand the multiple, creative ways that African Americans respond to these challenges. She is also an award winning author and appears regularly on MSNBC and other media venues. She regularly provides expert commentary on U.S. elections, racial issues, religious questions and gender concerns for both The Rachel Maddow Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Her writings have appeared in newspapers throughout the country and she is a regular contributor at

Guest Worship Leader: Melissa Harris-Lacewell
Worship Associate: Ron Campbell
Music: Madeline Hesse—flute, Beth Ertz, Marjorie Herman

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