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Passing Strange

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

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Description

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.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 01, 2008 – 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 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.”

Customer Reviews

Wonderful read

Great book.

Passing Strange
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Feb 05, 2009
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings