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Foote, Thelma Wills 1956–

Foote, Thelma Wills 1956–

PERSONAL:

Born October 4, 1956. Education: Harvard University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Rome, Italy.

CAREER:

Academic and historian. New York University, New York, NY. faculty member; University of California, Irvine, associate professor of history and African American studies. Visiting research professor at the University of Southern Denmark, Center for American Studies.

WRITINGS:

Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in Colonial New York City, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to Sally Hemings: An American Scandal: The Struggle to Tell the Controversial True Story, by Tina Andrews, Malibu Press, 2001.

SIDELIGHTS:

Thelma Wills Foote is an academic and historian. Born on October 4, 1956, Foote earned a Ph.D. in the American Civilization Program at Harvard University. She went on to lecture at New York University and later became an associate professor of history and African American studies at the University of California, Irvine. Foote also served as a visiting research professor at the University of Southern Denmark's Center for American Studies. Her academic research interests include the deployment of racial formations in colonial and neocolonial settings, the role memory plays in cinema and literature, and the counter-hegemonic discourses in jazz music studies. Foote contributed to Tina Andrews's book Sally Hemings: An American Scandal: The Struggle to Tell the Controversial True Story, published by Malibu Press in 2001.

Foote published her first book, Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in Colonial New York City, in 2004. Partly based on her doctoral dissertation research, the book uses poststructuralist and postcolonial studies to examine racial formation issues in early colonial Manhattan through to the American Revolution, encompassing African slaves, freed black slaves, Native Americans, and a number of European ethnicities. The core of the book deals with the class, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious variations among the colony's inhabitants and the regular flow of new immigrants.

David N. Gellman, writing on H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, called Black and White Manhattan a "provocative book," adding that "Foote's emphasis on the discourse of power is on particularly firm ground when she investigates white supervision and black resistance. Foote offers insightful commentary on the never quite successful effort by white authorities to monitor the day-to-day activities of Manhattan's black inhabitants in the face of persistent black efforts to form social bonds and find social space free from white coercion." Gellman expressed some reservations, however, noting that "Foote's interpretation of the alleged slave plot to seize the city in 1741 will trouble many historians." He also noted that "Foote, despite her careful attention to the nuances of events and language, is not so much interested in presenting a narrative from the perspective of the historical actors as she is in offering us the satellite view. Such an approach, accompanied by theory-inflected language, reflects her intention to mount a post-colonial assault on American exceptionalism. This approach has drawbacks." Gellman maintained that "Foote's study does not leave enough room for the possibility of an antiracist discourse emerging from or coexisting with the prevailing racist one." Nevertheless, Gellman stated that the book "offers a valuable contribution to the freshly enlivened discourse on the history of slavery and race in New York City."

Harlow W. Sheidley, writing in the Historian, described the text as a "deeply researched monograph," adding that "this is not an easy book to read and does not invite a quick skim, but readers are rewarded for persistence." Kyle T. Bulthuis, writing in the Journal of Social History, commented that "Foote admirably commands a wide range of sources, primary and secondary. She takes pains to get theological and ecclesiastical distinctions correct." Bulthuis noted, however, that "the work does raise questions," citing that "there is simply no way of proving Foote's assertion that elite racial manipulation was a conscious effort rather than a subconscious expression of deep-seated cultural assumptions." Bulthuis lamented that "Foote's work is regrettably filled with the jargon of postcolonial studies and racial theory, much of which obfuscates as much as it reveals," adding that "the use of such jargon creates an apartheid ghetto of its own making." Despite these concerns, Bulthuis concluded that the author "has made a solid contribution to the literature" on her topic.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Historical Review, June, 2006, John Wood Sweet, review of Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in Colonial New York City, p. 825.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 1, 2005, T.D. Beal, review of Black and White Manhattan, p. 2049.

Chronicle of Higher Education, March 30, 2007, Lauren Smith and Paula Wasley, "Thelma Wills Foote joins Ohio University's African American Studies Department."

Historian, fall, 2006, Harlow W. Sheidley, review of Black and White Manhattan, p. 577.

Journal of American History, September, 2006, Thomas J. Davis, review of Black and White Manhattan, p. 498.

Journal of Social History, fall, 2007, Kyle T. Bulthuis, review of Black and White Manhattan, p. 204.

Reviews in American History, December, 2005, Serena Zabin, review of Black and White Manhattan, p. 501.

ONLINE

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (February, 2006), David N. Gellman, review of Black and White Manhattan.

Inside Higher Ed,http://www.insidehighered.com/ (March 19, 2007), Scott Jaschik, "A Book She Didn't Write."

Jump Cut,http://www.ejumpcut.org/ (March 28, 2008), author profile.

University of Southern Denmark, Center for American Studies Web site,http://www1.sdu.dk/Hum/amstud/ (March 28, 2008), author profile.

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