Talty, Stephan 1965(?)–
Talty, Stephan 1965(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1965, in Buffalo, NY. Education: Graduate of Amherst College (magna cum laude).
ADDRESSES: Agent—PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England.
CAREER: Worked as a critic for Time Out New York and as an editor for Details.
Contributor to periodicals, including Men's Journal, Irish Times, Chicago Review, Gentleman's Quarterly, and the New York Times magazine.
SIDELIGHTS: Stephan Talty is a journalist who frequently writes about racial issues. His Mulatto America: At the Crossroads of Black and White Culture: A Social History is a study of the intermingling of blacks and whites beginning in the U.S. antebellum era, and includes accounts of whites who were kidnapped or sold into slavery. Using personal papers and court memoirs, he finds that there were about thirty such cases a year, primarily involving children who had no way to prove their race. Once they were designated as black, neither their appearances nor their own statements recording their family were considered. A slave trader admitted on his deathbed to having purchased Irish natives in 1774 that he advertised as being light-skinned blacks. He sold these people in the South, where they brought a higher price than they would have as indentured servants. During the same period, Harriet Beecher Stowe sold light-skinned mulatto children at auction in order to raise money to free them.
The topic of black conversion to Christianity in the antebellum South is also discussed, including the fact that black converts felt they would become white upon entering heaven. A Kirkus Reviews contributor said that "an essay on interracial relationships rediscovers wonderful stories of whites drinking their paramours' blood in order to circumvent the 'one-drop' rule." Library Journal contributor Paula N. Arnold wrote that "Talty suggests that now blacks and whites have choices, allowing the personal finally to trump the social and historical."
New City Chicago writer Nathaniel Zimmer stated that the book "is chock-full of intriguing tidbits on everything from white slavery to Marvin Gaye's fondness for Perry Como." Talty gives examples of how both whites and blacks have copied each other's styles and cultures, from the melding that took place within the New Orleans jazz scene and society up to and including the rap performed by white performers such as Eminem, both instances of whites emulating blacks. He writes of mixed-race celebrities like Paul Robeson and Dorothy Dandridge, who crossed the color barrier and were accepted as "honorary whites," as well as blacks, such as boxer Mohammad Ali and singer Sam Cooke who crossed that same line on their own terms. Talty covers black intellectual life at the turn of the twentieth century with its emphasis on European culture and notes that figures of that time, including W.E.B. Dubois, were admired and respected by whites. He also writes of the rejection of white culture by blacks in the 1960s and the widespread popularity of black sports figures in the 1970s.
In a Washington Post Book World review, Jabari Asim noted that Talty's essay on the 1960s is particularly effective. "He astutely identifies the association of overt racism during that period with the white underclass, a linkage that left the elite free to inflict harm in their own ingenious style." Talty implies that Southern rednecks took the heat for being up front with their racism while the upper classes were rewarded for their discretion. Asim said that Talty "implies that semiliterate mobs and their supportive sheriffs were merely enforcing the policies legislated by their superiors, whose talons extended all the way to the highest levels of state and federal power. It's consoling to imagine racism as the province of the unwashed and uneducated, but Talty knows that the facts have always suggested otherwise." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Mulatto America "an informed, occasionally inspired work that pulls its historical examples under a broad view of biracialism—as a phenomenon of memes as well as genes." BookPage contributor Arlene McKanic called the book "an intelligent and accessible analysis of race in this country."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Vernon Ford, review of Mulatto America: At the Crossroads of Black and White Culture: A Social History, p. 818.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Mulatto America, p. 1682.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Paula N. Arnold, review of Mulatto America, p. 108.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 30, 2003, Kate Manning, review of Mulatto America, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly, December 2, 2002, review of Mulatto America, pp. 44-45.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 5, 2003, Lorraine Kee, review of Mulatto America, Everyday section, p. E1.
Washington Post Book World, January 28, 2003, Jabari Asim, review of Mulatto America, p. 8.
BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (August 16, 2005), Arlene McKanic, review of Mulatto America.
New City Chicago Online, http://www.newcitychicago.com/ (January 29, 2003), Nathaniel Zimmer, review of Mulatto America.