Love On Trial: An American Scandal In Black And White Hardcover – Jun 5 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
While modern readers may not be familiar with the notorious Rhinelander trial of 1924, Lewis (dean of graduate studies at the University of Michigan) and Ardizzone (visiting assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame) offer a detailed account of the various people and complex issues that made it sensational. Young, white and a member of New York society, Leonard Rhinelander spent some three years courting working-class Alice Jones. After the wedding and a few nights of marital bliss at Jones's parents' home, young Lenny sued to have his marriage annulled, claiming he didn't know Alice wasn't white. In fact, Alice's mother was white; her father was an Englishman the son of a white woman and an unidentified man who may been Indian who never entertained the question of his race. While Alice's family never consciously tried to "pass" for white, they lived in a sort of racial limbo, letting their social status define them. It was left to an upstate New York judge and jury to determine whether Alice was "white," "colored" or "Negro" terms not clearly defined but certainly hotly debated in 1920s America. In addition to being a legal quagmire, the Rhinelander trial unleashed a Pandora's box of morality questions (in the end, it seems neither premarital sex or interracial sex was as scandalous as cross-class marriage). Although not graceful writers, Lewis and Ardizzone cleverly build their narrative on the progression of the trial, careful not to foreshadow the verdict. Small photo insets give a scrapbook-look to this dense but fascinating volume. (May)Forecast: If Norton's marketing effectively reaches the core academic audience for this book and jump-starts it through word of mouth, students of African-American and women's studies will find this an engrossing read as will historians of many stripes despite its clunky prose.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
First published as a scholarly article and later reorganized and rewritten, this work results from a collaboration between Lewis (history, African American studies, Univ. of Michigan) and Ardizzone, his former graduate student. The authors researched the events surrounding the 1925 annulment trial in a Westchester County courtroom involving Leonard Rhinelander, son of a privileged, aristocratic New York family, who married Alice Jones, a beautiful working-class woman of mixed-race ancestry. Pressured to end the marriage, young Rhinelander claimed that Jones had misrepresented her race. Using dozens of American newspapers as primary sources, the authors explore racial ambiguity during a period of stiffening segregation policy. At times, the text is repetitive or bloated with conjecture, dragging out the undoubtedly painful scandal like the newspaper coverage of the day. Those accounts described Jones as dusky, octoroon, quadroon, colored, Negro, mulatto, and black, distinctions that faded with the pursuit of palpable civil rights decades later. An intriguing story; recommended for public and academic libraries. Elaine Machleder, Bronx, NY
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is human and interesting, but it lets that human interest come from the story. Many books of this nature are ruined by authors who want to make more of a novel, injecting dialogues and thoughts that the author has invented to flesh out the facts as they are known. We don't know exactly what the young couple were thinking or how their feelings might have changed over time, but the author doesn't pretend to know, either, and that makes the events more compelling and the book more truthful.
I like this book because it has been written with a soft touch, presenting facts, and allowing them to make the story.
We are not given a romantic, overdone cartoon of the case, but merely invited to see how absurd a love affair is when it is divorced from its personal nature, and how equally absurd the scientific classification of "race" is when it cannot even be measured with scientific precision.
Authors Lewis and Ardizzone are advocates of the idea that anyone who even might have a "drop" of the dreaded "black blood" is instantly a member of the "black race" and "African American" ethnic group. They want people to believe that you can be "black" without even knowing it. Non-black phenotypes and cultures are dismissed as unimportant. Note again that, through silence, they pay tribute to the greatest "passers" of all, the Latinos and Arab-Americans, by being careful not to mention their embarrassing relationship to the "race" they claim to champion.
In Love on Trial, Lewis and Ardizzone use their editorial perogative to continually describe Alice Jones as "black" and "African American" as if these were objective facts. Yet, Alice was the daughter of immigrants from England. She had no ancestors among American "Negroes" or even mulattoes. Her mother was described as "pure white" and her father's ancestry was actually unknown. He was the son of a working class white Englishwoman and a father who was presumed to be from one of the colonies of the British empire. To this day, Alice's paternal grandfather has not been identified -- racially or otherwise. Her father, George Jones, was darker than "white" but otherwise had no Negroid characteristics.Read more ›
Even today, "black"/"white" relationships still arouse a great deal of controversy. Look at the O.J. Simpson case. That case has divided the nation into two hostile camps. Assorted incidents directed toward multiracial couples shows that we have a long way to go. Whites oppose such relationships because it weakens white privilege, while Blacks condemned them in the name of Black racial solidarity and unity.
Please buy this book now. If not, then go to your local library and borrow it. This is a very fascinating book that is very riveting in its telling of the long-neglected chapter of American history.
Most recent customer reviews
Alice Jones and Leonard Kip Rhinelander meet and fall in love. Alice comes from a modest family originally from England and Leonard comes from a wealthy New York family. Read morePublished on Dec 18 2001 by Fafa Demasio
This book was recommended by my Dean, so of course I had to read it. The issues raised in this book are very thought provoking. What does it mean to be Black in America? Read morePublished on Oct. 8 2001 by 2nd sunshine
From the very start you want to know more about the lovers/litigants in this book. The authors unfold the story slowly and with great detail, as well as plenty of historical... Read morePublished on Aug. 18 2001 by Monet Parham-Lee
The writing is so engaging, and the tale so compelling and well-told, I finished this book in just two days and I have not been able to stop pondering what happened and all the... Read morePublished on July 21 2001
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