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Black for a Day – White Fantasies of Race and Empathy - North Carolina Scholarship Online
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Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy

Alisha Gaines


In 1948, journalist Ray Sprigle traded his whiteness to live as a black man for four weeks. A little over a decade later, John Howard Griffin famously “became” black as well, traveling the American South in search of a certain kind of racial understanding. Contemporary history is littered with the surprisingly complex stories of white people passing as black, and here Alisha Gaines constructs a unique genealogy of “empathetic racial impersonation”--white liberals walking in the fantasy of black skin under the alibi of cross-racial empathy. At the end of their experiments in “blackness,” Gaines ... More

Keywords: Ray Sprigle, John Howard Griffin, Grace Halsell, Rachel Dolezal, passing, race, empathy, blackface minstrelsy, racial impersonation, whiteness

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2017 Print ISBN-13: 9781469632834
Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018 DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469632834.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Alisha Gaines, author
Florida State University

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