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Parallel Worlds: The Remarkable Gibbs-Hunts and the Enduring (In)significance of Melanin

When William Henry Hunt married Ida Alexander Gibbs in the spring of 1904, their wedding was a glittering Washington social event that joined an Oberlin-educated diplomats daughter and a Wall Street veteran who could trace his lineage to Jamestown. Their union took place in a world of refinement and privilege, but both William and Ida had mixed-race backgrounds, and their country therefore placed severe restrictions on their lives because, at that time, one drop of colored blood classified anyone as a Negro. This stain of melanin pushed the couples achievements to the margins of American society. Nonetheless, as William followed a career in the foreign service, Ida (whose grandfather was probably Richard Malcolm Johnson, a vice president of the United States) moved in intellectual and political circles that included the likes of Frederick Douglass, J. Pierpont Morgan, Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Mary Church Terrell. Adele Logan Alexander has written a fascinating account of this couple in her new book. Speaker Biography: Alexander is a professor of history at George Washington University and has been nominated President Obama to serve on the National Council on the Humanities.
Length: 59:25

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