• Hardcover: 416 pages
• Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (February 17, 2011)
A multigenerational saga of three American families crossing the racial divide, written by one of our most accomplished historians of race and the law.
In America, race is a riddle. The stories we tell about our past have calcified into the fiction that we are neatly divided into black or white. It is only with the widespread availability of DNA testing and the boom in genealogical research that the frequency with which individuals and entire families crossed the color line has become clear.
In this sweeping history, Daniel J. Sharfstein unravels the stories of three extraordinary families from different eras of American history to represent the complexity of race in America and to force us to rethink our basic assumptions about who we are. The Gibsons were wealthy landowners in the South Carolina backcountry who became white in the 1760s, ascending to the heights of the Southern elite and, ultimately, to the United States Senate. The Spencers were hardscrabble farmers in the hills of eastern Kentucky, joining an isolated Appalachian community in the 1840s and for the better part of a century hovering on the line between white and black. The Walls were fixtures of the rising black middle class in post-Civil War Washington, D.C., only to give up everything they had fought for to become white at the dawn of the twentieth century. Together, their interwoven and intersecting stories uncover a forgotten America in which the rules of race were something to be believed, but not necessarily obeyed.
Defining their identities first as people of color and later as whites, the families provide a lens for understanding how people thought about and experienced race and how these ideas and experiences evolved-how the very meaning of black and white changed-over time. The Invisible Line will cut through centuries of myth and amnesia and poisonous racial politics and change how we talk about race, racism, and civil rights.
Daniel J. Sharfstein is an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University. Sharfstein graduated from Yale Law School and from Harvard College, summa cum laude in History and Literature and Afro-American Studies. He has been awarded fellowships in legal history from Harvard, New York University, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Sharfstein has written for the Yale Law Journal, New York Times, Economist, Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Legal Affairs.
Daniel’s Tour Stops
Thursday, February 17th: That’s What She Read
Monday, February 21st: My American Melting Pot
Thursday, February 24th: Regular Rumination
Monday, February 28th: Mocha Dad
Tuesday, March 1st: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, March 3rd: BookNAround
Monday, March 7th: Scraps of Life
Tuesday, March 8th: Book Club Classics!
Friday, March 11th: The Brain Lair
Monday, March 14th: Chaotic Compendiums
Tuesday, March 15th: A Few More Pages
Tuesday, March 15th: Gun Fighter
Wednesday, March 16th: Rhapsody In Books
Friday, March 18th: 1330v
Thursday, March 24th: Reading Through Life