If you have ever read my blog, you probably already know how much I love American history. You probably know that I also love the fact that American history is a living, breathing, changing thing that isn’t always what we are taught that it is.
Now, in this important new work, The Invisible Line author Daniel J. Sharfstein takes another stab at an important, but heretofore ignored part of the history of our great nation: Race. Now, it isn’t as if there aren’t enough people who want to write books about race and racism, but this is different. In this book, Sharfstein looks at the color line between black and white, and exposes in detail just how blurry that line has always been in our country.
For decade upon decade, we have been schooled about the color line, and what that has meant to our history. From the colonial period to the American Civil War, from the Jim Crow era to the Civil Rights movement, from Loving v. Virginia to the present, we have always had a pretty good notion where racial lines have been drawn in America… and which side of those lines we belonged on. The Invisible Line is a book that will make you question those lines in ways that you probably never considered.
This book is not about black people “passing” for white. This book is about racial migration. Not in the sense of how and why different racial groups move from place to place, but rather how people, in this case three families of black people went from black to white.
The Walls were a rising middle class black family in the Washington, DC area that started in bondage in North Carolina who eventually became white. The Gibsons were members of the planting class of slave-owning “people of color” as early as the middle of the 18th century. The Spencers were a poor family who settled in Kentucky and worked hard, lived and died, and straddled the hardening lines of what was and wasn’t black or white. Despite their social status, these families all had two things in common: their African American slave origins, and the fact that by the twentieth century, they were white.
In this book, Sharfstein tell us three tales… fraught with danger, subterfuge, adventure, success, failure, and triumph. These stories are as American as they come, and I won’t throw spoilers at you, but I think that if you have any interest in American history, you will enjoy this book.
Disclaimer: This review is presented as part of a TLC book tour. Although I was provided a free copy of the book, I was not compensated in any other way, nor was my review influenced by that fact.