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African American Department Collection and State Library Resources

Colorism - Skin Color and Intra-Racial Issues Among African-Americans

Color consciousness has been a subject that has lingered just beneath the surface of intra-racial issues among African-Americans for years. Color consciousness, or “colorism” as it is often referred to, is a phenomenon in which persons of the same race discriminate against one another based on the lightness or darkness of one’s skin. Issues with race identity have divided African-Americans in several areas including education, social status and perceived beauty. The list below serves as a sampling of several voices that have contributed their opinions on this troubling topic through literature and film.

NON-FICTION

Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man. Charles Barkley. 2006. E184 .A1 B2444 2005

Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey through the Color Complex. Marita Golden. 2004. E185.86 .G625 2003

The Future of the Race. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cornel West. 1996. E185.86.G3771996

Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class. Lawrence Graham. 1999. E185.86 .G644 1999

Skin Color Recognition, Preference, and Identification in Interracial Children: A Comparative Study. Wayne West Gunthrope. 1998.

An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American Education, Income, and Occupation. Ronald E. Hall. 2005.

Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation. Michael D. Harris 2003. N8232 .H37 2003Q

Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone Margaret L. Hunter. 2005. 

Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Walter Johnson. 1999. F379 .N59 N4 1999

The Paper Bag Principle: Class, Colorism and Rumor and the case of Black Washington DC. Audrey Elisa Kerr. 2007. E185.93.D6K47 2007

Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousness in African America, Obiagele Lake. 2003.

The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color among African Americans Kathy Russell, Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall. 1992. E185.625 .A78 1992

 FICTION

Skin Deep. Kathleen Cross. 1999

The Bluest Eye. Toni Morrison. 1970

Other People’s Skin. Tracy Price-Thompson. 2007

Passin’. Karen E. Quinones-Miller. 2008

The Human Stain. Philip Roth. 2000

The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life. Wallace Thurman. 1996

FILM

A Girl Like Me. Directed by Kiri Davis. 2005. Available for viewing online at Media That Matters

A Question of color. Directed by Kathe Sandler.1992. VIDEOTAPE; Sights and Sounds Department

Imitation of Life.  Directed by John M. Stahl/Doulas Sirk. 2004. DVD; Sights and Sounds Department

One Drop Rule. Directed by James Banks. 2001.

School Daze. directed by Spike Lee. 1988. DVD; Sights and Sounds Department

The African American cinema II: The scar of shame. 1923, Sissle and Blake. 1926. VIDEOTAPE; Sights and Sounds Department

The Human Stain. Directed by Robert Benton. 2004. DVD; Sights and Sounds Department

PLAYS

Color Struck: A Play in Four Scenes. Zora Neale Hurston.1925. Reprinted 1994. PS153.N5.P671994

Additional Resources (Journal Articles)

Link to Word Document: African Americans and Racial Identity

Electronic Databases

To access, visit the Pratt Library Website at Databases. A Pratt Library card number may be required to access databases outside of the library.

African American Experience

The African American Experience, part of the American Mosaic Online Reference Family, provides user friendly electronic access to over 400 reference works covering African American scholarship from earliest times to present day. This database includes slave narratives and primary documents as well as audio clips, music and interviews with notable African Americans.

African American History and Culture

This electronic encyclopedia includes thousands of entries covering the entire breadth of African-American history—from African beginnings through the slave trade and the Civil Rights Movement to the present.

Contact Us

If you would like to know more about this subject, email us through our Ask-A-Librarian service, call the African American Department at 410-361-9287, or mail your questions to:

African American Department
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

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