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We Are Who We Say We Are

A Black Family's Search for Home Across the Atlantic World

Mary Frances Berry

Publication Date - December 2014

ISBN: 9780199978335

224 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

This vivid story of a Creole, multi-generational family demonstrates the challenges of the African-American experience


This colored Creole story offers a unique historical lens through which to understand the issues of migration, immigration, passing, identity, and color-forces that still shape American society today. We Are Who We Say We Are provides a detailed, nuanced account of shifting forms of racial identification within an extended familial network and constrained by law and social reality.

Author Mary Frances Berry, a well-known expert in the field, focuses on the complexity and malleability of racial meanings within the US over generations. Colored Creoles, similar to other immigrants and refugees, passed back and forth in the Atlantic world. Color was the cause and consequence for migration and identity, splitting the community between dark and light. Color could also split families. Louis Antoine Snaer, a free man of color and an officer in the Union Army who passed back and forth across the color line, had several brothers and sisters. Some chose to "pass" and some decided to remain "colored," even though they too, could have passed. This rich global history, beginning in Europe--with episodes in Haiti, Cuba, Louisiana, and California--emphasizes the diversity of the Atlantic World experience.

About the Author(s)

Mary Frances Berry is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of several books, including And Justice For All: The United States Commission On Civil Rights and the Struggle For Freedom in America (2009) and My Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (2005).


We Are Who We Say We Are is a captivating examination of race, class, and identity spanning several centuries and geographic borders...[E]xhaustively researched..."--Michael Dickinson, The Journal of African American History

"We Are Who We Say We Are is a beautifully written historical narrative of an American family. Provocative and compelling, this book brims with insight while powerfully reflecting the universally human truths of everyday life."--Elijah Anderson, Yale University

"A deeply-researched, subtle, and eye-opening analysis of the 'in-between' social status of people who look white, but whose reputed African descent marked them for discrimination. This marvelous book shows us how, within the same colored Creole family, unyielding racial and economic barriers led some to leave New Orleans and pass for white, while others--bound by family, community, and cultural ties--chose to become 'black' and forge civil rights alliances with African Americans."--Kevin Gaines, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

"Mary Frances Berry's gift as a writer is her ability to follow an individual family--here the Snaer family--and show us America anew. Berry impressively details how the social construction of race was lived in America-the ways in which people were placed and shaped, how they were seen, and how they altered their identity in a racially stratified United States."--Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College of CUNY and author of the award-winning The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Table of Contents

    Chapter I: Becoming Colored Creole
    Chapter II: Becoming Americans
    Chapter III: Family Troubles
    Chapter IV: Fighting for Democracy
    Chapter V: Becoming "Negroes"
    Chapter VI: Opportunity and Tragedy in Iberia Parish
    Chapter VII: Mulattoes and Colored Creoles
    Chapter VIII: Just Americans
    Chapter IX: At Home or Away: We Are Who We Say We Are
    Epilogue: Becoming "Black"

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