Friday, May 15, 2009

Passs* (for Pass*)

There are 24 instances of Passs* in OhioLINK, but they don't all pass muster as typos. One is an acronym for Ohio's "post-adoption special services subsidy" and six are followed by the word sic. (Note: whenever you put [sic] or [i.e.] in your title field, you should also include two 246 fields: one for the title the way it appears on the item and one for the title correctly spelled.) As founder of the U.S. Geological Survey, Clarence King was a very distinguished gentleman and, according to then Secretary of State John Hay, "the best and the brightest man of his generation." King was also a well-known bachelor, globe-trotter, and bon vivant from New York City. But perhaps his most remarkable accomplishment was passing for a black man (purported Pullman porter "James Todd") during his 13-year secret marriage to Ada Copeland, a former slave from Georgia, with whom he fathered five children and to whom he only revealed the truth about himself and his racial identity on his deathbed in 1901. Ms. Copeland passed away at 103 and was the sole survivor of slavery to witness Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. This fascinating story is told in a recently issued book by Martha Sandweiss called Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line.

(Portrait of Clarence King from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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