Here are some famous people who, like Barack Obama, have black fathers and white mothers. They are listed according to their date of birth (though in some cases I had to guess when that was):
Nella Larsen (“Passing”, writer of the Harlem Renaissance)
Shirley Bassey (sang “Goldfinger”)
Sue Simmons (Channel 4 news in New York).
Lani Guinier, Walter Mosley (wrote “Devil in a Blue Dress”), Vickie Sue Robinson (sang “Turn the Beat Around”), Lonette McKee (Flipper’s wife in “Jungle Fever”), James McBride (“The Color of Water”), Mario van Peebles, Sade, Victoria Rowell, Vanity.
Barack Obama, Cindy Herron (En Vogue), Mel & Kim, Roland Gift (Fine Young Cannibals), Downtown Julie Brown, Lisa Jones, Jennifer Beals (“Flashdance”), Christopher Reid (Kid N Play), Jasmine Guy, Neneh Cherry, Rob Pilatus (Milli Vanilli), Barbara Becker (wife of tennis great Boris Becker), Halle Berry, Lisa Bonet, Jayson Williams, Renee Tenison (Playboy Playmate of the Year), Ben Harper, Joshua Redman, Rick Fox (Lakers), Sophie Okonedo.
Mariah Carey, Shemar Moore (“The Young and the Restless”), Adrian Fenty (mayor of Washington D.C.), Danzy Senna (wrote “Caucasia”), Donald Brashear, Persia White (“Girlfriends”), Wentworth Miller, Amy Holmes, Jason Kidd, Boris Kodjoe, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Alana Davis, Derek Jeter, Sherri Saum, Paula Patton, Blu Cantrell, Melyssa Ford, Rashida Jones (daughter of Quincy Jones and that white girl on “The Mod Squad”), Goapele (sang “Closer”), Ida Corr (Danish singer), Emilia Rydberg (Swedish singer), Corinne Bailey Rae, Mya Harrison, Mel B, Ursula Rucker, Imani Coppola (Little Jackie).
Alicia Keys, Craig David, Grady Sizemore, Hoopz, Samantha Mumba, Leona Lewis, Lewis Hamilton, Jordan Farmar (Lakers), Laura Izibor (Nigerian/Irish), Jordin Sparks, Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical”).
I had no idea so many mixed people were in the public eye! Till I learned about their backgrounds, I thought of most of these people as just plain black. Even Halle Berry.
A few I thought were white when I first saw them: Mariah Carey, Jennifer Beals and Vickie Sue Robinson. Both Carey and Robinson sound black on the radio but looked white on television.
The only ones who I suspected might be mixed were Derek Jeter, Jennifer Beals, Persia White, Alicia Keys, Mya Harrison and Ursula Rucker, Shows you what I know.
Of those listed above, one in five are from New York City, especially Harlem. One in six is part Jewish.
One of the most striking things about this list is that few were born before 1950. That is no accident: before the fall of Jim Crow, black men were kept from white women in the southern states of America by law, force and terror. It was no easy thing elsewhere.
I think having parents from two different races does affect you growing up, especially if you find yourself in the strange position of being too black to be white and too white to be black, making you in effect neither black nor white but biracial.
But whether it is your mother or father who is black or white, does that affect you?
The only study I know of done about the sex and race of one’s parents is one done by Willerman, Naylor and Myrianthopoulos in 1974: mixed children brought up by a black father and a white mother had a mean IQ of 104.7, more than 8 points higher than those raised by a white father and black mother: 96.4. And, by the way, almost 5 points higher than the mean white IQ and, in those days, nearly 20 points higher than the mean black IQ.
- white fathers, black mothers
- One Drop Rule
- Black IQ
- New York
- Jim Crow