• E-Books
  • Latest Catalogs
  • Books for Courses
  • Exhibits Listing
  • View Cart

About the Book

Beyond the Book

408 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 illus., notes, bibl., index

Paper
ISBN  978-0-8078-5939-1
Published: May 2009

Property Rites

The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness

By Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor


In 1925 Leonard Rhinelander, the youngest son of a wealthy New York society family, sued to end his marriage to Alice Jones, a former domestic servant and the daughter of a "colored" cabman. After being married only one month, Rhinelander pressed for the dissolution of his marriage on the grounds that his wife had lied to him about her racial background. The subsequent marital annulment trial became a massive public spectacle, not only in New York but across the nation--despite the fact that the state had never outlawed interracial marriage.

Elizabeth Smith-Pryor makes extensive use of trial transcripts, in addition to contemporary newspaper coverage and archival sources, to explore why Leonard Rhinelander was allowed his day in court. She moves fluidly between legal history, a day-by-day narrative of the trial itself, and analyses of the trial’s place in the culture of the 1920s North to show how notions of race, property, and the law were--and are--inextricably intertwined.

About the Author

Elizabeth Smith-Pryor is assistant professor of history at Kent State University. She practiced law in New York for six years.


Reviews

"Offers a fascinating thesis of why so many white Americans in the 1920s had become anxious about the concept of passing."
--Flavour Magazine

"Offers other fascinating discussions of the ways in which shifting notions of middle-class manhood, courtship practices, and acceptable sexual behavior, affected the course of the trial. . . . An illuminating and engaging read that is particularly suitable for an undergraduate classroom."
--History News Network

"Smith-Pryor tells the trial's story in play-by-play fashion, alternating those chapters with analytical interludes that describe the complexities of race in the 1920s US. . . . Recommended."
--Choice

"An enjoyable book that clarifies many of the complicated social and legal issues surrounding the dissolution of the Rhinelander marriage."
--The Journal of American History

"Smith-Pryor uses the Rhinelander trial to weave a narrative of classification, confusion, and cultural dislocation in the Jazz Age. . . . Reveals much about how Americans in the Northeast lived in and across the color line and how, in the north as much as the south, white supremacy shaped property, place, and possibility."
--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Smith-Pryor’s narrative of the trial and precipitating events is compelling. . . She delineates the complex past of the Jones family . . . with care and skill.”
--African American Review

Related Titles

<SPAN STYLE= "" >Black Faces, White Spaces</SPAN>

Black Faces, White Spaces

Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors

By Carolyn Finney

Nature as a racially charged space

Learn More »

<SPAN STYLE= "" >Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement</SPAN>

Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement

Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in New York City

By Sonia Song-Ha Lee

A story of coalition building and the rise of a new identity

Learn More »

<SPAN STYLE= "" >New Netherland Connections</SPAN>

New Netherland Connections

Intimate Networks and Atlantic Ties in Seventeenth-Century America

By Susanah Shaw Romney

Building the Dutch empire from the ground up

Learn More »



© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press
116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3808
How to Order | Make a Gift | Privacy
Greenpress Initiative Network Solutions