Martha A. Sandweiss biography

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Martha A. Sandweiss
Photo: Sage Sohier

Martha A. Sandweiss

Martha A. Sandweiss Biography

Martha A. Sandweiss is professor of history at Princeton University. She received her Ph.D. in history from Yale University and began her career as a photography curator at the Amon Carter Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas. She later taught American studies and history at Amherst College for twenty years.

The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Beinecke Library at Yale University, Sandweiss is the author or editor of numerous books on American history and photography. Her publications include Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (2009), and Print the Legend: Photography and the American West (2002), winner of the Organization of American Historians' Ray Allen Billington Award for the best book in American frontier history and the William P. Clements Award. Her other works include Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace, winner of the George Wittenborn Award for outstanding art book of 1987, and the co-edited volume The Oxford History of the American West (1994), recipient of the Western Heritage Award and the Caughey Western History Association prize for the year's outstanding book in western history.

Sandweiss serves on the governing boards of the Organization of American Historians and the American Antiquarian Society and consults broadly on issues relating to the use of visual images for historical research and teaching.

Martha Sandweiss's website

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Interview

An interview with Martha Sandweiss in which she discusses her book Passing Strange, a biography of Clarence King who lived a double life - as the celebrated white explorer, geologist and writer Clarence King; and as a black Pullman porter named James Todd, married to Ada with whom he had five children.

What drew you to the story of Clarence King?
Many years ago, in graduate school, I read a marvelous biography of King, one of the great heroes of western exploration. The author devoted only about five pages of this five hundred page book, however, to a discussion of King's relationship with an African American woman named Ada. It struck me that a thirteen-year relationship that produced five children deserved more attention than that, even if it was a secret life that would be difficult to uncover. In our celebrity-obsessed world, public figures find it very difficult to have truly private lives. I decided to return to the story of Clarence King because I was curious to learn more about his secret life, but also because I was curious to figure out why it was so much easier for public figures to maintain their privacy in the late nineteenth century.

What turned out to be the most surprising aspects of King's life for you?
I uncovered the fact of King's racial passing the very first day I turned to this project. No one had ever considered the possibility that this fair-haired, blue-eyed man might have represented himself as a person of African American descent. No fact proved as surprising to ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Martha A. Sandweiss at BookBrowse
Passing Strange jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Martha A. Sandweiss but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Annette Gordon-Reed

    Annette Gordon-Reed

    Annette Gordon-Reed is Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School, Professor of History in the History Department, and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. A renowned law ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Passing Strange

    Try:
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    by Annette Gordon-Reed

  • James McBride

    James McBride

    James McBride is an award-winning writer and composer. His critically acclaimed memoir, The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, explores the author's struggle to understand his biracial identity ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Passing Strange

    Try:
    The Color of Water
    by James McBride

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