Race, Gender, and Patricia Williams

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When Patricia Williams talks about family history, she is also talking about one shared by African-Americans. The roots of her family tree are in the rape and abuse meted out to slaves, the branches reach into the highest levels of the educated elite.

In her new book “Open House” Williams gives up the family secrets of her great-Aunt Mary, who pretended to be white, of the way that her mother served watermelon without feeling self-conscious and about raising her own son in the white upper class world of New York.

In examining her own genealogy Williams raises questions about what’s really changed in racial, social and gender relations. All this at a time when she finds herself examining her own thoughts about feminism, assimilationism Condi Rice and Oprah Winfrey.


Patricia Williams, Columbia Law Professor and author of “Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own.”