A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
On Sale: January 26, 2010
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The secret double life of the man who mapped the American
West, and the woman he loved
Clarence King was a late nineteenth-century celebrity, a
brilliant scientist and explorer once described by Secretary
of State John Hay as "the best and brightest of his
generation." But King hid a secret from his Gilded Age
cohorts and prominent family in Newport: for thirteen years
he lived a double life-the first as the prominent white
geologist and writer Clarence King, and a second as the
black Pullman porter and steelworker named James Todd. The
fair, blue-eyed son of a wealthy China trader passed across
the color line, revealing his secret to his black common-law
wife, Ada Copeland, only on his deathbed. In Passing
Strange, noted historian Martha A. Sandweiss tells the
dramatic, distinctively American tale of a family built
along the fault lines of celebrity, class, and race- a story
that spans the long century from Civil War to civil rights.
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