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Skin color is the most influential factor behind racial identity, but determining race has never been black and white. A new book by legal scholar Daniel Sharfstein called “The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White” (The Penguin Press/2011) reveals that there was a time when the legal definition of race was so blurry that families considered African-Americans in one part of the country could be classified as white in another. Host of WUNC’s The State of ThingsFrank Stasio discusses the long relationship between skin color and social privilege with Sharfstein, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University; John P. Bowles, an associate professor of African-American art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of “Adrian Piper: Race, Gender and Embodiment” (Duke University Press/2011); Marvin McAllister, an assistant professor of English and African-American studies at the University of South Carolina and author of the forthcoming book, “Whiting Up: Whiteface Minstrels and Stage Europeans in African-American Performance” (UNC Press/2011); and Helen Bethea, author of the memoir, “A Life Divided” (self-published/2010), which recounts her experience as the biological child of white parents who was raised by African-Americans.Listen NowAlso access video of Professor Bowles talking about his book on youtube.

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