This essay will realize an intersectional historiographic approach to the career of Ina Ray Hutton, one of the most important band leaders during the rise and fall of the swing era. Hutton was known as the “blonde bombshell of rhythm,” an appellation that was critical not only to her popular notoriety but also to her success performing a sustained act of racial passing, the full public awareness of which has arrived in a belated and untimely fashion (absent from her obituaries). Although her passing was likely known within certain delimited communities, it was hidden from the larger dominant white culture of the day and from the popular memory of her trans-media audience. This study will focus on the contexts of her work at the beginning of her career, and end with her late career on local and network television as sites that provide new speculative interventions to recognize the significance of this singular performer.
Passing for History: Ina Ray Hutton, Television, and Speculative Historiography
Mark Williams is an associate professor of film and media studies at Dartmouth College where he founded an e-journal, The Journal of e-Media Studies, co-edited the book series Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture, and directs an NEH-supported Digital Humanities research initiative, The Media Ecology Project (MEP). He has published widely on cinema, television, and new media history and theory. This essay is part of a larger study of several performers whose public persona featured sustained acts of “passing” across long careers that included feature appearances on early US television.
Mark Williams; Passing for History: Ina Ray Hutton, Television, and Speculative Historiography. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2022; 8 (3): 115–126. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2022.8.3.115
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