Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
When Martha Sandweiss was in graduate school, she read a biography of Clarence King, written in the 1950s. The book told the story of King's work as a scientist, the expeditions he led that mapped the American west during and after the Civil War and his work as the first leader of the U-S Geological Survey... But out of the 400 pages, there were only 4 pages dedicated to his relationship of his wife of 13 years, Ada Copeland.
The reason for the lack of information in that book may have been, as Sandweiss discovered through old census bureau records, that Clarence King was white, Ada Copeland was black -- and for the entire length of their relationship, King lived a double life -- to friends and admirers he was a famous geologist -- and to his common-law wife Ada, he was an African-American named James Todd, who worked as a porter on the railroad. Martha Sandweiss details the lives of King and Copeland in her new book "Passing Strange". She told WFCR's Bob Paquette there was plenty of research material available on Clarence King's public life -- but much less about the woman he loved.
The book is "Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line" by Martha Sandweiss.