There are no recent bookmarks.

Please Note: This event has expired.

Passing for White: Researching the Invisible Color Line

Presented by Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), Nashville Chapter at Nashville Public Library - Main Library, Nashville TN

Jun 03 2017
Passing for White: Researching the Invisible Color Line

Vanderbilt professor and author, Daniel Sharfstein, shares his work on African American families who passed for white.

Courthouse records, private and government archives, census records, newspapers, letters, diaries, deeds, wills — many of us recognize these as invaluable resources for researching family history. Researching individuals with African American ancestry already presents challenges – imagine how much more complex those challenges can be if the family decides to cross the color line and pass for white? Vanderbilt professor and author, Daniel Sharfstein, leveraged these types of resources, and more, and dedicated numerous hours to the research and exploration of families that have done just that.

In his book, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White, Mr. Sharfstein documents the stories of “…three families that made the journey from black to white at different points in American history.”

Join the Nashville chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society to hear about his research and processes for chronicling these families’ lives, and what he’s learned regarding the complexity of race in America.

Dan Sharfstein is the Tarkington Chair of Teaching Excellence, Professor of Law, and Profesor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is a graduate of Harvard and Yale, and his scholarly research focuses on the legal history of race in the United States. Mr. Sharfstein has received numerous awards for his writing, and most recently published “Thunder in the Mountains” Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War.” Mr. Sharfstein co-teaches the Vanderbilt course “Historic Black Nashville” and regularly participates in local events related to African American Nashville history.

After the meeting, you are wecome ask questions about your own family history, or spend time at the library doing research; AAHGS members and a collection of genealogy books will be available to aid you. Please RSVP to let organizer know you are coming. 

Painting – Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery to Reconstruction, by Aaron Douglas.


The meeting is free and open to the public.

    Official Website


Nashville Public Library - Main Library

615 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37219
(Neighborhood: Downtown)


Metro government is modernizing the parking garage adjacent to the Main Library. The project began late June 2016. Approximately 360 spaces will be added, and other improvements will be made to the garage. Seventy-five parking spaces are temporarily closed for the duration of construction. Project completion is expected in spring of 2018.

Due to the temporary parking space decrease and temporary lane closures, please allow extra time when planning to visit during peak hours or for special events.


    • Assisted Listening System
    • Braille
    • Wheelchair Access

CONNECT WITH Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), Nashville Chapter