I've designated May as Mixed-Race People History Month. During this month, I will post short biographies of biracial/bicultural, and mulitracial/multicultural notable people in history.
It is incredibly important to recognize that multiracial people have a history. Multiracialism and multiculturalism may be relatively newly coined words for our country, but they are not new realities.
Like Black History Month, Mixed Race People History Month is designed to educate the public about the contributions of mixed race people. We are not tragic mulattoes. We are part of the vital fabric of America's history (both black and white).
I recognize that this is somewhat controversial. Many biracial/bicultural people have been hailed as African-Americans. My purpose is not to wrestle great accomplishments or great accomplished people from the credit of African-American history (a history which is also my own history). I simply want to recognize the complexity of these mixed-race individual's experience and the way they made a difference.
Today, I introduce Jules Lion.
Jules Lion (1810-1866) was a French-born mulatto artist. Before emigrating to the United States in the late 1830s, he exhibited his work in prestigious Paris salons. He settled in New Orleans and after a brief trip home to Paris, he introduced the daguerrotype (the precurser to photography) to his adopted American city and increased its popularity.
Historian Deborah Willis-Kennedy writes: "What makes the work of black photographers in this period particularly significant is that the inhumane institution of slavery existed in 1840 and would survive another 25 years."