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Not Quite White in Fiction and Film: Laura Z. Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement and Nella Larsen’s Passing

March 4 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm EST

Bildner Center Film Posters

The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University will host a moderated discussion of two films based on novels that explore themes of racial and ethnic passing, Gentleman’s Agreement and Passing in conjunction with its “Black Americans, Jewish Americans: Historical Intersections, Collisions, and Passings,” supported by an NJCH grant.

Gentleman’s Agreement and Passing are critically-acclaimed novels on racial and ethnic passing that have also been adapted for the screen. The novels investigate how anti-Black racism and antisemitism have shaped the integration of Blacks and Jews into White Christian American society. Penned by women, both novels also explore issues of gender and social class.

Nella Larsen’s Passing, published in 1929 during the Harlem Renaissance, was adapted for film in 2021 and stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as Black friends who must confront the limits of their friendship and the color line when one is more successful than the other at “passing” as White.

Laura Z. Hobson’s bestselling Gentleman’s Agreement was originally published in 1946, shortly after World War II, in serial form in Cosmopolitan. In the 1947 Academy Award-winning film adaptation, Gregory Peck stars as a gentile reporter tasked with uncovering antisemitism. He soon discovers the depth of bigotry and hatred that exists in the United States.

Rachel Gordan, Shorstein Professor of American Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Florida, and Donavan Ramon, Assistant Professor of African-American and English Literature, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, will discuss the novels and their adaptations to the screen in a panel moderated by film and cultural critic Gene Seymour. Excerpts from both films will be shown during the program.

The event is part of a series of events exploring the historical intersections of Black and Jewish Americans supported by an NJCH grant. Open to the public as part of the series is a virtual book club discussing Philip Roth’s The Human Stain on June 5 and Larsen’s Passing on June 26. Find information and RSVP for the book club events here.


Trayes Hall, Douglass Student Center, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
100 George Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901 United States
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