Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

PubTalk 2/2009 — A lecture by Martha A. Sandweiss on her latest book

Right-click and save to download

Detailed Description

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line"

By Martha Sandweiss, Princeton University


  • After leading one of the four great surveys of the western U.S., Clarence King was appointed to be the first Director of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1879. For thirteen years he lived a double life-- as the celebrated white explorer, geologist and writer Clarence King, and as a black Pullman porter and steel worker named James Todd. The fair, blue-eyed son of a wealthy China trader passed across the color line, revealing his secret to his black common-law wife, Ada Copeland, only on his deathbed.




Public Domain.