Interviews & Press


A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life made it to the 2017 summer reading lists of Harvard University Press and The Paris Review.


Allyson was featured in Stanford's faculty media campaign.

“My research on racial passing really began when my aunt told me a story about a family member who passed as white in the 1940s. Our family member resisted assuming the life of a white woman, but her mother insisted that this was the best – if not the only – way to succeed in Jim Crow America, so her daughter agreed. Years passed, and the daughter married a white man and had children. Then, her mother called and begged her to come home because her father was dying. Her daughter had no choice but to say, ‘I can’t. It’s not possible.’ At that point, she was a white woman and there was simply no turning back. My aunt’s magnificent storytelling and this personal connection to racial passing inspired me to delve into the history of how racial passing affects families, and to explore the pain, loss and separation that resulted.

“It is critically important to study race now. We must study race, gender, class, sexual orientation and the intersections of these identity categories. We are dealing with many unresolved issues that stem from the long and enduring history of white supremacy. We have to understand the history of white supremacy so that we can challenge and dismantle it. It’s inspiring to teach students who are so courageous in wanting to confront issues of racial injustice, economic inequality, sexual violence, sexism and multiple forms of discrimination. My students have taught me to constantly be aware of what’s happening in the current moment. To be effective teachers and historians, we must connect historical knowledge to our own times. We must help students to see their place in our history and to give them the tools to create a more just world.”


Allyson was a speaker in the What Matters to Me and Why series at Stanford University (February 17, 2016).


Allyson discusses racial passing on BackStory radio. 


Allyson talks to Randy Dotinga, President of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, for a ShopTalk event on diversity, "Writers and Diversity: Selling, Succeeding, and Bringing in New Voices."



Live at Nine on WREG, December 17, 2015

Allyson talks to the hosts of "Live at Nine," on WREG, Memphis's local CBS affiliate, about the history of racial passing.




Allyson joins a panel on Melissa Harris-Perry's show on MSNBC to discuss protests on college campuses, November 29, 2015.



Inflection Point on NPR/KALW, September 24, 2015

Allyson is interviewed by Lauren Schiller on Inflection Point, a radio show and podcast featuring conversations with women changing the status quo. Listen here.


The 7th Avenue Project: Thinking Persons' Radio, NPR, June 28, 2915

Allyson talks to host Robert Pollie about her book, A Chosen Exile.


Christian Science Monitor, June 22, 2015

Allyson talks to Randy Dotinga about the history of racial passing in light of the Rachel Dolezal case.


MSNBC.com's Nerding Out, June 17, 2015

Nerding Out's host Dorian Warren talks with professors Allyson Hobbs, Christina Greer, and Joseph Lowndes about what the social construction of race does and does not mean in the case of Rachel Dolezal.


The Takeaway, NPR/WNYC, June 16, 2015

Allyson talks to John Hockenberry on The Takeaway about the history of passing and Rachel Dolezal's comments about her racial identity.


All Things Considered, NPR, June 16, 2015

Audie Cornish, host of NPR's All Things Considered, interviews Allyson Hobbs and Khadijah White about how people experience race in America.



The Melissa Harris Perry Show, MSNBC, June 13, 2015

Allyson talks to Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC about racial identity, passing, and the controversy surrounding Rachel Dolezai. 


The University of Chicago Magazine, May-June 2015

Allyson The University of Chicago Magazine interviews Allyson about her book. An excerpt of A Chosen Exile is included.


tavis smiley TV logo.jpg

The Tavis Smiley Show, PBS, April 9, 2015

Allyson joins a panel of historians to discuss the Civil War and its enduring legacies on the 150th anniversary of its last battle.


In the following interviews, Allyson discusses the painful consequences of passing. She argues that writing a history of passing is writing a history of loss.


NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, February 27, 2015


The Madison Show, SiriusXM, November 13, 2014


Genealogy Live Talk Radio with Bernice Bennett, November 7, 2014



Moncrieff, Newstalk Radio (Ireland), [at 9:15], October 30, 2014


All Things Considered, National Public Radio, October 7, 2014

Several years ago, Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs was talking with a favorite aunt, who was also the family storyteller. Hobbs learned that she had a distant cousin whom she'd never met nor heard of. Which is exactly the way the cousin wanted it. Hobbs' cousin had been living as white, far away in California, since she'd graduated from high school. This was at the insistence of her mother. "She was black, but she looked white," Hobbs said. "And her mother decided it was in her best interest to move far away from Chicago, to Los Angeles, and to assume the life of a white woman."
Read more



“Stanford Historian Re-Examines Practice of Racial ‘Passing,’” Stanford News, December 18, 2013

Dr. Albert Johnston grew up in Chicago, attended the University of Chicago Medical School in the 1920s, and went on to become a radiologist in a small town in New Hampshire. He and his wife were black – a fact they initially hid so that Johnston could secure an internship – and for 20 years, they kept this secret from their neighbors, and even their children.
Read more