Claiming the South as Home was and still is a call to action and for reparations, but it is also an expression of black southern identity.
When I teach students about the history of constitutional law, I usually focus on the substantive legal arguments in Supreme Court decisions, but sometimes I encourage my students to focus on the tone, the emotion, the affect. I try to show my students that this can help us understand what is really going on in these decisions and it can help us consider the underlying issues and the political stakes.
Concerns about adult independence cut to the very heart of what it means to be an American citizen, and indeed, to long-standing assumptions about the proper functioning of democracy itself. Anxieties about coming of age have a history, and this history is not just economic but political.
When it was published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin quickly became the most inflammatory, explosive, and politically significant literary text of the antebellum period. Adapted to the stage shortly thereafter, Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s moral fervor, emotional power, and iconic characters soon made it a theatrical institution.
I grew up watching OutKast videos on the now-defunct Video Jukebox Network, affectionately known as “The Box.” Although OutKast received some play on MTV and BET in the early 1990s, it was on The Box, which featured a range of underground southern hip-hop artists, where I could be sure to see André “André 3000” Benjamin, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, and other southern rappers in regular rotation. Although initially record labels largely ignored southern artists, through homegrown ingenuity, southern rappers soon emerged as a formidable force in the global music industry. By 2005, top spots on music charts were regularly held by southern hip-hop artists, southern R&B singers, or hits produced by southern artists. As Memphis rapper Project Pat noted in 2006: “Now y’all was thinkin’ Dirty South was like, ‘hee-haw, hee-haw’/Is you worth over a hundred mil? We are, we are.” Indeed, the South had something to say.
Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, author of Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston, recently gave a talk for the James A. Hutchins Lecture at the Center for the Study of the American South entitled “Making a Way out of No Way: Black Women in the Old South.” In this lecture, she expands upon ideas discussed in her book about how black women fought for freedom in their oppressive environment.
We would like to congratulate all of last night’s Oscar winners, but there are a few winners who are especially close to our hearts at UNC Press. After the dust of pre-Oscar predictions settled, Twelve Years a Slave arose victorious last night winning the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Adapted Screenplay. When director Steve McQueen accepted the Oscar he said, “Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” and we could not be more happy that such an important film has received the recognition it deserves.
At critical junctures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, African American history intersected with the national story and altered the American landscape. Whether the Emancipation Proclamation or the March on Washington, black history merges and flows into the wider ocean of the American experience. All of these events, in one way or another, highlight the central role played by African Americans in the national life.
Malcolm’s transition would include rejecting the homegrown and Ahmadiyya-based, heterodox Islam practiced by the Nation of Islam and embracing the intellectual, moral, and political currents of orthodox Sunni Islam, African decolonization, and Arab nationalism. In this way, Malcolm’s political and moral commitments combined sometimes-contradictory political ideologies, including those of Muslim Brothers, secular pan-Africanists, and Nasserist pan-Arabists.
UNC Press has a long history on publishing outstanding work of African American history. In honor of African American History Month, we’d like to highlight some of the amazing new work being done in the field. Here are books on African American history, culture, and modern society that UNC Press has published over the past year.
Author, actor, and activist E. Patrick Johnson is bringing his one-man show Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South (based on his award-winning book of the same name) to Durham.
Will a new Detroit rise out of the ashes of its current crisis? Some cannot imagine the city Forbes recently picked as the nation’s most miserable can reinvent itself. Others place their hopes in the rise of small businesses, including urban farms, manufacturing urban bicycles, hand-made jeans, and even luxury watches. Although new startups have, so far, created only a few hundred jobs, they represent economic diversification, which may prove significant for creating a viable new Detroit after depending on one industry to anchor the community’s welfare for a century.
This is not the first time Detroit has been reinvented. In the early twentieth century the City Council was reorganized and the judicial system was transformed when an autocratic structure that denied the majority access to due process was overturned. The issue of judicial reorganization emerged as the city’s industrial elite attempted to seize control of the courts. It was the last in a series of maneuvers created and led by Henry Ford to regulate and manage the lives of Detroit’s demographically diverse autoworkers.
A video of Jonathan Holloway’s talk about his book Jim Crow Wisdom, which was given at the Gilder Lehrman Institute in January 2014 in New York City. This video was made by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.
Poet, playwright, and political activist Amiri Baraka passed away last Thursday at the age of 79. As one of the most significant black literary voices of his time, Baraka helped shape the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His book Blues People: Negro Music in White America, is highly remembered as a classic chronicle on the role of jazz and the blues in American culture. Komozi Woodard, author of A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics, spoke on a panel about Amiri Baraka’s legacy on Democracy Now.
A video of Rebecca Sharpless’s talk on the history of African American women cooks in white households in the South, given at the 16th annual Southern Foodways Symposium, October 2013. Video produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance.