Interview: Blain Roberts on the Intersection of Beauty and Race in the South

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The image of the beautiful southern belle/lady was, by definition, racially exclusive, and many black women would have keenly felt its discriminatory power. There were occasions, however, when individuals and institutions attempted to claim the image for black women, to challenge its underlying racial assumptions and reframe its meaning. An interesting example is a photo spread that ran in Ebony magazine in 1971 entitled “Belles of the South” that featured young women from southern historically black colleges. The magazine said very explicitly that it wanted to prove that not all southern beauties were white—that black women were belles of the South, too.

Video: Amrita Chakrabarti Myers: “Making a Way out of No Way: Black Women in the Old South”

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.

Oscars 2014: History in Pictures

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.

Beth Tompkins Bates: What Happened the Last Time Detroit Faced Bankruptcy

In the end, it was the federal government that made the difference between bankruptcy and [Detroit] emerging out of the crisis, as Murphy put it, with credit and honor. Throughout the crisis, Murphy practiced his belief that government’s primary responsibility was to serve the social and economic welfare of people, whose basic needs must not be subordinated to corporate America’s agenda.

Alex Lubin: Malcolm X’s Afro-Arab Political Imaginary

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.

2014 African American History Month Reading List

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.

Beth Tompkins Bates: Will a New Detroit Rise out of the Depths of Despair and Hopelessness?

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.

Video: Jonathan Holloway on Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America since 1940

http://vimeo.com/84325265

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.

Video: Komozi Woodard on the Legacy of Amiri Baraka

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.

Video: Rebecca Sharpless on Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens

http://vimeo.com/80109784

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.

Join Us as We Celebrate African American Music Trails of Eastern NC

Eastern North Carolina has produced some of the most transformative figures in the history of jazz, gospel and popular music. Among them are internationally renowned jazz pianists and composers Thelonious Monk from Rocky Mount and Billy Taylor from Greenville. African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina celebrates people, places and events in Eastern North …

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Jaime Amanda Martinez: Why Exactly are We Commemorating “Confederate Pensioners of Color”?

Eager to discuss African American participation in the Civil War, we are nonetheless troubled by the aura of Confederate nostalgia surrounding the ceremony, as well as the news coverage that (at least in the Charlotte-area press) seemed intent on calling the ten men Confederate soldiers or veterans.

Glenn David Brasher: A Historian’s Take on ’12 Years a Slave’

Everything you have heard about the film 12 Years a Slave is true; it is exceptionally well acted, gorgeously filmed, and brutally honest about antebellum slavery. There are moments that are extremely difficult to watch and this is as it should be, leaving audiences stunned into numbness. Film critics and historians alike have praised it as a watershed in the depiction of slavery in American cinema, and this is certainly true. Nevertheless, the film demonstrates that Hollywood has not yet fully caught up with current interpretations of slave life in the antebellum South.

Jonathan Scott Holloway: Sincere Fictions, Real Horrors, and the Tourism Trade

Goree Island is not the only site of slave trade remembrance on the African coast. Further south, in Ghana, there are two prominent warehouses, most often referred to as the slave castles at Cape Coast and Elmina, that are part of a thriving tourism trade catering mainly to black American travelers, many of whom are on roots journeys to “return home.” Just as Post reporter Fisher is right for asking critical questions related to Obama’s photo op at Goree Island, we can profit from asking challenging questions about a tourist trade that offers an uncomplicated reconciliation and welcome home at the same time that it traffics in horror.

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