Happy (early) Juneteenth! A Reading List, Part Two

Happy early JuneTeenth again! I’m back with part two of the recommended reading list in celebration of JuneTeenth, “the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.” Part one of the recommended reading list focused on the experiences of black American slaves whose labor helped shape the fabric of America. Part two of the reading list focuses on the celebration of black resistance and freedom. As black people, we have a strong history of very successful resistance and I hope that history can empower us and those around us even further.


BLACK MARXISM, REVISED AND UPDATED THIRD EDITION: THE MAKING OF THE BLACK RADICAL TRADITION

BY CEDRIC J. ROBINSON

In this ambitious work, first published in 1983, Cedric Robinson demonstrates that efforts to understand Black people’s history of resistance solely through the prism of Marxist theory are incomplete and inaccurate. Marxist analyses tend to presuppose European models of history and experience that downplay the significance of Black people and Black communities as agents of change and resistance. Black radicalism, Robinson argues, must be linked to the traditions of Africa and the unique experiences of Blacks on Western continents, and any analyses of African American history need to acknowledge this.

THE EARLIEST AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURES: A CRITICAL READER

EDITED BY CASSANDER L. SMITH AND ZACHARY MCLEOD HUTCHINS

With the publication of the 1619 Project by The New York Times in 2019, a growing number of Americans have become aware that Africans arrived in North America before the Pilgrims. Yet the stories of these Africans and their first descendants remain ephemeral and inaccessible for both the general public and educators. This groundbreaking collection of thirty-eight biographical and autobiographical texts chronicles the lives of literary black Africans in British colonial America from 1643 to 1760 and offers new strategies for identifying and interpreting the presence of black Africans in this early period. Brief introductions preceding each text provide historical context and genre-specific interpretive prompts to foreground their significance. Included here are transcriptions from manuscript sources and colonial newspapers as well as forgotten texts. The Earliest African American Literatures will change the way that students and scholars conceive of early American literature and the role of black Africans in the formation of that literature.

FREEDOM FARMERS: AGRICULTURAL RESISTANCE AND THE BLACK FREEDOM MOVEMENT

BY MONICA M. WHITE

Freedom Farmers expands the historical narrative of the black freedom struggle to embrace the work, roles, and contributions of southern Black farmers and the organizations they formed. Whereas existing scholarship generally views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of black people, this book reveals agriculture as a site of resistance and provides a historical foundation that adds meaning and context to current conversations around the resurgence of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

MAY WE FOREVER STAND: A HISTORY OF THE BLACK NATIONAL ANTHEM

BY IMANI PERRY

The twin acts of singing and fighting for freedom have been inseparable in African American history. May We Forever Stand tells an essential part of that story. With lyrics penned by James Weldon Johnson and music composed by his brother Rosamond, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was embraced almost immediately as an anthem that captured the story and the aspirations of black Americans. Since the song’s creation, it has been adopted by the NAACP and performed by countless artists in times of both crisis and celebration, cementing its place in African American life up through the present day.

AT THE THRESHOLD OF LIBERTY: WOMEN, SLAVERY, AND SHIFTING IDENTITIES IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

BY TAMIKA Y. NUNLEY

The capital city of a nation founded on the premise of liberty, nineteenth-century Washington, D.C., was both an entrepôt of urban slavery and the target of abolitionist ferment. The growing slave trade and the enactment of Black codes placed the city’s Black women within the rigid confines of a social hierarchy ordered by race and gender. At the Threshold of Liberty reveals how these women–enslaved, fugitive, and free–imagined new identities and lives beyond the oppressive restrictions intended to prevent them from ever experiencing liberty, self-respect, and power.

THE COLORED CONVENTIONS MOVEMENT: BLACK ORGANIZING IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

EDITED BY P. GABRIELLE FOREMAN, JIM CASEY, AND SARAH LYNN PATTERSON

This volume of essays is the first to focus on the Colored Conventions movement, the nineteenth century’s longest campaign for Black civil rights. Well before the founding of the NAACP and other twentieth-century pillars of the civil rights movement, tens of thousands of Black leaders organized state and national conventions across North America. Over seven decades, they advocated for social justice and against slavery, protesting state-sanctioned and mob violence while demanding voting, legal, labor, and educational rights. While Black-led activism in this era is often overshadowed by the attention paid to the abolition movement, this collection centers Black activist networks, influence, and institution building. Collectively, these essays highlight the vital role of the Colored Conventions in the lives of thousands of early organizers, including many of the most famous writers, ministers, politicians, and entrepreneurs in the long history of Black activism.