Alisha Gaines: Ninety Minutes a Slave

First, we are instructed on how to be good slaves: “Never look a white person in the face,” and always say “yes sir and yes ma’am.” As the program promised, we encountered diverse attitudes regarding our fugitivity: slave traders who bought us only after we correctly answered questions about our assumed skills and imagined slave identities (I passed the test when, as a self-described cook, I knew the first step in frying a chicken meant wringing its neck); white women who wanted us off their land because they would have to pay a $500 fine for each of us; another, obviously doomed fugitive slave; a raving white man spuriously blaming us for his wife’s death and his unemployment; Quakers who offered dry cornbread and respite; and a free black family. Before returning to the museum, an oracle appeared to read each participant’s fate. Some would drown, others would settle in Indiana as either dentists or blacksmiths. Me? I would be apprehended by slave catchers, returned to Kentucky, and branded as a runaway. Continue Reading Alisha Gaines: Ninety Minutes a Slave

Book Trailer: City of Inmates by Kelly Lytle Hernández

Marshaling more than two centuries of evidence, historian Kelly Lytle Hernández unmasks how histories of native elimination, immigrant exclusion, and black disappearance drove the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. In this telling, which spans from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Hernández documents the persistent historical bond between the racial fantasies of conquest, namely its settler colonial form, and the eliminatory capacities of incarceration. Continue Reading Book Trailer: City of Inmates by Kelly Lytle Hernández

Julie M. Weise: African Americans and Immigrants’ Rights in the Trump Era

Back in 2008 when Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton vied for the Democratic nomination, the “Will Latinos support a black candidate?” narrative dominated the news cycle. “Many Latinos are not ready for a person of color,” said a young Latina in a typical quote featured by the New York Times. “I don’t think many Latinos will vote for Obama.” Academic social science from new Latino settlement areas in the U.S. South seemingly confirmed the narrative: “Latino Immigrants come to the U.S. with negative stereotypes of black Americans,” declared a Duke research team after conducting a survey in Durham, N.C., in 2003. Yet though Clinton did dominate among Latinos in the 2008 primary, they rallied to Obama’s side once he clinched the nomination, delivering the country’s first black president a historically large margin of Latino votes that November. Continue Reading Julie M. Weise: African Americans and Immigrants’ Rights in the Trump Era

Interview: Adrian Miller on The President’s Kitchen Cabinet

These chefs were simultaneously culinary artists, family confidantes and civil rights advocates. The most important contribution aside from their food is that they gave our presidents a window on black life that they would not otherwise have had. Only a handful of presidents chose to open that window, but it was there nonetheless. Continue Reading Interview: Adrian Miller on The President’s Kitchen Cabinet

Lisa A. Lindsay: The “Truth” Behind Our Ancestors

Forty years ago CBS aired the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley’s 1976 bestseller in which he traced his own ancestors back to West Africa, followed them to the United States as slaves, and took them forward into freedom. For the first time, a massive audience—roughly half the country’s population—confronted slavery and its legacies through an African American perspective. Roots prompted Americans to search out their own ancestors, particularly in subsequent years as digitization and personal computing brought resources to searchers’ fingertips.Now genealogy’s popularity—attested by the success of ancestry.com and the television show Who Do You Think You Are—makes it tempting to forget that we often shape our ancestors ourselves, even at the expense of historical evidence. Professional historians, in fact, were quick to point out fictions within Roots, a charge Haley accepted by originally calling his book a work of “faction.” I (re)learned this lesson about historical memory myself when it almost derailed the project that became my book, Atlantic Bonds. Continue Reading Lisa A. Lindsay: The “Truth” Behind Our Ancestors

Lisa A. Lindsay: The Enduring Allure of Emigration

The outcome of this nineteenth-century emigration movement offers little comfort for those who would leave today. At least half of the African Americans who settled in West Africa perished of tropical diseases, while others struggled to eke out a living. And they were not welcome there. Though they called their colony Liberia and touted “the love of liberty” in their official motto, the settlers’ encounters with local Africans were marked by violence, condescension, and—ironically—conditions not unlike slavery. Continue Reading Lisa A. Lindsay: The Enduring Allure of Emigration

University Press Week 2016 Blog Tour Day 5: #FF UNC Press Publishing Partners

We have celebrated the theme of Community for the past several days with our sibling publishers in the Association of American University Presses’ #UPweek. Today we invite you into our own virtual rolodex to introduce you to just some of the many partner organizations with whom we have collaborated to make many of your favorite books and journals possible. Continue Reading University Press Week 2016 Blog Tour Day 5: #FF UNC Press Publishing Partners

Excerpt: Written/Unwritten, by Patricia A. Matthew

To some degree, all of the contributors to this volume are engaged in some form of what might be called “activism,” though almost no one will apply the label to themselves or their work. They may call it “community service,” “community building,” or, as I prefer, “community engagement.” Or they may resist labels by not calling it anything at all. All, however, are rooted in the understanding that their research and teaching need to have a material impact on the world outside of the work the academy recognizes. The challenge, then, is to think through the implications, through the risks and stakes. Continue Reading Excerpt: Written/Unwritten, by Patricia A. Matthew

Michael Jarrett: John Hammond’s Golden Ears

John Hammond’s knack for discovering talent was so uncanny, so unparalleled in the history of American music, that it’s regularly celebrated. It is, however, rarely examined. Perhaps, that’s because scrutiny can come off as suspiciousness poisoned by ungratefulness. Continue Reading Michael Jarrett: John Hammond’s Golden Ears

Greta de Jong: Who Lost the War on Poverty?

Poverty may have won in the end, but this outcome was not inevitable. Innovative projects sponsored by the federal government in the 1960s put poor people to work providing needed services in their communities and helped to lift many participants into the middle class. Continue Reading Greta de Jong: Who Lost the War on Poverty?

Michael Jarrett: Early Record Men: How Talent Scouts, Managers, Recording Supervisors, Publishers, and A&R Men Shaped Music

Early record men, therefore, most resembled movie producers, not movie directors. Ultimately, their control derived from the power to grant or to deny access to capital. “I invented Louis Armstrong,” said Ralph Peer in a 1959 interview with Lillian Borgeson. Continue Reading Michael Jarrett: Early Record Men: How Talent Scouts, Managers, Recording Supervisors, Publishers, and A&R Men Shaped Music

Greta de Jong: A Lesson from Black History for Angry White Men

Trump voters are not likely to look to African American history for help in making sense of their situation or forging solutions, but if they did they might find that they have more in common with black Americans than they thought. In the mid-twentieth century, rural communities in the South—and their predominantly black labor force—experienced processes of displacement and decline that foreshadowed those that afflicted white workers in later decades. Continue Reading Greta de Jong: A Lesson from Black History for Angry White Men

Excerpt: Not Straight, Not White, by Kevin J. Mumford

Published in the New Yorker, the long piece meditated on American racism, seeing white prejudice as arising from the reality that the “white man’s masculinity depends on a denial of the masculinity of the blacks” and that therefore the nation subjected the “Negro” to many “horrors.” After reading the essay, Kennedy had reportedly contacted Baldwin and sought the meeting because he wished to hear “fresh” ideas on “coping with civil rights problems.” If he had invited only the older and more moderate celebrities, such as Lena Horne or Harry Belafonte, it seems unlikely that the meeting would have ended as it did, in frank disagreement and an acrimonious exit. But the presence of Jerome Smith, a participant in the southern Freedom Rides that continued to press for the desegregation of buses and stations, had raised the stakes. Continue Reading Excerpt: Not Straight, Not White, by Kevin J. Mumford

J. Michael Butler: Wendel Blackwell, Philando Castile, and the Continuing Black American Freedom Struggle

In 1969 the Pensacola NAACP’s Youth Council listed “police brutality” as one of their two primary concerns for the coming decade, and numerous incidents supported their claim into the 1970s. Continue Reading J. Michael Butler: Wendel Blackwell, Philando Castile, and the Continuing Black American Freedom Struggle

Martha S. Jones: Don’t Miss Out on What Michelle Obama Actually Said in 2008

Don’t let Melania Trump’s Monday night speech be your guide to what Michelle Obama said in 2008. Instead, keep listening. There is more to learn than who borrowed what words. Continue Reading Martha S. Jones: Don’t Miss Out on What Michelle Obama Actually Said in 2008

Laura Visser-Maessen: How Exploring Bob Moses’s 1960s Civil Rights Activism in Mississippi Can Modify America’s Current Terrorism Debate

Paris is only a five hour drive from my home in the Netherlands. I have strolled its streets many times, undoubtedly also those covered in blood after the November 2015 attacks. I have also passed through San Bernardino, California, and have stood regularly at the former World Trade Center site. Yet as I commemorate those victims of religious terrorism, I cannot but remember my meetings with black civil rights activist Bob Moses and his colleagues of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Their haunting tales of life in Mississippi in the 1960s wryly challenge some politicians’ and media pundits’ current claim to exclusivity for the term “terrorism” only in relation to Islam, reminding us that the most bloody and consistent trajectory of terrorism in the United States occurred under the banner of white supremacy. Continue Reading Laura Visser-Maessen: How Exploring Bob Moses’s 1960s Civil Rights Activism in Mississippi Can Modify America’s Current Terrorism Debate

4 Ways to Celebrate the Release of Free State of Jones

Today the film Free State of Jones opens in theaters across the United States. Historian Victoria E. Bynum, whose book of the same name helped inspire the film, has been making media rounds this week, talking about what the New York Times has called “the first Hollywood drama to come with footnotes.” Director Gary Ross comes correct on the history in this project, so historians, enjoy! Here are four ways you can celebrate the opening of the movie today. Continue Reading 4 Ways to Celebrate the Release of Free State of Jones

Laura Visser-Maessen: Bob Moses’s Lessons on the Meaning of Citizenship We Need in Today’s Race Debates

After the 2015 riots in Baltimore and elsewhere, I was struck—though not surprised—by many of the media’s depictions of its black inhabitants, as if they were irrational, self-defeating hoodlums, rather than emphasizing stories like that of Wayne, one of several hundred students in Baltimore’s public schools who participate in the Algebra Project (AP). Wayne had been kicked out of several schools until his AP involvement made him realize “what I can do inside of school and how I can help other people.” Continue Reading Laura Visser-Maessen: Bob Moses’s Lessons on the Meaning of Citizenship We Need in Today’s Race Debates

Catherine A. Stewart: Looking Backward: On Memory and the Challenges of Oral History

My mother and her only sibling, my aunt, are losing their memories. Though their short-term memory has all but disappeared, their shared memories of childhood still remain vivid. One of their neurologists described the brain’s storage of memory and the onset of dementia as a file cabinet, with the most recently filed folders disappearing first, and the ones stored long ago as the last to go. Continue Reading Catherine A. Stewart: Looking Backward: On Memory and the Challenges of Oral History

J. Michael Butler: Confederate Symbolism and School Integration

In January 1973, an African American EHS student and her mother asked for a permanent injunction against the school’s images. They did not file a new lawsuit; instead, they appealed under the Augustus v. Escambia School Board integration order on the basis that the symbols represented “symbolic resistance” to a court-ordered unitary school system. Winston Arnow, a federal district court judge, agreed. In a fourteen-page opinion, he called the Confederate icons “racially irritating,” declared they “generated a feeling of inequality and inferiority among black students,” and proclaimed them “a source of racial violence” at EHS. Because the county school board failed to resolve the conflict, Arnow reasoned, it violated earlier school desegregation mandates and he issued a permanent injunction against the “Rebels” nickname and all related imagery. His decision was not without precedent. Continue Reading J. Michael Butler: Confederate Symbolism and School Integration