In lieu of an extended post, I’d like to call your attention to a few essays and articles touching upon themes and topics that may be of interest to our readers, from Ferguson, Missouri to the mechanisms if not the mindset(s) of the ruling class to the vintage pages of The New Republic. Continue reading
I’m happy to add to LD Burnett’s wonderful post from yesterday detailing her experience with Ebony magazine—and Vince Harding’s exhorting scholars to pay attention to it—as part of her overall research. Today I wish to add to that, demonstrating how Ebony has also played a role in my understanding of several strands of intellectual history running through the early 1970s. Considering Ebony as a place of considerable debate over African American politics, culture, and history is, as the Harding article indicated, important for anyone attempting to understand elements of the Black experience.
Readers of this blog – and members of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History – will be excited by the arrival of a sibling society and blog: the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). The AAIHS was founded in February 2014 in order to “foster dialogue about researching, writing, and teaching black thought and culture.” In July, their blog went online and it has already become an active and interesting place. Among the regular contributors are two scholars who should be familiar to our readership: Chris Cameron, who has been a frequent guest blogger at USIH, and Lauren Kientz Anderson, who was a regular blogger for us.
I look forward to continuing to follow the AAIHS blog and hope that our blogs – and societies – can work together in the future!
August 27 was the 51st anniversary of the passing of one of the greatest intellectuals the United States has ever produced. Reflecting on the life, death, and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois allows us a chance to consider the enormous corpus of scholarship he left behind. However, more than that I’d like to consider a question of immense importance to historians and other scholars of American intellectual history: just what else is there to say about W.E.B. Du Bois? After several generations spent writing, debating, and researching Du Bois’ life and career, what stone or stones are left unturned in regards to scholarship on the man?
[The following is a guest post from our frequent guest blogger, Chris Cameron -- BA]
Last week on the blog I discussed Phillis Wheatley and the origins of the black prophetic tradition. I would like to continue that discussion this week by exploring the ideas of another prominent black female thinker in early America, Maria Stewart. Unlike Wheatley, Stewart has received little attention from either literary scholars or historians, although her work continues the same prophetic tradition that Wheatley initiated and adds a sharp critique of the intersection of racism and sexism so prevalent in antebellum America. Continue reading
[Note: the following is a guest post by Christopher Cameron.]
Phillis Wheatley and the Black Prophetic Tradition
Phillis Wheatley’s reputation as an important prophetic voice for Africans and African Americans in the colonial and revolutionary eras has undergone a drastic transformation in the past two decades. Some of the first critics of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry claimed that she was irrelevant in the fight against slavery and racial oppression. Vernon Loggins, for instance, argued that her work “dwelt at length on the common notions of her day regarding liberty, but she neglected almost entirely her own state of slavery and the miserable oppression of thousands of her race.” Similarly, Rosey E. Poole claimed that if Wheatley “had had the strength to give all that was really hers, and not that which others had given her, she might have become a really important figure.” Poole argued that Wheatley was content to assimilate into white society rather than attempt to advance the cause of blacks. Continue reading
Recent weeks have seen the release of numerous new works on the South, Southern Studies, and how regionalism still matters. The rise in writings about the American South isn’t just limited to the academy, although that will be the crux of my piece today. For instance, James Fallows has been writing a fascinating series on Mississippi in recent weeks, seeking to write about the state, and the South in general, in a respectful manner. Fallows noted in his most recent post that “there’s an all-but-irresistible freak-show undertone to a lot of reports from Mississippi. These Southerners! Can you believe them?” The South, of course, features in the background of the recent piece on reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, but it’s worth noting that the essay itself also focuses heavily on Chicago. Mr. Coates’ goal, in that regard, was to talk about more recent problems facing African Americans after slavery, offering a national narrative for a national problem. (By the way, there’s a fascinating piece by Randall Kennedy in the most recent issue of Harper’s magazine, which I think is a nice corollary to the Coates reparations article. It’s behind a paywall, but I’d highly recommend getting a copy to read this essay.)
My earliest encounter with Vincent Harding was through two avenues: primary research and a scholarly monograph. He became a prominent voice in a paper I wrote last year about the 1980s, memory of the American Civil Rights Movement, and debates among the Left about its future during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. His columns in The Progressive were full of hope for the future of the Left, while at the same time reminders to his readers of the need to continue to confront the issue of race as the 80s dragged on. At the same time, I began reading the book The Challenge of Blackness, where Dr. Harding was co-founder of the Institute of the Black World, an Atlanta-based think tank that during the 1970s played a major role in the development of Black Studies.
Today I’ll take a step back from my series of posts on building an intellectual history of the South from 1965 until the 1990s—but not too much of a step. Instead, considering that for many of us the semester is coming to a close, I’d like to consider the ways in which historians maximize their time during the summer. It means different answers depending on where you are in your career as historian, but here I’ll sketch out my personal plan for the summer. By all means, as with any blog post, I hope to hear from readers as well, and gauge how historians use prime research and reading time in June, July, and early August.
As a blogger here at the USIH website, I often deal with questions of intellectual history, memory, and American culture. I’d be remiss, however, if I avoided talking about the fact that I’ve had the privilege over the last year working as part of a larger project commemorating the desegregation of the University of South Carolina in 1963. Up front, I want to say that it’s been an honor being part of a special group of young scholars, all working to present a narrative about USC’s desegregation. In the process, however, I’ve found myself asking questions about how the academy reaches the public and reshapes public memory concerning race, education, and power.