As I get ready for another fall semester at the University of South Carolina—finishing a dissertation and teaching a course on “the New South” of late 19th century and 20th century America—I decided to finally complete a book I have longed to read on my coffee table. James McBride’s Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul was released to considerable fanfare earlier this year. About the life and legacy of the musical legend, McBride’s book is a meditation on African American life during and after the age of segregation and Jim Crow (which, by the way, is a reminder that Tim Lacy’s series on Jesse Jackson is another reflection on that history). But beyond that, Kill ‘Em and Leave should leave any reader—certainly any historian—thinking about the places within America left behind by modern American history.
II. The Person
What of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., himself? Who was he? From where did he come? Continue reading
My thesis is this: A full reconsideration of the politics, ideology, and political philosophy of the 1970-2000 period must involve a new, long, and serious study of Jesse Jackson.
The necessity of this became apparent, to me, after a close reading Jason Stahl’s wonderful new book, Right Moves: The Conservative Think Tank in American Political Culture Since 1945 (Carolina, 2016). To be clear, Stahl doesn’t place any special emphasis on Jackson’s life or work. Rather, as Stahl’s narrative moves through the late 1980s and early 1990s, covering the rise of the New Democrats, Jackson’s role therein, as a caricature and punching bag, is indirect but nonetheless crucial. This leads me believe that Jackson’s symbolism, person, actions, and thought are due for a thorough reconsideration. Today’s post and my three after will, I hope, provide some seeds for that reconsideration. Continue reading
Guest Post by Professor Tyler D. Parry and Clayton Finn. Part One of this post was posted on the African American Intellectual History Society’s blog. Thanks to Christopher Cameron and the good people at AAIHS for running part one.
Americans are often guilty in assuming that N-word usage only applies to populations in the United States. Reconsidering the Buzzfeed video’s inquiry, a better question might entail: “How should the black community respond to the N-word’s global dissemination through hip-hop?” For instance, should we be concerned when a white, French hip-hop fan quotes “Niggas in Paris” indiscriminately? Does one immediately condemn a non-American for employing what is, for them, a term associated with American rap music? Perhaps, hip-hop, alongside the globalization of media, is better attributed for explaining the term’s international dispersion and adoption. It’s easy to find British, South American, or even African hip-hop artists implementing the term into their music. Uprooted from their geographical and cultural birthplace in the Americas, current discussions of the term are often limited in scope or polarized by contested opinions.
Embarking on a study of early American women’s intellectual history calls for a strong bibliographical base, and I’m using this post to learn your news and views of useful literature. Hopefully, we can refer to and build on Patrick S. O’Donnell’s excellent list of resources regarding “Women Intellectuals in the European Enlightenment,” published here. Since this nascent project has a public history feel—I’m interested in how women’s lives and intellectual contributions (ca. 1612-1891) are reflected in everything from standard scholarship to city statues and social crusades—I have listed select digital and archival resources for the first phase (1612-1848), below.
This is, of course, only a preliminary list. Paging all historians, librarians, editors, archivists, journalists, and history fans: Please add your recommendations in the comments.
Yesterday I was privileged to be commentator for the monthly “#Blktwitterstorians” discussion. This hashtag was invented with the idea of getting together various African American professors on Twitter to discuss issues of particular importance to African Americans in the academy and in the profession of history. Created by graduate students Aleia Brown and Joshua Crutchfield, #Blktwitterstorians has served as an online space to debate issues of particular import to African American scholars—as well as those who study the African American experience, regardless of race. Not surprisingly, the issues debated every on the first Saturday of every month are often reflections of larger issues in the academy. June’s topic—the question of the role of African American historians as potential “public intellectuals”—is one of interest to the readers of this blog. Yet the larger questions being dealt with, most notably the future of the academy and the lack of job or, for that matter, intellectual security within the academy, link to issues that have become both hot topics across academia and on this blog in recent weeks.
Jeet Heer’s essay in the newest The New Republic has brought our attention back to a conversation that, for a while at least, was on the backburner while others debated the latest Jonathan Chait piece on political correctness. But Heer’s essay also requires some serious thinking from intellectual historians. What he’s done is chronicled the long history of African Americans within the pages of The New Republic—both as writers and as subjects. However, Heer’s piece is not just a meditation on The New Republic. Instead, it needs to be read as part of a larger and more complicated history. American liberals and African Americans have had a testy, sometimes beneficial, sometimes wary, relationship. The New Republic’s own history is testament to that.
Many Americans currently sit on pins and needles waiting for the grand jury decision on the fate of Officer Darren Wilson and, by extension, the fate of the passions that have animated events on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri for months. However, the story of Ferguson and the death of Michael Brown didn’t happen in a vacuum. What is important to consider is how we got to this moment intellectually—something that exists in a much larger intellectual context. I’ll sketch that out today and in coming weeks.
Jonathan Scott Holloway. Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013)
Review by Robert J. Greene II
The intersection of memory and history has proven to be a fruitful enterprise for historians in recent years. An understanding of both is essential if scholars are to attain a proper (or at least as close to proper as possible) grasp of what both what life was like in the past, and how people thought and believed in that era. Often times, memory proves to be a forum for understanding the creation of shared traditions, customs, and identity. That is no less the case for African Americans, as Jonathan Scott Holloway argues in Jim Crow Wisdom.
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.