The African American Intellectual History Society has graciously allowed us to cross-post their new series on the twentieth anniversary of Robin D.G. Kelley’s landmark book, Race Rebels. The series was announced last night, and today is the first installment, written by Brian Purnell. Here’s a sample of what they’re doing to honor Kelley’s work (if this doesn’t whet your appetite to read the rest, I don’t know what will):
Part I of Race Rebels feels like a violent thunder storm.
The first chapter’s thunder rumbles slowly, but powerfully. It is filled with provocative theoretical suggestions for how historians can access the hidden world of Southern, working class black infrapolitics. For readers with deep knowledge of historiography and social theory, Chapter 1 features more arguments than a Left-leaning meeting overrun by a handful of sectarian socialists. Kelley asks questions about gender and masculinity; the political and class nature of sexual harassment against black women in the workplace; intraclass tensions between black and white workers; the ways whites have race too; the historiography of class resistance via sabotage and theft; the tendency to reduce everything poor black people do to products of all-powerful cultures, but to never see those practices as political too. Kelley’s main point is that seemingly individualistic acts of the hidden transcript and infrapolitics are not individualistic at all. They are essential ingredients in any eventual collection actions that working class people mount.