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Jim Crow Wisdom

Memory and Identity in Black America since 1940

Jonathan Scott Holloway

Publication Year: 2013

How do we balance the desire for tales of exceptional accomplishment with the need for painful doses of reality? How hard do we work to remember our past or to forget it? These are some of the questions that Jonathan Scott Holloway addresses in this exploration of race memory from the dawn of the modern civil rights era to the present. Relying on social science, documentary film, dance, popular literature, museums, memoir, and the tourism trade, Holloway explores the stories black Americans have told about their past and why these stories are vital to understanding a modern black identity. In the process, Holloway asks much larger questions about the value of history and facts when memories do violence to both.
Making discoveries about his own past while researching this book, Holloway weaves first-person and family memories into the traditional third-person historian's perspective. The result is a highly readable, rich, and deeply personal narrative that will be familiar to some, shocking to others, and thought-provoking to everyone.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

As I’ve discovered, when you write a book about memory, you can become fairly obsessed about your capacity for forgetfulness. Keeping that in mind, I need to begin my acknowledgments with an apology: I can only assume that in the paragraphs that follow I will have forgotten some people—close friends, even—who played a real role in helping this book come to fruition. ...

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Introduction: The Scars of Memory

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pp. 1-13

The shrill ringing of an alarm clock opens Richard Wright’s explosive 1940 novel Native Son, deploying a new kind of language for the reading public to consider when talking about race. Native Son simultaneously captivated and terrifi ed its readers with the story of Bigger Thomas’s abject poverty and his subsequent slide into an impossible nightmare ...

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1. Editing and the Art of Forgetfulness in Social Science

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pp. 14-39

Aunt Maggie was the family griot. The sister of my paternal grandmother, she was born in 1905, the youngest of eleven children. By the middle 1990s, she was the last surviving sibling of her generation. I barely knew her myself, but I know that she was a woman of accomplishment. ...

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2. Memory and Racial Humiliation in Popular Literature

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pp. 40-66

I had just climbed the staircase to the second floor of the store, the name of which has long since faded, but I do recall it was where urban fashion met college prep met affordability. I was ostensibly looking at designer blue jeans. To be completely honest, however, I was just killing time. ...

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3. The Black Body as Archive of Memory

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pp. 67-101

I don’t recall the year, but I remember the moment perfectly. My brother sat me down with the promise to show me something that was earth shattering, something that was so racy and daring that I couldn’t even tell Mom and Dad about it. ...

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4. Black Scholars and Memory in the Age of Black Studies

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pp. 102-134

My first tenure-track job was at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). I was in one of the most beautiful places in the country and in a first-rate department, but all wasn’t perfect. I was only an acting assistant professor, since I had yet to complete my dissertation. ...

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5. The Silences in a Civil Rights Narrative

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pp. 135-173

What do we tell our children? What stories do we pass along so that they know their history? It is unavoidable that they will learn the past that belongs to the nation, typically a mythic narrative of exceptionalism and universal citizenship. They will absorb the narratives in their school assemblies, through advertisements, and via the media. ...

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6. Heritage Tourism, Museums of Horror, and the Commerce of Memory

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pp. 174-213

Roots was one of the most important cultural phenomena of the late 1970s. A twelve-hour miniseries dramatizing Alex Haley’s 1976 best-selling novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, the show was not expected to pull in strong ratings. The series historicized (in Hollywood fashion) the slave trade and the making of an American family— ...

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Epilogue: Memory in the Diaspora

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pp. 214-230

My people are from North Carolina and Virginia. Why, then, do I find myself many thousands of miles from my roots, waiting for my tour guide to take me to Elmina Castle, the largest slave fort on the Ghanaian coast? Why am I sitting here at a beach resort five minutes from a major axis in the historic triangle slave trade, ...


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pp. 231-250


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pp. 251-268


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pp. 269-273

E-ISBN-13: 9781469612546
E-ISBN-10: 1469612542
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469610702
Print-ISBN-10: 1469610701

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013