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Area and Ethnic Studies > African American and African Diaspora Studies
Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses
Compiled by a prominent abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, ###American Slavery As It Is# combines information taken from witnesses, and from active and former slave owners, to generate a condemnation of slavery from both those who observed it and those who perpetuated it. The narrative describes the appalling day-to-day conditions of the over 2,700,000 men, women and children in slavery in the United States. Weld demonstrates how even prisoners--in the United States and in other countries--were significantly better fed than American slaves. Readers will find one of the most meticulous records of slave life available in this text. Unlike personal slave narratives, which focus on a single man or woman's experience, ###American Slavery# details the overall conditions of slaves across multiple states and several years.
The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois
"A meticulously researched, highly informed, carefully argued, and very accessible account of American socialism, socialists, and socialistic thinking, from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s . . . challenges the intellectual and political legacy of Werner Sombart's Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?, whose spirit still hovers over animated discussions about the 'failures' of socialism in the United States." ---James A. Miller, George Washington University "A valuable rethinking and reframing of the traditions of leftist literary scholarship in the U.S." ---Sylvia Cook, University of Missouri, St. Louis American Socialist Triptych: The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois explores the contributions of three writers to the development of American socialism over a fifty--year period and asserts the vitality of socialism in modern American literature and culture. Drawing upon a wide range of texts including archival sources, Mark W. Van Wienen demonstrates the influence of reform-oriented, democratic socialism both in the careers of these writers and in U.S. politics between 1890 and 1940. While offering unprecedented in-depth analysis of modern American socialist literature, this book charts the path by which the supposedly impossible, dangerous ideals of a cooperative commonwealth were realized, in part, by the New Deal. American Socialist Triptych provides in-depth, innovative readings of the featured writers and their engagement with socialist thought and action. Upton Sinclair represents the movement's most visible manifestation, the Socialist Party of America, founded in 1901; Charlotte Perkins Gilman reflects the socialist elements in both feminism and 1890s reform movements, and W. E. B. Du Bois illuminates social democratic aspirations within the NAACP. Van Wienen's book seeks to re-energize studies of Sinclair by treating him as a serious cultural figure whose career peaked not in the early success of The Jungle but in his nearly successful 1934 run for the California governorship. It also demonstrates as never before the centrality of socialism throughout Gilman's and Du Bois's literary and political careers. More broadly, American Socialist Triptych challenges previous scholarship on American radical literature, which has focused almost exclusively on the 1930s and Communist writers. Van Wienen argues that radical democracy was not the phenomenon of a decade or of a single group but a sustained tradition dispersed within the culture, providing a useful genealogical explanation for how socialist ideas were actually implemented through the New Deal. American Socialist Triptych also revises modern American literary history, arguing for the endurance of realist and utopian literary modes at the height of modernist literary experimentation and showing the importance of socialism not only to the three featured writers but also to their peers, including Edward Bellamy, Hamlin Garland, Jack London, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Claude McKay. Further, by demonstrating the importance of social democratic thought to feminist and African American campaigns for equality, the book dialogues with recent theories of radical egalitarianism. Readers interested in American literature, U.S. history, political theory, and race, gender, and class studies will all find in American Socialist Triptych a valuable and provocative resource.
Journey into a Hidden World
Voudou (an older spelling of voodoo)—a pantheistic belief system developed in West Africa and transported to the Americas during the diaspora of the slave trade—is the generic term for a number of similar African religions which mutated in the Americas, including santeria, candomble, macumbe, obeah, Shango Baptist, etc. Since its violent introduction in the Caribbean islands, it has been the least understood and most feared religion of the New World—suppressed, out-lawed or ridiculed from Haiti to Hattiesburg. Yet with the exception of Zora Neale Hurston's accounts more than a half-century ago and a smattering of lurid, often racist paperbacks, studies of this potent West African theology have focused almost exclusively on Haiti, Cuba and the Caribbean basin. American Voudou turns our gaze back to American shores, principally towards the South, the most important and enduring stronghold of the voudou faith in America and site of its historic yet rarely recounted war with Christianity. This chronicle of Davis' determined search for the true legacy of voudou in America reveals a spirit-world from New Orleans to Miami which will shatter long-held stereotypes about the religion and its role in our culture. The real-life dramas of the practitioners, true believers and skeptics of the voudou world also offer a radically different entree into a half-hidden, half-mythical South, and by extension into an alternate soul of America. Readers interested in the dynamic relationships between religion and society, and in the choices made by people caught in the flux of conflict, will be heartened by this unique story of survival and even renaissance of what may have been the most persecuted religion in American history.
The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual
Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones, became known as one of the most militant, anti-white black nationalists of the 1960s Black Power movement. An advocate of Black Cultural Nationalism, Baraka supported the rejection of all things white and western. He helped found and direct the influential Black Arts movement which sought to move black writers away from western aesthetic sensibilities and toward a more complete embrace of the black world. Except perhaps for James Baldwin, no single figure has had more of an impact on black intellectual and artistic life during the last forty years.
In this groundbreaking and comprehensive study, the first to interweave Baraka's art and political activities, Jerry Watts takes us from his early immersion in the New York scene through the most dynamic period in the life and work of this controversial figure. Watts situates Baraka within the various worlds through which he travelled including Beat Bohemia, Marxist-Leninism, and Black Nationalism. In the process, he convincingly demonstrates how the 25 years between Baraka's emergence in 1960 and his continued influence in the mid-1980s can also be read as a general commentary on the condition of black intellectuals during the same time. Continually using Baraka as the focal point for a broader analysis, Watts illustrates the link between Baraka's life and the lives of other black writers trying to realize their artistic ambitions, and contrasts him with other key political intellectuals of the time. In a chapter sure to prove controversial, Watts links Baraka's famous misogyny to an attempt to bury his own homosexual past.
A work of extraordinary breadth,
Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone
Iyunolu Folayan Osagie is a native of Sierra Leone, from where the Amistad's cargo of slaves originated. She digs deeply into the Amistad story to show the historical and contemporary relevance of the incident and its subsequent trials. At the same time, she shows how the incident has contributed to the construction of national and cultural identity both in Africa and the African diasporo in America--though in intriguingly different ways.
This pioneering work of comparative African and American cultural criticism shows how creative arts have both confirmed and fostered the significance of the Amistad revolt in contemporary racial discourse and in the collective memories of both countries.
Few figures in American political history are as reviled as Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth president of the United States. Taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he clashed constantly with Congress during the tumultuous early years of Reconstruction. He opposed federally-mandated black suffrage and the Fourteenth Amendment and vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights bills. In this new book, Paul H. Bergeron, a respected Johnson scholar, brings a new perspective on this often vilified figure. Previous books have judged Johnson out of the context of his times or through a partisan lens. But this volume—based on Bergeron’s work as the editor of The Papers of Andrew Johnson—takes a more balanced approach to Johnson and his career. Admiring Johnson's unswerving devotion to the Union, Lincoln appointed him as military governor of Tennessee, a post, Bergeron argues, that enhanced Johnson's executive experience and his national stature. While governor, Johnson implemented the emancipation of slaves in the state and laid the foundation for a new civilian government. Bergeron also notes that Johnson developed a close connection with the president which eventually resulted in his vice-presidential candidacy. In many respects, therefore, Johnson's Civil War years served as preparation for his presidency. Bergeron moves beyond simplistic arguments based on Johnson’s racism to place his presidency within the politics of the day. Putting aside earlier analyses of the conflict between Johnson and the Republican Radicals as ideological disputes, Bergeron discusses these battles as a political power struggle. In doing so, he does not deny Johnson’s racism but provides a more nuanced and effective perspective on the issues as Johnson tried to pursue the “politics of the possible.” Bergeron interprets Johnson as a strong-willed, decisive, fearless, authoritarian leader in the tradition of Andrew Jackson. While never excusing Johnson’s inflexibility and extreme racism, Bergeron makes the case that, in proper context, Johnson can be seen at times as a surprisingly effective commander-in-chief—one whose approach to the problems of reestablishing the Union was defensible and consistent. With its fresh insight on the man and his times, Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction is indispensable reading for students and scholars of the U.S. presidency and the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
White Women and the History of New York's Colored Orphan Asylum
William Seraile uncovers the history of the colored orphan asylum, founded in New York City in 1836 as the nation's first orphanage for African American children. It is a remarkable institution that is still in the forefront aiding children. Although no longer an orphanage, in its current incarnation as Harlem-Dowling West Side Center for Children and Family Services it maintains the principles of the women who organized it nearly 200 years ago.The agency weathered three wars, two major financial panics, a devastating fire during the 1863 Draft Riots, several epidemics, waves of racial prejudice, and severe financial difficulties to care for orphaned, neglected, and delinquent children. Eventually financial support would come from some of New York's finest families, including the Jays, Murrays, Roosevelts, Macys, and Astors.While the white female managers and their male advisers were dedicated to uplifting these black children, the evangelical, mainly Quaker founding managers also exhibited the extreme paternalistic views endemic at the time, accepting the advice or support of the African American community only grudgingly. It was frank criticism in 1913 from W. E. B. Du Bois that highlighted the conflict between the orphanage and the community it served, and it wasn't until 1939 that it hired the first black trustee.More than 15,000 children were raised in the orphanage, and throughout its history letters and visits have revealed that hundreds if not thousands of old boys and girlslooked back with admiration and respect at the home that nurtured them throughout their formative years.Weaving together African American history with a unique history of New York City, this is not only a painstaking study of a previously unsung institution of black history but a unique window onto complex racial dynamics during a period when many failed to recognize equality among all citizens as a worthy purpose.
Contemporary Queer Fiction from Taiwan
Lesbian and gay--or queer--fiction (known in Mandarin as tongzhi wenxue) constitutes a major contribution to Taiwanese literature, as evidenced by the remarkable number of prestigious literary awards won by many of the authors of the short stories presented here. Indeed, the meteoric rise of this new genre was a defining feature of Taiwan's literary scene in the 1990s. Queer fiction was also instrumental in forming self-identifying subcultural gay readerships, thus serving a significant political function. But most strikingly, this fiction has been immensely popular with general readers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, as well as in diasporic Chinese communities worldwide. The startlingly fresh, brave voices that speak through these stories attest to the powerful social ferment of the past ten years in Taiwan, which have witnessed a revolution in discourses on sex and sexuality in the public sphere.
Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora
Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s
Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants: Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s, by Jon Woodson, uses social philology to unveil social discourse, self fashioning, and debates in poems gathered from anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and individual collections. The first chapter examines three long poems, finding overarching jeremiadic discourse that inaugurated a militant, politically aware agent. Chapter two examines self-fashioning in the numerous sonnets that responded to the new media of radio, newsreels, movies, and photo-magazines. The third chapter shows how new subjectivities were generated by poetry addressed to the threat of race war in which the white race was exterminated. The black intellectuals who dominated the interpretative discourses of the 1930s fostered exteriority, while black culture as a whole plunged into interiority. Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants delineates the struggle between these inner and outer worlds, a study made difficult by a contemporary intellectual culture which recoils from a belief in a consistent, integrated self.