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Area and Ethnic Studies > African American and African Diaspora Studies

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Bearing Witness to African American Literature Cover

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Bearing Witness to African American Literature

Validating and Valorizing Its Authority, Authenticity, and Agency

Bernard W. Bell

Bearing Witness to African American Literature: Validating and Valorizing Its Authority, Authenticity, and Agency collects twenty-three of Bernard W. Bell’s lectures and essays that were first presented between 1968 and 2008. From his role in the culture wars as a graduate student activist in the Black Studies Movement to his work in the transcultural Globalization Movement as an international scholar and Fulbright cultural ambassador in Spain, Portugal, and China, Bell’s long and inspiring journey traces the modern institutional origins and the contemporary challengers of African American literary studies. This volume is made up of five sections, including chapters on W. E. B. DuBois’s theory and trope of double consciousness, an original theory of residually oral forms for reading the African American novel, an argument for an African Americentric vernacular and literary tradition, and a deconstruction of the myths of the American melting pot and literary mainstream. Bell considers texts by contemporary writers like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, William Styron, James Baldwin, and Jean Toomer, as well as works by Mark Twain, Frederick Douglas, and William Faulkner, In a style that ranges from lyricism to the classic jeremiad, Bell emphasizes that his work bears the imprint of many major influences, including his mentor, poet and scholar Sterling A. Brown, and W. E. B. DuBois. Taken together, the chapters demonstrate Bell’s central place as a revisionist African American literary and cultural theorist, historian, and critic. Bearing Witness to African American Literature will be an invaluable introduction to major issues in the African American literary tradition for scholars of American, African American, and cultural studies.

Becoming King Cover

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Becoming King

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader

Troy Jackson

“The history books may write it Reverend King was born in Atlanta, and then came to Montgomery, but we feel that he was born in Montgomery in the struggle here, and now he is moving to Atlanta for bigger responsibilities.”—Member of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, November 1959 Preacher—this simple term describes the twenty-five-year-old Ph.D. in theology who arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, to become the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954. His name was Martin Luther King Jr., but where did this young minister come from? What did he believe, and what role would he play in the growing activism of the civil rights movement of the 1950s? In Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader, author Troy Jackson chronicles King’s emergence and effectiveness as a civil rights leader by examining his relationship with the people of Montgomery, Alabama. Using the sharp lens of Montgomery’s struggle for racial equality to investigate King’s burgeoning leadership, Jackson explores King’s ability to connect with the educated and the unlettered, professionals and the working class. In particular, Jackson highlights King’s alliances with Jo Ann Robinson, a young English professor at Alabama State University; E. D. Nixon, a middle-aged Pullman porter and head of the local NAACP chapter; and Virginia Durr, a courageous white woman who bailed Rosa Parks out of jail after Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person. Jackson offers nuanced portrayals of King’s relationships with these and other civil rights leaders in the community to illustrate King’s development within the community. Drawing on countless interviews and archival sources, Jackson compares King’s sermons and religious writings before, during, and after the Montgomery bus boycott. Jackson demonstrates how King’s voice and message evolved during his time in Montgomery, reflecting the shared struggles, challenges, experiences, and hopes of the people with whom he worked. Many studies of the civil rights movement end analyses of Montgomery’s struggle with the conclusion of the bus boycott and the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Jackson surveys King’s uneasy post-boycott relations with E. D. Nixon and Rosa Parks, shedding new light on Parks’s plight in Montgomery after the boycott and revealing the internal discord that threatened the movement’s hard-won momentum. The controversies within the Montgomery Improvement Association compelled King to position himself as a national figure who could rise above the quarrels within the movement and focus on attaining its greater goals. Though the Montgomery struggle thrust King into the national spotlight, the local impact on the lives of blacks from all socioeconomic classes was minimal at the time. As the citizens of Montgomery awaited permanent change, King left the city, taking the lessons he learned there onto the national stage. In the crucible of Montgomery, Martin Luther King Jr. was transformed from an inexperienced Baptist preacher into a civil rights leader of profound national importance.

Been Coming through Some Hard Times Cover

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Been Coming through Some Hard Times

Race, History, and Memory in Western Kentucky

Jack Glazier

“This book is a unique study of race and racism across two centuries in the hinterland of the upper South. Its implications are at once depressingly familiar and distinctly fresh.” —W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880–1930

From the earliest days when slaves were brought to western Kentucky, the descendants of both slaves and slave owners in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, have continued to inhabit the same social and historic space. Part ethnography and part historical narrative, Been Coming through Some Hard Times offers a penetrating look at this southern town and the surrounding counties, delving particularly into the ways in which its inhabitants have remembered and publicly represented race relations in their community.
    Neither Deep South nor Appalachian, this western Kentucky borderland presented unique opportunities for African American communities and also deep, lasting tensions with powerful whites. Glazier conducted fieldwork in Hopkinsville for some ten months, examining historical evidence, oral histories, and the racialized hierarchy found in the final resting places of black and white citizens. His analysis shows how structural inequality continues to prevail in Hopkinsville. The book’s ethnographic vignettes of worship services, school policy disputes, segregated cemeteries, a “dressing like our ancestors” day at an elementary school, and black family reunions poignantly illustrate the ongoing debate over the public control of memory. Ultimately, the book critiques the lethargy of white Americans who still fail to recognize the persistence of white privilege and therefore stunt the development of a truly multicultural society.
    Glazier’s personal investment in this subject is clear. Been Coming through Some Hard Times began as an exploration of the life of James Bass, an African American who settled in Hopkinsville in 1890 and whose daughter, Idella Bass, cared for Glazier as a child. Her remarkable life profoundly influenced Glazier and led him to investigate her family’s roots in the town. This personal dimension makes Glazier’s ethnohistorical account especially nuanced and moving. Here is a uniquely revealing look at how the racial injustices of the past impinge quietly but insidiously upon the present in a distinctive, understudied region.

JACK GLAZIER is a professor of anthropology at Oberlin College. He is the author of Dispersing the Ghetto: The Relocation of Jewish Immigrants across America and Land and the Uses of Tradition among the Mbeere of Kenya.

Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance Cover

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Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance

The defining quality of Black womanhood is strength, states Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant in Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman. But, she argues, the idea of strength undermines its real function: to defend and maintain a stratified social order by obscuring Black women’s experiences of suffering, acts of desperation, and anger. This provocative book lays bare the common perception that strength is an exemplary or defining quality of “authentic” Black womanhood.

The author, a noted sociologist, interviews 58 Black women about being strong and proud, to illustrate their “performance” of invulnerability. Beauboeuf-Lafontant explains how such behavior leads to serious symptoms for these women, many of whom suffer from eating disorders and depression.

Drawing on Black feminist scholarship, cultural studies, and women’s history, Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman traces the historical and social influences of normative Black femininity, looking at how notions of self-image and strength create a distraction from broader forces of discrimination and power.

Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House Cover

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Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House

Elizabeth Keckley

###Behind the Scenes# is the life story of Elizabeth Keckley, a shrewd entrepreneur who, while enslaved, raised enough money to purchase freedom for herself and her son. Keckley moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a seamstress and dressmaker for the wives of influential politicians. She eventually became a close confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. Several years after President Lincoln's assassination, when Mrs. Lincoln's financial situation had worsened, Keckley helped organize an auction of the former first lady's dresses, eliciting strong criticism from members of the Washington elite. ###Behind the Scenes# is, therefore, both a slave narrative and Keckley's attempt to defend the motives behind the auction. However, the book's publication prompted an even greater public outcry, with the added racial subtext of white society's disdain for Keckley's audacity in publishing details of the Lincolns' private lives. Keckley's dressmaking business failed, the Lincoln family cut all ties with her, and she lived out her final days in a home for the indigent. Scholars have acknowledged the book's valuable account of slave life as well as its intimate view into the Lincoln White House. Biographers of the Lincolns have quoted extensively from Keckley's text.

Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement Cover

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Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement

A Biography

Randal Maurice Jelks

Best remembered as Martin Luther King's mentor, Benjamin Mays was an African American church scholar, dean of the Howard University School of Religion, long-time president of Morehouse College, and the author of six books on religion. A critical figure in the civil rights movement, Mays also made important contributions to African American higher education and to the study of African American Protestantism. Jelks’s biography shows Mays’s role in articulating the ideology of the modern African American Protestant church and then training the generation that brought that theology to bear on the civil rights movement.

Better than the Best Cover

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Better than the Best

Black Athletes Speak, 1920-2007 (V Ethel Willis White Books)

John C. Walter is professor emeritus of American ethnic studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of the 1990 American Book Award winner The Harlem Fox: J. Raymond Jones and Tammany. Malina Iida is a student at William S. Richardson School

These engaging and forthright interviews bring together the life stories of thirteen black athletes who have risen to the top rank of their sport. In revealing and fascinating detail, these athletes describe how they succeeded in the face of often daunting odds, often the result of economic barriers and racist attitudes and practices.

Between Slavery and Freedom Cover

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Between Slavery and Freedom

Philosophy and American Slavery

Howard McGary and Bill E. Lawson

Using the writings of slaves and former slaves, as well as commentaries on slavery, Between Slavery and Freedom explores the American slave experience to gain a better understanding of six moral and political concepts—oppression, paternalism, resistance, political obligation, citizenship, and forgiveness. The authors use analytical philosophy as well as other disciplines to gain insight into the thinking of a group of people prevented from participating in the social/political discourse of their times.

Between Slavery and Freedom rejects the notion that philosophers need not consider individual experience because philosophy is "impartial" and "universal." A philosopher should also take account of matters that are essentially perspectival, such as the slave experience. McGary and Lawson demonstrate the contribution of all human experience, including slave experiences, to the quest for human knowledge and understanding.

Beyond <i>The Chinese Connection</i> Cover

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Beyond <i>The Chinese Connection</i>

Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production

Crystal S. Anderson

In Beyond The Chinese Connection, Crystal S. Anderson explores the cultural and political exchanges between African Americans, Asian Americans, and Asians over the last four decades. To do so, Anderson examines such cultural productions as novels (Frank Chin's Gunga Din Highway [1999], Ishmael Reed's Japanese By Spring [1992], and Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle [1996]); films (Rush Hour 2 [2001], Unleashed [2005], and The Matrix trilogy [1999-2003],) and Japanese animation (Samurai Champloo [2004]), all of which feature cross-cultural conversations. In exploring the ways in which writers and artists use this transferral, Anderson traces and tests the limits of how Afro-Asian cultural production interrogates conceptions of race, ethnic identity, politics, and transnational exchange.

Ultimately, this book reads contemporary black/Asian cultural fusions through the recurrent themes established by the films of Bruce Lee, which were among the first--and certainly most popular--works to use this exchange explicitly. As a result of such films as Enter the Dragon (1973), The Chinese Connection (1972), and The Big Boss (1971), Lee emerges as both a cross-cultural hero and global cultural icon who resonates with the experiences of African American, Asian American and Asian youth in the 1970s. Lee's films and iconic imagery prefigure themes that reflect cross-cultural negotiations with global culture in post-1990 Afro-Asian cultural production.

Beyond Banneker Cover

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Beyond Banneker

Black Mathematicians and the Paths to Excellence

Erica N. Walker

An in-depth look at the lives, experiences, and professional careers of Black mathematicians in the United States.

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