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African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890-1930
This manuscript is a collection of thirteen essays looking at the formative decades in the history of modern American mass culture. Bringing together original work from sixteen distinguished scholars in various disciplines, ranging from theater and literature to history and music, this manuscript addresses the complex roles of black performers, entrepreneurs, and consumers in American mass culture. With subjects ranging from representations of race in sheet music illustrations to African American interest in Haitian culture and with topics spanning the end of the nineteenth century to the Great Depression, these essays expand the discussion of both black culture and American popular culture during the early twentieth century. This anthology presents a fresh and multidisciplinary look at the history of African Americans and mass culture.
Free Women of Color in the Americas
David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine's Beyond Bondage outlines the restricted spheres within which free women of color, by virtue of gender and racial restrictions, were forced to carve out their existences. Although their freedom, represented by the acquisition of property, respectability, and opportunity, always remained precarious, the collection supports the surprising conclusion that women of color often sought and obtained these advantages more successfully than their male counterparts.
Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball
When he first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke a color barrier that reached back sixty years to the very origins of American baseball. He would go on to play in six World Series and help the Dodgers win the 1955 World Championship. But Robinson was much more than just a baseball player. This book collects columns which Robinson wrote primarily for the New York Post and the New York Amsterdam News, as well as including excerpts of letters between Robinson and politicians such as Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy. These writings portray Robinson as a deeply passionate, intelligent, and eloquent man with strongly-held convictions about the Civil Rights Movement and the political decisions which shaped America in the 1960s and ‘70s. He was also a devoted husband and father conflicted by his ability to provide the best for his children and his desire to keep them grounded in the struggles facing all African Americans at the time. Each column is preceded by a brief contextualizing introduction by Long, and Robinson’s columns are broken into three themes: “On Baseball and Golf,” “On Family and Friends,” and “On Civil Rights.” The brevity of the columns and Robinson’s vivid imagery and compelling voice make this an absorbing and often very moving read.
The Culture of Uplift, Identity, and Politics in Black Musical Theatre
Paula Marie Seniors’s Beyond Lift Every Voice and Sing is an engaging and well-researched book that explores the realities of African American life and history as refracted through the musical theater productions of one of the most prolific black song-writing teams of the early twentieth century. James Weldon Johnson, J. Rosamond Johnson, and Bob Cole combined conservative and progressive ideas in a complex and historically specific strategy for overcoming racism and its effects. In Shoo Fly Regiment (1906–1908) and The Red Moon (1908–1910), theater, uplift, and politics collided as the team tried to communicate a politics of uplift, racial pride, gender equality, and interethnic coalitions. The overarching question of this study is how roles and representations in black musical theater both reflected and challenged the dominant social order. While some scholars dismiss the team as conformists, Seniors’s contention is that they used the very tools of hegemony to make progressive political statements and to create a distinctly black theater informed by black politics, history, and culture. These men were writers, musicians, actors, and vaudevillians who strove to change the perception of African Americans on stage from one of minstrelsy buffoonery to one of dignity and professionalism.
Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production
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 , Ishmael Reed's Japanese By Spring , and Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle ); films (Rush Hour 2 , Unleashed , and The Matrix trilogy [1999-2003],) and Japanese animation (Samurai Champloo ), 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.
Empathy and Anti-Racist Reading
Critics often characterize white consumption of African American culture as a form of theft that echoes the fantasies of 1950s-era bohemians, or "White Negroes," who romanticized black culture as anarchic and sexually potent. In Beyond the White Negro, Kimberly Chabot Davis claims such a view fails to describe the varied politics of racial crossover in the past fifteen years.Davis analyzes how white engagement with African American novels, film narratives, and hip-hop can help form anti-racist attitudes that may catalyze social change and racial justice. Though acknowledging past failures to establish cross-racial empathy, she focuses on examples that show avenues for future progress and change. Her study of ethnographic data from book clubs and college classrooms shows how engagement with African American culture and pedagogical support can lead to the kinds of white self-examination that make empathy possible. The result is a groundbreaking text that challenges the trend of focusing on society's failures in achieving cross-racial empathy and instead explores possible avenues for change.
Race, Asthma, and the Contested Meaning of Genetic Research in the Caribbean
Steadily increasing numbers of Americans have been diagnosed with asthma in recent years, attracting the attention of biomedical researchers, including those searching for a genetic link to the disease. The high rate of asthma among African American children has made race significant to this search for genetic predisposition. One of the primary sites for this research today is Barbados. The Caribbean nation is considered optimal because of its predominantly black population. At the same time, the government of Barbados has promoted the country for such research in an attempt to take part in the biomedical future.
In Biomedical Ambiguity, Ian Whitmarsh describes how he followed a team of genetic researchers to Barbados, where he did fieldwork among not only the researchers but also government officials, medical professionals, and the families being tested. Whitmarsh reveals how state officials and medical professionals make the international biomedical research part of state care, bundling together categories of disease populations, biological race, and asthma. He points to state and industry perceptions of mothers as medical caretakers in genetic research that proves to be inextricable from contested practices around nation, race, and family.
The reader's attention is drawn to the ambiguity in these practices, as researchers turn the plurality of ethnic identities and illness meanings into a science of asthma and race at the same time that medical practitioners and families make the opaque science significant to patient experience. Whitmarsh shows that the contradictions introduced by this "misunderstanding" paradoxically enable the research to move forward.
A Narrative Account with Entertaining Passages of the State of Minstrelsy & of America & the True Relation Thereof
A critical look at black identity in American history and popular culture as told from a performative African American perspective.
The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry offers a close examination of the literary culture in which the Black Arts Movement’s poets (including Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Larry Neal, Haki Madhubuti, Carolyn Rodgers, and others) operated and of the small presses and literary anthologies that first published the movement’s authors. The book also describes the role of the Black Arts Movement in reintroducing readers to poets such as Langston Hughes, Robert Hayden, Margaret Walker, and Phillis Wheatley. Focusing on the material production of Black Arts poetry, the book combines genetic criticism with cultural history to shed new light on the period, its publishing culture, and the writing and editing practices of its participants. Howard Rambsy II demonstrates how significant circulation and format of black poetic texts—not simply their content—were to the formation of an artistic movement. The book goes on to examine other significant influences on the formation of Black Arts discourse, including such factors as an emerging nationalist ideology and figures such as John Coltrane and Malcolm X.