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The Art and Life of Clarence Major

Keith E. Byerman

Clarence Major is an award-winning painter, fiction writer, and poet—as well as an essayist, editor, anthologist, lexicographer, and memoirist. He has been part of twenty-eight group exhibitions, has had fifteen one-man shows, and has published fourteen collections of poetry and nine works of fiction. The Art and Life of Clarence Major is the first critical biography of this innovative African American writer and visual artist. Given the full cooperation of his subject, Keith E. Byerman traces Major's life and career from his complex family history in Georgia through his encounters with important literary and artistic figures in Chicago and New York to his present status as a respected writer, artist, teacher, and scholar living in California.

In his introduction, Byerman asks, “How does a black man who does not take race as his principal identity, an artist who deliberately defies mainstream rules, a social and cultural critic who wants to be admired by the world he attacks, and a creator who refuses to commit to one expressive form make his way in the world?” Tasking himself with opening up the multiple layers of problems and solutions in both the work and the life to consider the successes and the failures, Byerman reveals Major as one who has devoted himself to a life of experimental art that has challenged both literary and painterly practice and the conventional understanding of the nature of African American art. Major's refusal to follow the rules has challenged readers and critics, but through it all, he has continued to produce quality work as a painter, poet, and novelist. His is the life of someone totally devoted to his creative work, one who has put his artistic vision ahead of fame, wealth, and sometimes even family.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication.

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Art for Equality

The NAACP's Cultural Campaign for Civil Rights

Jenny Woodley

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest civil rights organization, having dedicated itself to the fight for racial equality since 1909. While the group helped achieve substantial victories in the courtroom, the struggle for civil rights extended beyond gaining political support. It also required changing social attitudes. The NAACP thus worked to alter existing prejudices through the production of art that countered racist depictions of African Americans, focusing its efforts not only on changing the attitudes of the white middle class but also on encouraging racial pride and a sense of identity in the black community.

Art for Equality explores an important and little-studied side of the NAACP's activism in the cultural realm. In openly supporting African American artists, writers, and musicians in their creative endeavors, the organization aimed to change the way the public viewed the black community. By overcoming stereotypes and the belief of the majority that African Americans were physically, intellectually, and morally inferior to whites, the NAACP believed it could begin to defeat racism.

Illuminating important protests, from the fight against the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation to the production of anti-lynching art during the Harlem Renaissance, this insightful volume examines the successes and failures of the NAACP's cultural campaign from 1910 to the 1960s. Exploring the roles of gender and class in shaping the association's patronage of the arts, Art for Equality offers an in-depth analysis of the social and cultural climate during a time of radical change in America.

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The Art of Ellis Wilson

Albert Sperath, Margaret R. Vendryes, Steven H. Jones, and Eva King

From the tobacco fields of western Kentucky to the streets of Harlem, from the Gullah Islands off the South Carolina and Georgia coasts to the all-black republic of Haiti, painter Ellis Wilson (1899-1977) examined the scope and depth of black culture.

One of Kentucky's most significant African American artists, Wilson graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1923. He spent five more years in the city before moving to New York, where he lived for the rest of his life. Aside from his participation in the WPA's Federal Arts Project and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he was never able to support himself fully by painting. Yet his work has long been praised for its boldness and individuality. Black workers were a favorite subject: field hands, factory workers, loggers, fishermen, and more.

Of his 1940s series of black factory employees, Wilson stated, "That was the first time I had ever seen my people working in industry, so I painted them." Over time his documentary style gave way to one that emphasized shape and color over pure representation. Despite exhibitions in New York and elsewhere, Wilson considered a small show at the public library in his hometown of Mayfield in 1947 to be "one of the high points" of his life. This catalog accompanies the first major retrospective of Wilson's paintings.

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Artistic Ambassadors

Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era

Brian Russell Roberts

During the first generation of black participation in U.S. diplomacy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a vibrant community of African American writers and cultural figures worked as U.S. representatives abroad. Through the literary and diplomatic dossiers of figures such as Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson, Archibald and Angelina Grimké, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida Gibbs Hunt, and Richard Wright, Brian Roberts shows how the intersection of black aesthetic trends and U.S. political culture both Americanized and internationalized the trope of the New Negro. This decades-long relationship began during the days of Reconstruction, and it flourished as U.S. presidents courted and rewarded their black voting constituencies by appointing black men as consuls and ministers to such locales as Liberia, Haiti, Madagascar, and Venezuela. These appointments changed the complexion of U.S. interactions with nations and colonies of color; in turn, state-sponsored black travel gave rise to literary works that imported international representation into New Negro discourse on aesthetics, race, and African American culture.

Beyond offering a narrative of the formative dialogue between black transnationalism and U.S. international diplomacy, Artistic Ambassadors also illuminates a broader literary culture that reached both black and white America as well as the black diaspora and the wider world of people of color. In light of the U.S. appointments of its first two black secretaries of state and the election of its first black president, this complex representational legacy has continued relevance to our understanding of current American internationalism.

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Aspects Ecocritiques de l imaginaire africain

It is important to question some recurrent commonplaces about the (post)colonial order and the preservation of the environment if one wants to reconcile ecocriticism and postcolonial theories. For instance, were pre-colonial societies devoid of ecological awareness? Is the environmental commitment of the developed world a kind of repentance for the damages that its material comfort has caused to the environment? Are the underprivileged people of the third world so concerned with their daily survival that they become unable to advocate for the protection of the environment? Can we conclude, given the conflicting views of the industrialized countries and their post-colonial counterparts on ecology, that issues of human development and those of the conservation of the environment are incompatible? These are some of the questions that the essays in Aspects Ècocritiques de líimaginaire africain attempt to answer, with reference to African literature.

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Asylum Speakers

Caribbean Refugees and Testimonial Discourse

April Shemak

Offering the first interdisciplinary study of refugees in the Caribbean, Central America, and the United States, Asylum Speakers relates current theoretical debates about hospitality and cosmopolitanism to the actual conditions of refugees. In doing so, the author weighs the questions of truth valueassociated with various modes of witnessing to explore the function of testimonial discourse in constructing refugee subjectivity in New World cultural and political formations. By examining literary works by such writers as Edwidge Danticat, Nikl Payen, Kamau Brathwaite, Francisco Goldman, Julia Alvarez, Ivonne Lamazares, and Cecilia Rodr!guez Milans, theoretical work by Jacques Derrida, Edouard Glissant, and Wilson Harris, as well as human rights documents, government documents, photography, and historical studies, Asylum Speakers constructs a complex picture of New World refugees that expands current discussions of diaspora and migration, demonstrating that the peripheral nature of refugee testimonial narratives requires us to reshape the boundaries of U.S. ethnic and postcolonial studies.

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At Home in Diaspora

Black International Writing

Wendy Walters

Although he never lived in Harlem, Chester Himes commented that he experienced “a sort of pure homesickness” while creating the Harlem-set detective novels from his self-imposed exile in Paris. Through writing, Himes constructed an imaginary home informed both by nostalgia for a community he never knew and a critique of the racism he left behind in the United States. Half a century later, Michelle Cliff wrote about her native Jamaica from the United States, articulating a positive Caribbean feminism that at the same time acknowledged Jamaica’s homophobia and color prejudice. 

In At Home in Diaspora, Wendy Walters investigates the work of Himes, Cliff, and three other twentieth-century black international writers—Caryl Phillips, Simon Njami, and Richard Wright—who have lived in and written from countries they do not call home. Unlike other authors in exile, those of the African diaspora are doubly displaced, first by the discrimination they faced at home and again by their life abroad. Throughout, Walters suggests that in the absence of a recoverable land of origin, the idea of diaspora comes to represent a home that is not singular or exclusionary. In this way, writing in exile is much more than a literary performance; it is a profound political act. 

Wendy W. Walters is assistant professor of literature at Emerson College.

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At Home Inside

A Daughter's Tribute to Ann Petry

Elisabeth Petry

Ann Petry (1908-1997) was a prominent writer during a period in which few black writers were published with regularity in America. Her novels The Street, Country Place, and The Narrows, along with a collection of short stories and various essays and works of nonfiction, give voice to black experience outside of the traditional strains of poverty and black nationalism.

At Home Inside: A Daughter's Tribute to Ann Petry sifts the myriad contradictions of Ann Petry's life from a daughter's vantage. Ann Petry hoarded antiques but destroyed many of her journals. She wrote, but, failing to publish for years, she used her imagination to design and sew clothes, to bake, and to garden. When fame finally came, Ann Petry did not enjoy the travel it brought. Though she suffered phobias and anxieties all her life, she did not avoid the obligations of literary success until late in her career.

Ann Petry applied her formidable skills to stories she told about herself and her family, and the corrections Elisabeth Petry makes to her mother's inventions will prove invaluable. Talking about her life publicly, Ann Petry acknowledged six different birth dates. She hid her first marriage, and even represented her father, Peter C. Lane, Jr., as a potential killer. Mining Petry's journals Elisabeth Petry creates part biography, part love letter, and part sounding of her mother's genius and luminescent personality.

Elisabeth Petry is a freelance writer with a juris doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Middletown, Connecticut, and is the editor of Can Anything Beat White? A Black Family's Letters (University Press of Mississippi).

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Atlanta, Cradle of the New South

Race and Remembering in the Civil War's Aftermath

William A. Link

After conquering Atlanta in the summer of 1864 and occupying it for two months, Union forces laid waste to the city in November. William T. Sherman's invasion was a pivotal moment in the history of the South and Atlanta's rebuilding over the following fifty years came to represent the contested meaning of the Civil War itself. The war's aftermath brought contentious transition from Old South to New for whites and African Americans alike. Historian William Link argues that this struggle defined the broader meaning of the Civil War in the modern South, with no place embodying the region's past and future more clearly than Atlanta.
Link frames the city as both exceptional--because of the incredible impact of the war there and the city's phoenix-like postwar rise--and as a model for other southern cities. He shows how, in spite of the violent reimposition of white supremacy, freedpeople in Atlanta built a cultural, economic, and political center that helped to define black America.

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Atlantis

Three Tales

Samuel R. Delany

Wesleyan University Press has made a significant commitment to the publication of the work of Samuel R. Delany, including this recent fiction, now available in paperback. The three long stories collected in Atlantis: three tales -- "Atlantis: Model 1924," "Erik, Gwen, and D. H. Lawrence's Aesthetic of Unrectified Feeling," and "Citre et Trans" -- explore problems of memory, history, and transgression.

Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and Guest of Honor at the 1995 World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, Delany was won a broad audience among fans of postmodern fiction with his theoretically sophisticated science fiction and fantasy. The stories of Atlantis: three tales are not SF, yet Locus, the trade publication of the science fiction field, notes that the title story "has an odd, unsettling power not usually associated with mainstream fiction."

A writer whose audience extends across and beyond science fiction, black, gay, postmodern, and academic constituencies, Delany is finally beginning to achieve the broader recognition he deserves.

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Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies

edited by Stella Bolaki and Sabine Broeck

Among the most influential and insightful thinkers of her generation, Audre Lorde (1934–1992) inspired readers and activists through her poetry, autobiography, essays, and her political action. Most scholars have situated her work within the context of the women’s, gay and lesbian, and black civil rights movements within the United States. However, Lorde forged coalitions with women in Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, and twenty years after her passing, these alliances remain largely undocumented and unexplored. Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies is the first book to systematically document and thoroughly investigate Lorde’s influence beyond the United States. Arranged in three thematically interrelated sections—Archives, Connections, and Work—the volume brings together scholarly essays, interviews, Lorde’s unpublished speech about Europe, and personal reflections and testimonials from key figures throughout the world. Using a range of interdisciplinary approaches, contributors assess the reception, translation, and circulation of Lorde’s writing and activism within different communities, audiences, and circles. They also shed new light on the work Lorde inspired across disciplinary borders. In addition the volume editors, contributors include Sarah Cefai, Cassandra Ellerbe-Dueck, Paul M. Farber, Tiffany N. Florvil, Katharina Gerund, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Gloria Joseph, Jackie Kay, Marion Kraft, Christiana Lambrinidis, Zeedah Meierhofer-Mangeli, Rina Nissim, Chantal Oakes, Lester C. Olson, Pratibha Parmar, Peggy Piesche, Dagmar Schultz, Tamara Lea Spira, and Gloria Wekker.

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"Baad Bitches" and Sassy Supermamas

Black Power Action Films

Stephane Dunn

This lively study unpacks the intersecting racial, sexual, and gender politics underlying the representations of racialized bodies, masculinities, and femininities in early 1970s black action films, with particular focus on black femininity. While low-budget blaxploitation films typically portrayed black women as trifling "bitches" compared to the supermacho black male heroes, the terms "baad bitches" and "sassy supermamas" signal the emergence of films featuring self-assured, empowered, and tough (or "baad") black female protagonists: Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown. Stephane Dunn closely examines a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, tracing its influences from the Black Power movement and feminism.

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Backwater Blues

The Mississippi Flood of 1927 in the African American Imagination

Richard M. Mizelle Jr.

The Mississippi River flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in U.S. history, reshaping the social and cultural landscape as well as the physical environment. Often remembered as an event that altered flood control policy and elevated the stature of powerful politicians, Richard M. Mizelle Jr. examines the place of the flood within African American cultural memory and the profound ways it influenced migration patterns in the United States.

In Backwater Blues, Mizelle analyzes the disaster through the lenses of race and charity, blues music, and mobility and labor. The book’s title comes from Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” perhaps the best-known song about the flood. Mizelle notes that the devastation produced the richest groundswell of blues recordings following any environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, with more than fifty songs by countless singers evoking the disruptive force of the flood and the precariousness of the levees originally constructed to protect citizens. Backwater Blues reveals larger relationships between social and environmental history. According to Mizelle, musicians, Harlem Renaissance artists, fraternal organizations, and Creole migrants all shared a sense of vulnerability in the face of both the Mississippi River and a white supremacist society. As a result, the Mississippi flood of 1927 was not just an environmental crisis but a racial event.

Challenging long-standing ideas of African American environmental complacency, Mizelle offers insights into the broader dynamics of human interactions with nature as well as ways in which nature is mediated through the social and political dynamics of race.Includes discography.

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Bad Boys

Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity

Ann Arnett Ferguson

Statistics show that black males are disproportionately getting in trouble and being suspended from the nation's school systems. Based on three years of participant observation research at an elementary school, Bad Boys offers a richly textured account of daily interactions between teachers and students to understand this serious problem. Ann Arnett Ferguson demonstrates how a group of eleven- and twelve-year-old males are identified by school personnel as "bound for jail" and how the youth construct a sense of self under such adverse circumstances. The author focuses on the perspective and voices of pre-adolescent African American boys. How does it feel to be labeled "unsalvageable" by your teacher? How does one endure school when the educators predict one's future as "a jail cell with your name on it?" Through interviews and participation with these youth in classrooms, playgrounds, movie theaters, and video arcades, the author explores what "getting into trouble" means for the boys themselves. She argues that rather than simply internalizing these labels, the boys look critically at schooling as they dispute and evaluate the meaning and motivation behind the labels that have been attached to them. Supplementing the perspectives of the boys with interviews with teachers, principals, truant officers, and relatives of the students, the author constructs a disturbing picture of how educators' beliefs in a "natural difference" of black children and the "criminal inclination" of black males shapes decisions that disproportionately single out black males as being "at risk" for failure and punishment. Bad Boys is a powerful challenge to prevailing views on the problem of black males in our schools today. It will be of interest to educators, parents, and youth, and to all professionals and students in the fields of African-American studies, childhood studies, gender studies, juvenile studies, social work, and sociology, as well as anyone who is concerned about the way our schools are shaping the next generation of African American boys. Anne Arnett Ferguson is Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies and Women's Studies, Smith College.

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Baltimore '68

Riots and Rebirth in an American City

Edited by Jessica I. Elfenbein, Thomas L. Hollowak and Elizabeth M. Nix

In 1968, Baltimore was home to a variety of ethnic, religious, and racial communities that, like those in other American cities, were confronting a quickly declining industrial base. In April of that year, disturbances broke the urban landscape along lines of race and class.

This book offers chapters on events leading up to the turmoil, the riots, and the aftermath as well as four rigorously edited and annotated oral histories of members of the Baltimore community. The combination of new scholarship and first-person accounts provides a comprehensive case study of this period of civil unrest four decades later.

This engaging, broad-based public history lays bare the diverse experiences of 1968 and their effects, emphasizing the role of specific human actions. By reflecting on the stories and analysis presented in this anthology, readers may feel empowered to pursue informed, responsible civic action of their own.

Baltimore '68 is the book component of a larger public history project, "Baltimore '68 Riots: Riots and Rebirth." The project's companion website (http://archives.ubalt.edu/bsr/index.html ) offers many more oral histories plus photos, art, and links to archival sources. The book and the website together make up an invaluable teaching resource on cities, social unrest, and racial politics in the 1960s. The project was the corecipient of the 2009 Outstanding Public History Project Award from the National Council on Public History.

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The Baptism of Early Virginia

How Christianity Created Race

Rebecca Anne Goetz

In The Baptism of Early Virginia, Rebecca Anne Goetz examines the construction of race through the religious beliefs and practices of English Virginians. She argues that the seventeenth century was a critical time for the development and articulation of racial ideologies. Paramount was the idea of “hereditary heathenism,” the notion that Africans and Indians were incapable of genuine Christian conversion. In Virginia in particular, English settlers initially believed that native people would quickly become Christian and would form a vibrant partnership with English people. After those hopes were dashed by vicious Anglo-Indian violence, English Virginians used Christian rituals like marriage and baptism to exclude first Indians and then Africans from the privileges enjoyed by English Christians—including freedom. Resistance to hereditary heathenism was not uncommon, however. Enslaved people and many Anglican ministers fought against planters’ racial ideologies, setting the stage for Christian abolitionism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Using court records, letters, and pamphlets, Goetz suggests new ways of approaching and understanding the deeply entwined relationship between Christianity and race in early America.

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Barbaric Culture and Black Critique

Black Antislavery Writers, Religion, and the Slaveholding Atlantic

Stefan M. Wheelock

In an interdisciplinary study of black intellectual history at the dawn of the nineteenth century, Stefan M. Wheelock shows how black antislavery writers were able to counteract ideologies of white supremacy while fostering a sense of racial community and identity. The major figures he discusses—Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, David Walker, and Maria Stewart—engaged the concepts of democracy, freedom, and equality as these ideas ripened within the context of racial terror and colonial hegemony. Wheelock highlights the ways in which religious and secular versions of collective political destiny both competed and cooperated to forge a vision for a more perfect and just society. By appealing to religious sensibilities and calling for emancipation, these writers addressed slavery and its cultural bearing on the Atlantic in varied, complex, and sometimes contradictory ways during a key period in the development of Western political identity and modernity.

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Barriers between Us

Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Cassandra Jackson

This provocative book examines the representation of characters of mixed African and European descent in the works of African American and European American writers of the 19th century. The importance of mulatto figures as agents of ideological exchange in the American literary tradition has yet to receive sustained critical attention. Going beyond Sterling Brown's melodramatic stereotype of the mulatto as "tragic figure," Cassandra Jackson's close study of nine works of fiction shows how the mulatto trope reveals the social, cultural, and political ideas of the period. Jackson uncovers a vigorous discussion in 19th-century fiction about the role of racial ideology in the creation of an American identity. She analyzes the themes of race-mixing, the "mulatto," nation building, and the social fluidity of race (and its imagined biological rigidity) in novels by James Fenimore Cooper, Richard Hildreth, Lydia Maria Child, Frances E. W. Harper, Thomas Detter, George Washington Cable, and Charles Chesnutt.

Blacks in the Diaspora -- Claude A. Clegg III, editor
Darlene Clark Hine, David Barry Gaspar, and John McCluskey, founding editors

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Battling the Plantation Mentality

Memphis and the Black Freedom Struggle

Laurie Beth Green

African American freedom is often defined in terms of emancipation and civil rights legislation, but it did not arrive with the stroke of a pen or the rap of a gavel. No single event makes this more plain, Laurie Green argues, than the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike, which culminated in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Exploring the notion of "freedom" in postwar Memphis, Green demonstrates that the civil rights movement was battling an ongoing "plantation mentality" based on race, gender, and power that permeated southern culture long before--and even after--the groundbreaking legislation of the mid-1960s. With its slogan "I AM a Man!" the Memphis strike provides a clarion example of how the movement fought for a black freedom that consisted of not only constitutional rights but also social and human rights. As the sharecropping system crumbled and migrants streamed to the cities during and after World War II, the struggle for black freedom touched all aspects of daily life. Green traces the movement to new locations, from protests against police brutality and racist movie censorship policies to innovations in mass culture, such as black-oriented radio stations. Incorporating scores of oral histories, Green demonstrates that the interplay of politics, culture, and consciousness is critical to truly understanding freedom and the black struggle for it. Green explores the notion of “freedom” among working-class African Americans in southern cities (specifically, Memphis) during the post-WWII Black Freedom Movement. She argues that although the meaning of freedom is often neglected outside the realm of slavery and emancipation, the civil rights movement indeed was still battling an ongoing “plantation mentality” based on race, gender, and power, which permeated southern culture even after the groudbreaking legislation of the mid 1960s. She examines the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968 (which took the slogan “I AM a Man!” and culminated in the assassination of MLK) as a clarion example of how the movement fought for a black freedom that consisted of not only constitutional rights, but also social and human rights. In her exploration of the “freedom” mentality in Memphis, she looks at aspects of daily life such as protests against police brutality and racist movie censorship policies and innovations in mass culture, such as black-oriented radio stations, that accompanied the crumbling of the sharecropping system and the rise of urban migration. Exploring the notion of African American “freedom” in postwar Memphis, Green demonstrates that the civil rights movement was battling an ongoing “plantation mentality” based on race, gender, and power that permeated southern culture long before--and even after--the groundbreaking legislation of the mid-1960s. She points to the Memphis sanitation workers strike as a clarion example of how the movement fought for a black freedom that consisted of not only constitutional rights but also social and human rights. African American freedom is often defined in terms of emancipation and civil rights legislation, but it did not arrive with the stroke of a pen or the rap of a gavel. No single event makes this more plain, Laurie Green argues, than the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike, which culminated in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Exploring the notion of "freedom" in postwar Memphis, Green demonstrates that the civil rights movement was battling an ongoing "plantation mentality" based on race, gender, and power that permeated southern culture long before--and even after--the groundbreaking legislation of the mid-1960s. With its slogan "I AM a Man!" the Memphis strike provides a clarion example of how the movement fought for a black freedom that consisted of not only constitutional rights but also social and human rights. As the sharecropping system crumbled and migrants streamed to the cities during and after World War II, the struggle for black freedom touched all aspects of daily life. Green traces the movement to new locations, from protests against police brutality and racist movie censorship policies to innovations in mass culture, such as black-oriented radio stations. Incorporating scores of oral histories, Green demonstrates that the interplay of politics, culture, and consciousness is critical to truly understanding freedom and the black struggle for it.

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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.

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Beckett in Black and Red

The Translations for Nancy Cunard's Negro

edited by Alan Warren Friedman

In 1934, Nancy Cunard published Negro: An Anthology, which brought together more than two hundred contributions, serving as a plea for racial justice, an exposé of black oppression, and a hymn to black achievement and endurance. The anthology stands as a virtual ethnography of 1930s racial, historic, artistic, political, and economic culture. Samuel Beckett, a close friend of the flamboyant and unconventional Cunard, translated nineteen of the contributions for Negro, constituting Beckett's largest single prose publication. Beckett traditionally has been viewed as an apolitical postmodernist rather than as a willing and major participant in Negro's racial, political, and aesthetic agenda.

In Beckett in Black and Red, Friedman reevaluates Beckett's contribution to the project, reconciling the humanism of his life and work and valuing him as a man deeply engaged with the greatest public issues of his time. Cunard believed racial justice and equality could be achieved only through Communism, and thus "black" and "red" were inextricably linked in her vision. Beckett's contribution to Negro demonstrates his support for Cunard's interest in surrealism as well as her political causes, including international republicanism and anti-fascism. Only in recent years have Cunard's ideas begun to receive serious consideration.

Beckett in Black and Red radically revalues Cunard and reconceives Beckett. His work in Negro shows a commitment to cultural and individual equality and worth that Beckett consistently demonstrated throughout his life, both in personal relationships and in his writing.

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Becoming King

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

Troy Jackson. introduction by Clayborne Carson

“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.

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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.

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Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman

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.

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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.

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