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The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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The African American Roots of Modernism

From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance

James Smethurst

In identifying Jim Crow with the coming of modernity, Smethurst focuses on how artists reacted to the system’s racial territorialization, especially in urban areas, with migration narratives, poetry about the black experience, and black performance of popular culture forms such as ragtime and vaudeville. He shows how black writers such as Fenton Johnson and William Stanley Braithwaite circulated some of the earliest and strongest ideas about an American “bohemia.” Smethurst also upsets the customary assessment of the later Harlem Renaissance as the first and primary site of a nationally significant black arts movement by examining the influence of these earlier writers and artists on the black and white modernists who followed. In so doing, Smethurst brings forward a host of understudied figures while recontextualizing the work of canonical authors such as Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and James Weldon Johnson. As such, Smethurst positions his work as part of the current growing intellectual conversation about the nature of African American literature and culture between Reconstruction and the Harlem Renaissance. Far from being a “nadir” period, Smethurst argues, this period saw black artists creating cultural forms from which issued some of the most significant literary works of the twentieth century.

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African Cherokees in Indian Territory

From Chattel to Citizens

Celia E. Naylor

Forcibly removed from their homes in the late 1830s, Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Indians brought their African-descended slaves with them along the Trail of Tears and resettled in Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. Celia E. Naylor vividly charts the experiences of enslaved and free African Cherokees from the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma's entry into the Union in 1907. Carefully extracting the voices of former slaves from interviews and mining a range of sources in Oklahoma, she creates an engaging narrative of the composite lives of African Cherokees. Naylor explores how slaves connected with Indian communities not only through Indian customs--language, clothing, and food--but also through bonds of kinship.

Examining this intricate and emotionally charged history, Naylor demonstrates that the "red over black" relationship was no more benign than "white over black." She presents new angles to traditional understandings of slave resistance and counters previous romanticized ideas of slavery in the Cherokee Nation. She also challenges contemporary racial and cultural conceptions of African-descended people in the United States. Naylor reveals how black Cherokee identities evolved reflecting complex notions about race, culture, "blood," kinship, and nationality. Indeed, Cherokee freedpeople's struggle for recognition and equal rights that began in the nineteenth century continues even today in Oklahoma.

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An African Republic

Black and White Virginians in the Making of Liberia

Marie Tyler-McGraw

The nineteenth-century American Colonization Society (ACS) project of persuading all American free blacks to emigrate to the ACS colony of Liberia could never be accomplished. Few free blacks volunteered, and greater numbers would have overwhelmed the meager resources of the ACS. Given that reality, who supported African colonization and why? No state was more involved with the project than Virginia, where white Virginians provided much of the political and organizational leadership and black Virginians provided a majority of the emigrants. In ###An African Republic#, Marie Tyler-McGraw traces the parallel but seldom intersecting tracks of black and white Virginians' interests in African colonization, from revolutionary-era efforts at emancipation legislation to African American churches' concern for African missions. In Virginia, African colonization attracted aging revolutionaries, republican mothers and their daughters, bondpersons schooled and emancipated for Liberia, evangelical planters and merchants, urban free blacks, opportunistic politicians, Quakers, and gentlemen novelists. ###An African Republic# follows the experiences of the emigrants from Virginia to Liberia, where some became the leadership class, consciously seeking to demonstrate black abilities, while others found greater hardship and early death. Tyler-McGraw carefully examines the tensions between racial identities, domestic visions, and republican citizenship in Virginia and Liberia. In the 19th century, the American Colonization Society sought to rid the U.S. of free blacks (and perhaps all blacks) through a highly controversial program to relocate African Americans to the African nation of Liberia. No state was more involved in this project than Virginia, which provided the initial political organization and sent the most emigrants to the ACS colony. Tyler-McGraw examines the concept of African colonization and the various groups that were attracted to it--for equally various reasons: aging Revolutionaries, republican mothers & their daughters, evangelical planters, Whiggish merchants, urban free blacks, opportunistic politicians, promoters of Virginia’s historic status in the nation, Quakers, and gentlemen novelists. Tyler-McGraw examines the tensions and contradictions among white colonizationists and the negotiations for autonomy between ACS agents and emancipators and the black emigrants. The book follows the experience of those who went to Liberia--some of whom became the leadership class of the country, some of whom found greater misery and hardship than they had experienced in Virginia. Tyler-McGraw’s analysis reveals who supported colonization and why, as well asthe extent to which these events kept alive, in Virginia, the debate over the future and meaning of slavery. The 19th-century American Colonization Society (ACS) project of persuading all American free blacks to emigrate to the ACS colony of Liberia could never be accomplished. Who supported African colonization and why? No state was more involved with the project than Virginia. Tyler-McGraw traces the parallel but seldom intersecting tracks of black and white Virginians' interests in African colonization. African colonization attracted aging revolutionaries, republican mothers and their daughters, bondpersons schooled and emancipated for Liberia, evangelical planters and merchants, urban free blacks, opportunistic politicians, Quakers, and gentlemen novelists. Tyler-McGraw follows the experiences of the emigrants from Virginia to Liberia, where some became the leadership class, consciously seeking to demonstrate black abilities, while others found greater hardship and early death. The nineteenth-century American Colonization Society (ACS) project of persuading all American free blacks to emigrate to the ACS colony of Liberia could never be accomplished. Few free blacks volunteered, and greater numbers would have overwhelmed the meager resources of the ACS. Given that reality, who supported African colonization and why? No state was more involved with the project than Virginia, where white Virginians provided much of the political and organizational leadership and black Virginians provided a majority of the emigrants. In ###An African Republic#, Marie Tyler-McGraw traces the parallel but seldom intersecting tracks of black and white Virginians' interests in African colonization, from revolutionary-era efforts at emancipation legislation to African American churches' concern for African missions. In Virginia, African colonization attracted aging revolutionaries, republican mothers and their daughters, bondpersons schooled and emancipated for Liberia, evangelical planters and merchants, urban free blacks, opportunistic politicians, Quakers, and gentlemen novelists. ###An African Republic# follows the experiences of the emigrants from Virginia to Liberia, where some became the leadership class, consciously seeking to demonstrate black abilities, while others found greater hardship and early death. Tyler-McGraw carefully examines the tensions between racial identities, domestic visions, and republican citizenship in Virginia and Liberia.

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All Bound Up Together

The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

Martha S. Jones

The place of women's rights in African American public culture has been an enduring question, one that has long engaged activists, commentators, and scholars. ###All Bound Up Together# explores the roles black women played in their communities' social movements and the consequences of elevating women into positions of visibility and leadership. Martha Jones reveals how, through the nineteenth century, the "woman question" was at the core of movements against slavery and for civil rights. Unlike white women activists, who often created their own institutions separate from men, black women, Jones explains, often organized within already existing institutions--churches, political organizations, mutual aid societies, and schools. Covering three generations of black women activists, Jones demonstrates that their approach was not unanimous or monolithic but changed over time and took a variety of forms, from a woman's right to control her body to her right to vote. Through a far-ranging look at politics, church, and social life, Jones demonstrates how women have helped shape the course of black public culture. Jones examines the activism of African American women in the nineteenth century who staked out space in the public sphere. Unlike white women activists, who often created their own institutions separate from men in order to establish their public presence, black women, Jones explains, began to organize within mixed-gender institutions that already existed--churches, political organizations, mutual aid societies, and schools. Covering three generations of black women activists, Jones demonstrates that their approach was not unanimous or monolithic but changed over time and took a variety of forms, from a woman’s right to control her body to her right to vote. Jones focuses her attention on one crucial part of that: the extent to which African American women should exercise autonomy and authority within their community’s public culture. This volume explores the roles black women played in their communities' social movements and the consequences of elevating women into positions of visibility and leadership. Martha Jones reveals how, throughout the 19th century, the "woman question" was at the core of movements against slavery and for civil rights. The place of women's rights in African American public culture has been an enduring question, one that has long engaged activists, commentators, and scholars. ###All Bound Up Together# explores the roles black women played in their communities' social movements and the consequences of elevating women into positions of visibility and leadership. Martha Jones reveals how, through the nineteenth century, the "woman question" was at the core of movements against slavery and for civil rights. Unlike white women activists, who often created their own institutions separate from men, black women, Jones explains, often organized within already existing institutions--churches, political organizations, mutual aid societies, and schools. Covering three generations of black women activists, Jones demonstrates that their approach was not unanimous or monolithic but changed over time and took a variety of forms, from a woman's right to control her body to her right to vote. Through a far-ranging look at politics, church, and social life, Jones demonstrates how women have helped shape the course of black public culture.

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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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A Chance for Change

Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle

Crystal R. Sanders

In this innovative study, Crystal Sanders explores how working-class black women, in collaboration with the federal government, created the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM) in 1965, a Head Start program that not only gave poor black children access to early childhood education but also provided black women with greater opportunities for political activism during a crucial time in the unfolding of the civil rights movement. Women who had previously worked as domestics and sharecroppers secured jobs through CDGM as teachers and support staff and earned higher wages. The availability of jobs independent of the local white power structure afforded these women the freedom to vote in elections and petition officials without fear of reprisal. But CDGM's success antagonized segregationists at both the local and state levels who eventually defunded it.

Tracing the stories of the more than 2,500 women who staffed Mississippi's CDGM preschool centers, Sanders's book remembers women who went beyond teaching children their shapes and colors to challenge the state's closed political system and white supremacist ideology and offers a profound example for future community organizing in the South.

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The Color of the Law

Race, Violence, and Justice in the Post-World War II South

Gail Williams O'Brien

On February 25, 1946, African Americans in Columbia, Tennessee, averted the lynching of James Stephenson, a nineteen-year-old, black Navy veteran accused of attacking a white radio repairman at a local department store. That night, after Stephenson was safely out of town, four of Columbia's police officers were shot and wounded when they tried to enter the town's black business district. The next morning, the Tennessee Highway Patrol invaded the district, wrecking establishments and beating men as they arrested them. By day's end, more than one hundred African Americans had been jailed. Two days later, highway patrolmen killed two of the arrestees while they were awaiting release from jail. Drawing on oral interviews and a rich array of written sources, Gail Williams O'Brien tells the dramatic story of the Columbia "race riot," the national attention it drew, and its surprising legal aftermath. In the process, she illuminates the effects of World War II on race relations and the criminal justice system in the United States. O'Brien argues that the Columbia events are emblematic of a nationwide shift during the 1940s from mob violence against African Americans to increased confrontations between blacks and the police and courts. As such, they reveal the history behind such contemporary conflicts as the Rodney King and O. J. Simpson cases. Exploring the famous 1956 race riot in Columbia, Tennessee, this book reveals the roots of black distrust and conflict with the criminal justice system. The Columbia events are viewed as emblematic of the nation’s postwar shift from mob violence against blacks to increased confrontations between blacks and the police and the courts. On February 25, 1946, African Americans in Columbia, Tennessee, averted the lynching of James Stephenson, a nineteen-year-old, black Navy veteran accused of attacking a white radio repairman at a local department store. That night, after Stephenson was safely out of town, four of Columbia's police officers were shot and wounded when they tried to enter the town's black business district. The next morning, the Tennessee Highway Patrol invaded the district, wrecking establishments and beating men as they arrested them. By day's end, more than one hundred African Americans had been jailed. Two days later, highway patrolmen killed two of the arrestees while they were awaiting release from jail. Drawing on oral interviews and a rich array of written sources, Gail Williams O'Brien tells the dramatic story of the Columbia "race riot," the national attention it drew, and its surprising legal aftermath. In the process, she illuminates the effects of World War II on race relations and the criminal justice system in the United States. O'Brien argues that the Columbia events are emblematic of a nationwide shift during the 1940s from mob violence against African Americans to increased confrontations between blacks and the police and courts. As such, they reveal the history behind such contemporary conflicts as the Rodney King and O. J. Simpson cases.

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Colored Travelers

Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor

Americans have long regarded the freedom of travel a central tenet of citizenship. Yet, in the United States, freedom of movement has historically been a right reserved for whites. In this book, Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor shows that African Americans fought obstructions to their mobility over 100 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. These were "colored travelers," activists who relied on steamships, stagecoaches, and railroads to expand their networks and to fight slavery and racism. They refused to ride in "Jim Crow" railroad cars, fought for the right to hold a U.S. passport (and citizenship), and during their transatlantic voyages, demonstrated their radical abolitionism. By focusing on the myriad strategies of black protest, including the assertions of gendered freedom and citizenship, this book tells the story of how the basic act of traveling emerged as a front line in the battle for African American equal rights before the Civil War.

Drawing on exhaustive research from U.S. and British newspapers, journals, narratives, and letters, as well as firsthand accounts of such figures as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and William Wells Brown, Pryor illustrates how, in the quest for citizenship, colored travelers constructed ideas about respectability and challenged racist ideologies that made black mobility a crime.

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Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens

Domestic Workers in the South,1865-1960

Rebecca Sharpless

As African American women left the plantation economy behind, many entered domestic service in southern cities and towns. Cooking was one of the primary jobs they performed, feeding generations of white families and, in the process, profoundly shaping southern foodways and culture. Rebecca Sharpless argues that, in the face of discrimination, long workdays, and low wages, African American cooks worked to assert measures of control over their own lives. As employment opportunities expanded in the twentieth century, most African American women chose to leave cooking for more lucrative and less oppressive manufacturing, clerical, or professional positions. Through letters, autobiography, and oral history, Sharpless evokes African American women's voices from slavery to the open economy, examining their lives at work and at home.

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David Ruggles

A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City

Graham Russell Gao Hodges

David Ruggles (1810-1849) was one of the most heroic--and has been one of the most often overlooked--figures of the early abolitionist movement in America. Graham Russell Gao Hodges provides the first biography of this African American activist, writer, publisher, and hydrotherapist who secured liberty for more than six hundred former bond people, the most famous of whom was Frederick Douglass. A forceful, courageous voice for black freedom, Ruggles mentored Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and William Cooper Nell in the skills of antislavery activism. As a founder of the New York Committee of Vigilance, he advocated a "practical abolitionism" that included civil disobedience and self-defense in order to preserve the rights of self-emancipated enslaved people and to protect free blacks from kidnappers who would sell them into slavery in the South.

Hodges's narrative places Ruggles in the fractious politics and society of New York, where he moved among the highest ranks of state leaders and spoke up for common black New Yorkers. His work on the Committee of Vigilance inspired many upstate New York and New England whites, who allied with him to form a network that became the Underground Railroad.

Hodges's portrait of David Ruggles establishes the abolitionist as an essential link between disparate groups--male and female, black and white, clerical and secular, elite and rank-and-file--recasting the history of antebellum abolitionism as a more integrated and cohesive movement than is often portrayed.

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