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Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the New South
<p class="red">An analysis of the Leo Frank case as a measure of the complexities characterizing the relationship between African Americans and Jews in America
In 1915 Leo Frank, a Northern Jew, was lynched in Georgia. He had been convicted of the murder of Mary Phagan, a young white woman who worked in the Atlanta pencil factory managed by Frank. In a tumultuous trial in 1913 Frank's main accuser was Jim Conley, an African American employee in the factory. Was Frank guilty?
In our time a martyr's aura falls over Frank as a victim of religious and regional bigotry. The unending controversy has inspired debates, movies, books, songs, and theatrical productions. Among the creative works focused on the case are a ballad by Fiddlin' John Carson, David Mamet's novel The Old Religion in 1997, and Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown's musical Parade in 1998.
Indeed, the Frank case has become a touchstone in the history of black-Jewish cultural relations. How- ever, for too long the trial has been oversimplified as the moment when Jews recognized their vulnerability in America and began to make common cause with African Americans.
This study has a different tale to tell. It casts off old political and cultural baggage in order to assess the cultural context of Frank's trial, and to examine the stress placed on the relationship of African Americans and Jews by it. The interpretation offered here is based on deep archival research, analyses of the court records, and study of various artistic creations inspired by the case. It suggests that the case should be understood as providing conclusive early evidence of the deep mutual distrust between African Americans and Jews, a distrust that has been skillfully and cynically manipulated by powerful white people.
Black-Jewish Relations on Trial is concerned less with what actually happened in the National Pencil Company factory than with how Frank's trial, conviction, and lynching have been used as an occasion to explore black-Jewish relations and the New South. Just as with the O. J. Simpson trial, the Frank trial requires that Americans make a profound examination of their essential beliefs about race, sexuality, and power.
Jeffrey Melnick is an assistant professor of American studies at Babson College and the author of A Right to Sing the Blues: African Americans, Jews, and American Popular Song.
Emancipation and Freedom, 1862-1884
Kentucky occupied an unusual position with regard to slavery during the Civil War as well as after. Since the state never seceded, the emancipation proclamation did not free the majority of Kentucky's slaves; in fact, Kentucky and Delaware were the only two states where legal slavery still existed when the thirteenth amendment was adopted by Congress. Despite its unique position, no historian before has attempted to tell the experience of blacks in the Commonwealth during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Victor B. Howard's Black Liberation in Kentucky fills this void in the history of slavery and emancipation. In doing so, however, he does not just chronicle the experiences of black Kentucky, because as he notes in his introduction, "such a work would distort the past as much as a book concerned solely with white people." Beginning with an overview of the situation before the war, Howard examines reactions to the emancipation proclamation and how the writ was executed in Kentucky. He also explores the role the army played, both during the war as freed black enlisted and after the war as former slaves transitioned to freedom.
The situation for former slaves in Kentucky was just as precarious as in other southern states, and Howard documents the challenges they faced from keeping families together to finding work. He also documents the early fights for civil rights in the state, detailing battles over the right to testify in court, black suffrage, and access to education. As Black Liberation in Kentucky shows, Kentucky's slaves fought for their freedom and rights from the beginning, refusing to continue in bondage and proving themselves accomplished actors destined to play a critical role in Civil War and Reconstruction.
American Dreams and Racial Realities
“The book brings together the research interests of what Hunt describes as an ‘all‒star team’ of contributors, most but not all of them academics with strong California connections. Comprising 17 short to medium‒length essays, it pivots from data‒rich analyses of how the black community’s 20th century demographic center gradually has shifted from Central Avenue to Leimert Park, to interview‒driven, anecdotal accounts of the rise and decline of Venice’s Oakwood neighborhood and a revealing chronicle of the black‒owned SOLAR (Sounds of Los Angeles Records), a late ‘70s‒early ‘80s hit‒making machine for groups including the Whispers, Shalamar and Klymaxx.”
"Extremely informative. . . deserves a wide readership, both inside and outside police departments."
"An imaginative and insightful account of the day-to-day life of the black police officer in a large urban environment. A must read for all police officers, white as well as black."
President, Guardians Association
New York City Police Department
". . . well written and achieves its purpose. It will be of interest to specialists and students of race relations, urban problems, and criminal justice issues."br>Library Journal
This book is about the world of black police in New York City: who they are, how they work with the department, how they are recruited by whites, how they are treated in turn by their fellow blacks, and how they operate day by day in the richest as well as the poorest parts of the city.
Leinen provides direct quotations from police, citizens, city administrators, and street hustlers, as well as detailed assessments of encounters in the everyday relations between police and the public.
While it was not until 1871 that slavery in Cuba was finally abolished, African-descended people had high hopes for legal, social, and economic advancement as the republican period started. Pappademos analyzes the racial politics and culture of black civic and political activists during an era fraught with successive political and economic crises.
The Muslim International and Black Freedom beyond America
“The same rebellion, the same impatience, the same anger that exists in the hearts of the dark people in Africa and Asia,” Malcolm X declared in a 1962 speech, “is existing in the hearts and minds of 20 million black people in this country who have been just as thoroughly colonized as the people in Africa and Asia.” Four decades later, the hip-hop artist Talib Kweli gave voice to a similar Pan-African sentiment in the song “K.O.S. (Determination)”: “The African diaspora represents strength in numbers, a giant can't slumber forever.”
Linking discontent and unrest in Harlem and Los Angeles to anticolonial revolution in Algeria, Egypt, and elsewhere, Black leaders in the United States have frequently looked to the anti-imperialist movements and antiracist rhetoric of the Muslim Third World for inspiration. In Black Star, Crescent Moon, Sohail Daulatzai maps the rich, shared history between Black Muslims, Black radicals, and the Muslim Third World, showing how Black artists and activists imagined themselves not as national minorities but as part of a global majority, connected to larger communities of resistance. Daulatzai traces these interactions and alliances from the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power era to the “War on Terror,” placing them within a broader framework of American imperialism, Black identity, and the global nature of white oppression.
From Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali to contemporary artists and activists like Rakim and Mos Def, Black Star, Crescent Moon reveals how Muslim resistance to imperialism came to occupy a central position within the Black radical imagination, offering a new perspective on the political and cultural history of Black internationalism from the 1950s to the present.
In the pre-Civil War and Civil War periods the Illinois black code deprived blacks of suffrage and court rights, and the Illinois Free Schools Act kept most black children out of public schooling.
But, as McCaul documents, they did not sit idly by. They applied the concepts of “bargaining power” (rewarding, punishing, and dialectical) and the American ideal of “community” to participate in winning two major victories during this era.
By the use of dialectical power, exerted mainly via John Jones’ tract, The Black Laws of Illinois, they helped secure the repeal of the state’s black code; by means of punishing power, mainly through boycotts and ‘‘invasions,’’ they exerted pressures that brought a cancellation of the Chicago public school policy of racial segregation.
McCaul makes clear that the blacks’ struggle for school rights is but one of a number of such struggles waged by disadvantaged groups (women, senior citizens, ethnics, and immigrants). He postulates a “stage’’ pattern for the history of the black struggle—a pattern of efforts by federal and state courts to change laws and constitutions, followed by efforts to entice, force, or persuade local authorities to comply with the laws and constitutional articles and with the decrees of the courts.
Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy
The Assassination of Patrolman James Sackett
On May 22, 1970, responding to a bogus emergency call to help a pregnant woman, St. Paul patrolman James Sackett was killed by a sniper’s bullet fired from a high-powered rifle. The white officer’s assassination was the most shocking event in an era of shocking, racially charged events, punctuated by bombings at Dayton’s Department Store and elsewhere, police harassment and shootings of young black men, an alleged hijacking plot, and random acts of urban violence. a once peaceful, close-knit community, St. Paul’s summit-university neighborhood had reached a boiling point, heated by racism and rage. Award-winning journalist William Swanson masterfully walks the razor-edge between the grief and anger of a police force that lost one of its own and the deep-seated resentment and subsequent silence of a community that had many reasons not to trust the cops. Based on extensive interviews and archival research, Black White Blue recounts the details of one of the most extraordinary cold-case sagas in U.S. annals—a story featuring dozens of memorable characters, including a relentless “super cop,” an aggregation of conflicted informants, and a haunted woman who grew old with a terrible secret. The case culminates with the controversial trials, decades later, of Ronald Reed and Larry Clark. Black White Blue, is a powerful, true account of crime and punishment, time and memory, race, community, and personal relationships.
Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and Transatlantic Activism
During the early 1890s, a series of shocking lynchings brought unprecedented international attention to American mob violence. This interest created an opportunity for Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist and civil rights activist from Memphis, to travel to England to cultivate British moral indignation against American lynching. Wells adapted race and gender roles established by African American abolitionists in Britain to legitimate her activism as a “black lady reformer”—a role American society denied her—and assert her right to defend her race from abroad. Based on extensive archival research conducted in the United States and Britain, Black Woman Reformer by Sarah Silkey explores Wells’s 1893–94 antilynching campaigns within the broader contexts of nineteenth-century transatlantic reform networks and debates about the role of extralegal violence in American society.
Through her speaking engagements, newspaper interviews, and the efforts of her British allies, Wells altered the framework of public debates on lynching in both Britain and the United States. No longer content to view lynching as a benign form of frontier justice, Britons accepted Wells’s assertion that lynching was a racially motivated act of brutality designed to enforce white supremacy. As British criticism of lynching mounted, southern political leaders desperate to maintain positive relations with potential foreign investors were forced to choose whether to publicly defend or decry lynching. Although British moral pressure and media attention did not end lynching, the international scrutiny generated by Wells’s campaigns transformed our understanding of racial violence and made American communities increasingly reluctant to embrace lynching.