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In August of 1991, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights was engulfed in violence following the deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum—a West Indian boy struck by a car in the motorcade of a Hasidic spiritual leader and an orthodox Jew stabbed by a Black teenager. The ensuing unrest thrust the tensions between the Lubavitch Hasidic community and their Afro-Caribbean and African American neighbors into the media spotlight, spurring local and national debates on diversity and multiculturalism. Crown Heights became a symbol of racial and religious division. Yet few have paused to examine the nature of Black-Jewish difference in Crown Heights, or to question the flawed assumptions about race and religion that shape the politics—and perceptions—of conflict in the community.
In Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights, Henry Goldschmidt explores the everyday realities of difference in Crown Heights. Drawing on two years of fieldwork and interviews, he argues that identity formation is particularly complex in Crown Heights because the neighborhood’s communities envision the conflict in remarkably diverse ways. Lubavitch Hasidic Jews tend to describe it as a religious difference between Jews and Gentiles, while their Afro-Caribbean and African American neighbors usually define it as a racial difference between Blacks and Whites. These tangled definitions are further complicated by government agencies who address the issue as a matter of culture, and by the Lubavitch Hasidic belief—a belief shared with a surprising number of their neighbors—that they are a “chosen people” whose identity transcends the constraints of the social world.
The efforts of the Lubavitch Hasidic community to live as a divinely chosen people in a diverse Brooklyn neighborhood where collective identities are generally defined in terms of race illuminate the limits of American multiculturalism—a concept that claims to celebrate diversity, yet only accommodates variations of certain kinds. Taking the history of conflict in Crown Heights as an invitation to reimagine our shared social world, Goldschmidt interrogates the boundaries of race and religion and works to create space in American society for radical forms of cultural difference.
Race and Remembrance tells the remarkable life story of Arthur L. Johnson, a Detroit civil rights and community leader, educator, and administrator whose career spans much of the last century. In his own words, Johnson takes readers through the arc of his distinguished career, which includes his work with the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, and Wayne State University. A Georgia native, Johnson graduated from Morehouse College and Atlanta University and moved north in 1950 to become executive secretary of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. Under his guidance, the Detroit chapter became one of the most active and vital in the United States. Despite his dedicated work toward political organization, Johnson also maintained a steadfast belief in education and served as the vice president of university relations and professor of educational sociology at Wayne State University for nearly a quarter of a century. In his intimate and engaging style, Johnson gives readers a look into his personal life, including his close relationship with his grandmother, his encounters with Morehouse classmate Martin Luther King, and the loss of his sons. Race and Remembrance offers an insider’s view into the social factors affecting the lives of African Americans in the twentieth century, making clear the enormous effort and personal sacrifice required in fighting racial discrimination and poverty in Detroit and beyond. Readers interested in African American social history and political organization will appreciate this unique and revealing volume.
African Americans in Pittsburgh since World War II
African Americans from Pittsburgh have a long and distinctive history of contributions to the cultural, political, and social evolution of the United States. From jazz legend Earl Fatha Hines to playwright August Wilson, from labor protests in the 1950s to the Black Power movement of the late 1960s, Pittsburgh has been a force for change in American race and class relations.
Fighting Slavery and Prejudice in the Old Northwest,1830–1870
In the Old Northwest from 1830-1870, a bold set of activists battled slavery and racial prejudice. This book is about their expansive efforts to eradicate southern slavery and its local influence in the contentious milieu of four new states carved out of the Northwest Territory: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. While the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in the region in 1787, in reality both it and racism continued to exert strong influence in the Old Northwest, as seen in the race-based limitations of civil liberties there. Indeed, these states comprised the central battleground over race and rights in antebellum America, in a time when race's social meaning was deeply infused into all aspects of Americans' lives, and when people struggled to establish political consensus.
Scientific Challenges to Racism in Modern America
During the course of American history, scientific theories have been used to legitimate racial ideas that in turn have been important in creating and interpreting the law. Race and Science collects essays from leading voices in law, history, history of science, botany, and the social sciences, resulting in a rich and comprehensive multidisciplinary exploration of the roots of and the scientific challenges to racial essentialism.
The notion that someone’s racial identity and characteristics define everything of importance about them has become deeply embedded in American culture, society, and science. These essays illuminate the roots of this belief and present case studies that explore how and why natural and social scientists have challenged these racist views.
The Cotton States Exposition of 1895 was a world’s fair in Atlanta held to stimulate foreign and domestic trade for a region in an economic depression. Theda Perdue uses the exposition to examine the competing agendas of white supremacist organizers and the peoples of color who participated.
White organizers had to demonstrate that the South had solved its race problem in order to attract business and capital. As a result, the exposition became a venue for a performance of race that formalized the segregation of African Americans, the banishment of Native Americans, and the incorporation of other people of color into the region’s racial hierarchy.
White supremacy may have been the organizing principle, but exposition organizers gave unprecedented voice to minorities. African Americans used the Negro Building to display their accomplishments, to feature prominent black intellectuals, and to assemble congresses of professionals, tradesmen, and religious bodies. American Indians became more than sideshow attractions when newspapers published accounts of the difficulties they faced. And performers of ethnographic villages on the midway pursued various agendas, including subverting Chinese exclusion and protesting violations of contracts. Close examination reveals that the Cotton States Exposition was as much about challenges to white supremacy as about its triumph.
Sovereignty in the Nineteenth Century
"We believe by blood only," said a Cherokee resident of Oklahoma, speaking to reporters in 2007 after voting in favor of the Cherokee Nation constitutional amendment limiting its membership. In an election that made headlines around the world, a majority of Cherokee voters chose to eject from their tribe the descendants of the African American freedmen Cherokee Indians had once enslaved. Because of the unique sovereign status of Indian nations in the United States, legal membership in an Indian nation can have real economic benefits. In addition to money, the issues brought forth in this election have racial and cultural roots going back before the Civil War.
Race and the Cherokee Nation examines how leaders of the Cherokee Nation fostered a racial ideology through the regulation of interracial marriage. By defining and policing interracial sex, nineteenth-century Cherokee lawmakers preserved political sovereignty, delineated Cherokee identity, and established a social hierarchy. Moreover, Cherokee conceptions of race and what constituted interracial sex differed from those of blacks and whites. Moving beyond the usual black/white dichotomy, historian Fay A. Yarbrough places American Indian voices firmly at the center of the story, as well as contrasting African American conceptions and perspectives on interracial sex with those of Cherokee Indians.
For American Indians, nineteenth-century relationships produced offspring that pushed racial and citizenship boundaries. Those boundaries continue to have an impact on the way individuals identify themselves and what legal rights they can claim today.
Neoliberalism, Democracy, and Indigenous Rights
The economic reforms imposed by Augusto Pinochet’s regime (1973–1990) are often credited with transforming Chile into a global economy and setting the stage for a peaceful transition to democracy, individual liberty, and the recognition of cultural diversity. The famed economist Milton Friedman would later describe the transition as the “Miracle of Chile.” Yet, as Patricia Richards reveals, beneath this veneer of progress lies a reality of social conflict and inequity that has been perpetuated by many of the same neoliberal programs. In Race and the Chilean Miracle, Richards examines conflicts between Mapuche indigenous people and state and private actors over natural resources, territorial claims, and collective rights in the Araucanía region. Through ground-level fieldwork, extensive interviews with local Mapuche and Chileans, and analysis of contemporary race and governance theory, Richards exposes the ways that local, regional, and transnational realities are shaped by systemic racism in the context of neoliberal multiculturalism. Richards demonstrates how state programs and policies run counter to Mapuche claims for autonomy and cultural recognition. The Mapuche, whose ancestral lands have been appropriated for timber and farming, have been branded as terrorists for their activism and sometimes-violent responses to state and private sector interventions. Through their interviews, many Mapuche cite the perpetuation of colonialism under the guise of development projects, multicultural policies, and assimilationist narratives. Many Chilean locals and political elites see the continued defiance of the Mapuche in their tenacious connection to the land, resistance to integration, and insistence on their rights as a people. These diametrically opposed worldviews form the basis of the racial dichotomy that continues to pervade Chilean society. In her study, Richards traces systemic racism that follows both a top-down path (global, state, and regional) as well as a bottom-up one (local agencies and actors), detailing their historic roots. Richards also describes potential positive outcomes in the form of intercultural coalitions or indigenous autonomy. Her compelling analysis offers new perspectives on indigenous rights, race, and neoliberal multiculturalism in Latin America and globally.
A Change Did Come
In Houston, as in the rest of the American South up until the 1950s, the police force reflected and enforced the segregation of the larger society. When the nation began to change in the 1950s and 1960s, this guardian of the status quo had to change, too. It was not designed to do so easily. Dwight Watson traces how the Houston Police Department reacted to social, political, and institutional change over a fifty-year period—and specifically, how it responded to and in turn influenced racial change. Using police records as well as contemporary accounts, Watson astutely analyzes the escalating strains between the police and segments of the city’s black population in the 1967 police riot at Texas Southern University and the 1971 violence that became known as the Dowling Street Shoot-Out. The police reacted to these events and to daily challenges by hardening its resolve to impose its will on the minority community. By 1977, the events surrounding the beating and drowning of Jose Campos Torres while in police custody prompted one writer to label the HPD the “meanest police in America.” This event encouraged Houston’s growing Mexican American community to unite with blacks in seeking to curb police autonomy and brutality. Watson’s study demonstrates vividly how race complicated the internal impulses for change and gave way through time to external pressures—including the Civil Rights Movement, modernization, annexations, and court-ordered redistricting—for institutional changes within the department. His work illuminates not only the role of a southern police department in racial change but also the internal dynamics of change in an organization designed to protect the status quo.
Black Literature from James Weldon Johnson to Percival Everett
What effect has the black literary imagination attempted to have on, in Toni Morrison’s words, "a race of readers that understands itself to be ‘universal’ or race-free"? How has black literature challenged the notion that reading is a race-neutral act? Race and the Literary Encounter takes as its focus several modern and contemporary African American narratives that not only narrate scenes of reading but also attempt to intervene in them. The texts interrupt, manage, and manipulate, employing thematic, formal, and performative strategies in order to multiply meanings for multiple readers, teach new ways of reading, and enable the emergence of antiracist reading subjects. Analyzing works by James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Jamaica Kincaid, Percival Everett, Sapphire, and Toni Morrison, Lesley Larkin covers a century of African American literature in search of the concepts and strategies that black writers have developed in order to address and theorize a diverse audience, and outlines the special contributions modern and contemporary African American literature makes to the fields of reader ethics and antiracist literary pedagogy.