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New Books in African American Studies

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Interviews with Scholars of African America about their New Books

639 Episodes
We Are Worth Fighting For: A History of the Howard University Student Protest of 1989 (NYU Press, 2019) is the first history of the 1989 Howard University protest. The three-day occupation of the university’s Administration Building was a continuation of the student movements of the sixties and a unique challenge to the politics of the eighties. Upset at the university’s appointment of the Republican strategist Lee Atwater to the Board of Trustees, students forced the issue by shutting down the operations of the university. The protest, inspired in part by the emergence of “conscious” hip hop, helped to build support for the idea of student governance and drew upon a resurgent black nationalist ethos. At the center of this story is a student organization known as Black Nia F.O.R.C.E. Co-founded by Ras Baraka, the group was at the forefront of organizing the student mobilization at Howard during the spring of 1989 and thereafter. We Are Worth Fighting For explores how black student activists—young men and women— helped shape and resist the rightward shift and neoliberal foundations of American politics. This history adds to the literature on Black campus activism, Black Power studies, and the emerging histories of African American life in the 1980s. Joshua C. Myers teaches Africana Studies in the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. He serves on the editorial board of The Compass and is editor of A Gathering Together: Literary Journal. Latif Tarik is Assistant Professor of History at Elizabeth City State University located in Elizabeth City, NC. He is Elizabeth City State University history program coordinator, editorial board member for the digital journal Evoke: A Historical, Theoretical, and Cultural Analysis of Africana Dance and Theatre, and serves as book review editor for the Southern Conference of African American Studies, Latif is a contributor to Race and Ethnicity In America From Pre-Contact to the Present, Islam and the Black Experience African American History Reconsidered, African Religions Beliefs and Practices through History, and Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jennifer J. Davis speaks with Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, about The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan UP, 2020), Jeffers’s latest collection of poems centered on the remarkable life of America’s first poet of African descent, Phillis Wheatley Peters. The Society of Early Americanists recently selected The Age of Phillis as the subject for their Common Reading Initiative for 2021. Prof. Jeffers has published four additional volumes of poetry including The Glory Gets and The Gospel of Barbecue, and alongside fiction and critical essays. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma. In The Age of Phillis, Jeffers draws on fifteen years of research in archives and locations across America, Europe and Africa to envision the world of Phillis Wheatley Peters : from the daily rhythms of her childhood in Senegambia, the trauma of her capture and transatlantic transport, to the icy port of Boston where she was enslaved and educated. In our conversation, Jeffers speaks to the origins of this project, reveals how she embarked on the research and writing process, and shares a few powerful poems from the volume. Jennifer J. Davis is Associate Professor of History and Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and the Co-Editor of the Journal of Women’s History. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In his new book Hard-Fighting Soldiers: A History of African American Churches of Christ (University of Tennessee Press, 2019), Edward J. Robinson provides a comprehensive look at the church’s improbable development against a backdrop of African American oppression. The journey begins with a lesser known preacher, F. F. Carson, in many ways a forerunner in the struggles and triumphs awaiting the preachers and lay people in the congregations to come. Robinson then builds on scholarship treating well-known figures, including Marshall Keeble and G. P. Bowser, to present a wide-ranging history of African American Churches of Christ from their beginnings—when enslaved people embraced the nascent Stone-Campbell Christian Movement even though founder Alexander Campbell himself favored slavery. The author moves on to examine how the churches grew under the leadership of S. R. Cassius, even as Jim Crow restrictions put extreme pressure on organizations of any kind among African Americans. Robinson’s well-researched narrative treats not only the black male leaders of the church, but also women leaders, such as Annie C. Tuggle, as well as notable activities of the church, including music, education, and global evangelism, thus painting a complete picture of African American Churches of Christ. Through scholarship and compelling storytelling, Robinson tells the two-hundred-year tale of how “black believers survived and thrived on the discarded ‘scraps’ of America, forging their own identity, fashioning their own lofty ecclesiology and ‘hard’ theology, and creating their own papers, lectureships, liturgy, and congregations.” A groundbreaking exploration by a seasoned scholar in American religion, Hard-Fighting Soldiers is sure to become the standard text for anyone researching the African American Churches of Christ. Robrecus Toles is a graduate student in History at Mississippi State University. He currently researches 20th-century African American history. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
What kind of discrimination do Black women face in the legal profession? Tsedale Melaku explores this question and more in her new book: You Don’t Look Like a Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Using in-depth interviews with Black women about their lived experiences working in elite law firms, Melaku explores topics including double burden, system gendered racism, and color-blind ideology. She also pushes our thinking further about these issues through discovery of issues including the invisible labor clause and inclusion tax. Her respondents elaborate on their experiences of having their appearances and positions continually scrutinized, leading to hypervisibility and invisibility. Melaku also explores women’s experiences of isolation, exclusion, and ultimately attrition through daily experiences as well as through important relationships within professional networks. This book will be of interest to many readers inside and outside of Sociology. Scholars of race, gender, and work will find this to be an important reading for their own work and a critical addition to their classrooms. Anyone working in professional institutions could benefit from reading the experiences of these women and Melaku’s clear and thorough analysis of next steps and take-aways. Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
After working on two presidential campaigns (for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton), MSNBC political analyst and SiriusXM host Zerlina Maxwell gained first-hand knowledge of everything liberals have been doing right over the past few elections–and everything they are still doing wrong. Ultimately, these errors worked in President Donald Trump’s favor in 2016; he effectively ran a campaign on white identity politics, successfully tapping into white male angst and resistance. In 2020, after the Democratic Party’s most historically diverse pool of presidential candidates finally dwindled down to Joe Biden, once again an older white man, Maxwell has posed the ultimate question: what now, liberals? Fueled by Maxwell’s trademark wit and candor, The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide (Hachette, 2020) dismantles the past and present problems of the Left, challenging everyone from scrappy, young “Bernie Bros” to seasoned power players in the “Billionaire Boys’ Club.” No topic is taboo; whether tackling the white privilege that enabled Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential run, the controversial #HashtagActivism of the Millennial generation, the massive individual donations that sway politicians toward maintaining the status quo of income inequality, or the lingering racism that debilitated some Democratic presidential contenders and cut their promising campaigns short, Maxwell pulls no punches in her fierce critique. However, underlying all of these individual issues, Maxwell argues that it’s the “liberal-minded” party’s struggle to engage women and communities of color–and its preoccupation with catering to the white, male working class–that threatens to be its most lethal shortfall. The times–and the demographics-are changing, and in order for progressive politics to prevail, we must acknowledge our shortcomings, take ownership of our flaws, and do everything in our power to level the playing field for all Americans. The End of White Politics shows exactly how and why progressives can lean into identity politics, empowering marginalized groups, and uniting under a common vision that will benefit us all. Dr. Christina Gessler’s background is in anthropology, women’s history, and literature. In seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary, Gessler writes the histories of largely unknown women, poems about small relatable moments, and takes many, many photos in nature. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Officer Clemmons: A Memoir (Catapult, 2020), François Clemmons tells the story of how he became the first ever African-American recurring character on a children’s television when he took on the role of the friendly police officer in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. But this book is more than a behind-the-scenes show business memoir. It is a touching coming of age story that reveals what it felt like to be young, gifted, black, and gay during a time of intense racism and homophobia. We come to understand that Clemmons found in Mr. Rogers a mentor figure who made Clemmons feel loved and appreciated, just as Mr. Rogers made millions of children feel through his program. Officer Clemmons: A Memoir is a testament to the quiet power of love. Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA program at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts. His plays have been produced, developed, or presented at IRT, Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, Roundabout Theatre, Epic Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Naked Theatre Company, Contemporary Theatre of Rhode Island, and The Trunk Space. He is currently working on a series of 50 plays about the 50 U.S. states. His website is, and he can be reached Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
How did Africans become 'blacks' in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana (Cambridge University Press, 2020) tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders' efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies - Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana - Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom - not slavery - established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people. Adam McNeil is a third year Ph.D. in History student at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
African Americans have a long history of emigration. In Exiles, Entrepreneurs, and Educators: African Americans in Ghana, Steven J. L. Taylor explores the second wave of African American exiles or repatriates to Ghana in post-1980s. Unlike the first wave of emigrants during the Kwame Nkrumah years (1957-1966), Taylor argues that the second wave is far more diverse and have largely been attracted to entrepreneurial opportunities. More importantly, this book examines the political engagement of African Americans in Ghana’s two-party political system. Steven Taylor is Associate Professor in the Department of Government at the American University, Washington, DC Sharika Crawford is an associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this episode, Siobhan talks with Robert T. Chase about his book, We Are Not Slaves: State Violence, Coerced Labor, and Prisoners’ Rights in Postwar America (UNC Press, 2020). In the early twentieth century, the brutality of southern prisons became a national scandal. Prisoners toiled in grueling, violent conditions while housed in crude dormitories on what were effectively slave plantations. This system persisted until the 1940s when, led by Texas, southern states adopted northern prison design reforms. Texas presented the reforms to the public as modern, efficient, and disciplined. Inside prisons, however, the transition to penitentiary cells only made the endemic violence more secretive, intensifying the labor division that privileged some prisoners with the power to accelerate state-orchestrated brutality and the internal sex trade. Reformers' efforts had only made things worse--now it was up to the prisoners to fight for change. Drawing from three decades of legal documents compiled by prisoners, Chase narrates the struggle to change prison from within. Prisoners forged an alliance with the NAACP to contest the constitutionality of Texas prisons. Behind bars, a prisoner coalition of Chicano Movement and Black Power organizations publicized their deplorable conditions as “slaves of the state” and initiated a prison-made civil rights revolution and labor protest movement. These insurgents won epochal legal victories that declared conditions in many southern prisons to be cruel and unusual--but their movement was overwhelmed by the increasing militarization of the prison system and empowerment of white supremacist gangs that, together, declared war on prison organizers. Told from the vantage point of the prisoners themselves, this book weaves together untold but devastatingly important truths from the histories of labor, civil rights, and politics in the United States as it narrates the transition from prison plantations of the past to the mass incarceration of today. Chase is Associate Professor of History at Stony Brook University This episode is part of a series featuring legal history works from UNC Press. Support for the production of this series was provided by the Versatile Humanists at Duke program. Siobhan M. M. Barco, J.D. explores U.S. legal history at Duke University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The golden key to understanding the last 75 years of American political development, the eminent labor relations scholar Michael Goldfield argues, lies in the contests between labor and capital in the American South during the 1930s and 1940s. Labor agitation and unionization efforts in the South in the New Deal era were extensive and bitterly fought, and ranged across all of the major industries of the region. In The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s (Oxford UP, 2020), Goldfield charts the rise of labor activism in each and then examines how and why labor organizers struggled so mightily in the region. Drawing from meticulous and unprecedented archival material and detailed data on four core industries-textiles, timber, coal mining, and steel-he argues that much of what is important in American politics and society today was largely shaped by the successes and failures of the labor movements of the 1930s and 1940s. Most notably, Goldfield shows how the broad-based failure to organize the South during this period made it what it is today. He contends that this early defeat for labor unions not only contributed to the exploitation of race and right-wing demagoguery in the South, but has also led to a decline in unionization, growing economic inequality, and an inability to confront and dismantle white supremacy throughout the US. A sweeping account of Southern political economy in the New Deal era, The Southern Key challenges the established historiography to tell a tale of race, radicalism, and betrayal that will reshape our understanding of why America developed so differently from other advanced industrial nations over the course of the last century. Beth A. English is director of the Liechtenstein Institute’s Project on Gender in the Global Community at Princeton University. She also is a past president of the Southern Labor History Association. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In his powerful new book, A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation (Oxford University Press, 2020), Greg Garrett brings his signature brand of theologically motivated cultural criticism to bear on this history. After more than a century of cinema, he argues, movies have altered our cultural perspectives in the same way that religious narratives have. And in fact, religious traditions offer powerful correctives to our cultural narratives. A Long, Long Way incorporates both cinematic and religious truth-telling to the subject of race and reconciliation. In acknowledging the racist history of America's national art form, Garrett offers the possibility of hope for the future. Greg Garrett is a professor at Baylor University, teaching classes in creative writing & religion and culture. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Everything Man: The Form and Function of Paul Robeson (Duke University Press, 2020), Shana Redmond explores the ways in which Paul Robeson, silenced by state repression in his lifetime, still speaks to us today. Through explorations of Robeson’s genre-defying genius as well as reflections on how Robeson’s legacy continues today, Redmond re-contextualizes Robeson as a thoroughly contemporary figure. Robeson’s brutal mistreatment by the US government provides a case study in how far our supposed democracy will go to crush dissent, particularly black radical dissent. Still, his vision of anti-racism grounded in global solidarity and anti-capitalism is perhaps more necessary now than ever. Redmond points out that the word that Robeson sang about Joe Hill are true also of him: “I never died, said he.” Shana Redmond is Professor, Global Jazz Studies Musicology, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA program at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts. His plays have been produced, developed, or presented at IRT, Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, Roundabout Theatre, Epic Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Naked Theatre Company, Contemporary Theatre of Rhode Island, and The Trunk Space. He is currently working on a series of 50 plays about the 50 U.S. states. His website is, and he can be reached Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Over recent years, scholarship centering Afrolatinidad has pushed the bounds of the field towards greater forms of racial and ethnic understanding. Dr. Monika Gosin’s monograph, The Racial Politics of Division: Interethnic Struggles For Legitimacy in Multicultural Miami (Cornell University, 2019), adds to this burgeoning literary canon. By examining how controversial waves of Cuban immigration during the late 20th century intensified the friction between African Americans and the existing Cuban immigrant population in Miami, Gosin reveals how differing notions of “worthy citizenship” encouraged interethnic conflict. Dr. Gosin’s The Politics of Division “forces a relooking at the poles of black and white as they operate in the lives of people who are phenotypically black” (20). The author’s ability to hold and move between so many complex identities, histories, and frameworks is exemplary of the approach necessary to conduct relational research. Gosin’s communities of study include African American, white Cubans, Afro-Cubans, Haitians, and the ever-present looming structures of white supremacy both in the United States and Cuba. Traversing between intersecting and transnational racial ideologies, the book highlights three racializing frames (black/white, good/bad immigrant, and native/foreigner) through which communities facilitated their own relationship of belonging to the US nation-state. Gosin conducts extensive research in newspaper archives to understand how various racial and ethnic communities constructed media discourses about one another. She utilizes the archives of the Miami Times, an African American-owned and controlled paper, and El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language adaptation of the mainstream Miami Herald, to show the complexities of race, immigration, and citizenship. Throughout the book, Dr. Gosin maintains a strong commitment to the presence and histories of Afro-Cubans in both the African-American and white Cuban controlled newspapers. She supplements this work with in-depth personal interviews with Afro-Cubans living in Miami and Los Angeles, which further adds a dynamic to the history of racial complexity in southern Florida. As Gosin writes, “Examining how Afro-Cuban immigrants negotiate the intersections of blackness and Latinidad and rejections they sometimes face from other Latinos allows an important critique of the ways white supremacist notions have been embraced or perpetuated by nonblack Latinos” (191). This call for a better understanding of the ways white supremacy has infiltrated thought processes -- and scholarship -- in non-black Latinx peoples and Latinx Studies is critical to the book’s goal. The Racial Politics of Division is a book for those interested in race and race-making between non-white communities, how issues of racialization and immigration merge into sociopolitical consequences, and for students of (Afro)Latinx studies. Monika Gosin is Associate Professor in Sociology at William & Mary. Jonathan Cortez is a Ph.D. candidate of American Studies at Brown University. They are a historian of 20th-century issues of race, labor, (im)migration, surveillance, space, relational Ethnic Studies, and Latinx Studies. Their research focuses on the rise of federally-funded encampments (i.e., the concentration of populations) from the advent of the New Deal until post-WWII era. Their dissertation, “The Age of Encampment: Race, Surveillance, and the Power of Spatial Scripts, 1933-1950” reveals underlying continuities between the presence of threatening bodies and the increasing surveillance of these bodies in camps throughout the United States. Jonathan is currently a Ford Predoctoral Fellow as well as a curatorial assistant at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @joncortz and on their personal website Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Macbeth in Harlem: Black Theater in America from the Beginning to Raisin in the Sun (Rutgers University Press, 2020) by Clifford Mason, celebrated actor, director, writer, and playwright, and author of thirty-four plays, is a sweeping history of Black theatre from the early nineteenth century through 1959. With an “Introduction” section, and six concise chapters, Macbeth in Harlem traverses such subjects as the Black hero, plot, narrative, and the African American intellectual in the history of African American theater including an entire chapter on Paul Robeson. From the Black Shakespearean troupe formed in 1821 Greenwich Village, that performed Richard III, Othello, and Macbeth in the 1820s, through the emergence of minstrelsy in the mid-nineteenth century, to the work of Robeson and Lorraine Hansberry at the rise of the Civil Rights Era, Mason tells the story of Black performers, and intellectuals, in the development of American theater. He details how integral Black artists have been in the history of American theater while “fighting against the odds” to demand freedom of expression and human dignity. In the first chapter, Mason discusses early Black theater and theater troupes in Greenwich Village which was a center of Black life within the Manhattan section of New York City in the early nineteenth century. The African Grove Theatre, as Mason notes, was a group of Black actors including James Hewlett and Ira Aldridge that performed Macbeth as a “the heart of their repertoire” (9). This group was self-sustaining and produced shows without the support of white benefactors. Both Hewlett and Aldridge rose to acclaim and were recognized for their craft by the larger entertainment world. The evolution of minstrelsy in the long nineteenth century is the focus of Chapter Two and the degradation of the Black image as illustrated with the proliferation of stereotypes that emerged at this time. Minstrel shows led to the rise of the Tom shows then the “coon” shows amid the collapse of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow in the late nineteenth century. African Americans and the rise of vaudeville and the musical through the New Negro Era is the focus of the next chapter. Mason assiduously notes the impact that Black actors and entertainers had on the development of musical theater in America in this Third Chapter of the book. The final three chapters focus on Black theater in the twentieth century including some discussion of milestones such as Lorraine Hansberry’s Raison in the Son and the rise and fall of Paul Robeson. Macbeth in Harlem is a noteworthy text that reveals some unknown history about the integral place of African Americans in the history of American theater. It is easily a text that might be used in courses on African American history, theater history, and American intellectual history. Hettie V. Williams Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University where she teaches courses in African American history and U.S. history. She has published book chapters, essays, and edited/authored five books. Her latest publications include Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History (Praeger, 2017) and, with Dr. G. Reginald Daniel, professor of historical sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Race and the Obama Phenomenon: The Vision of a More Perfect Multiracial Union (University Press of Mississippi 2014). You can follow Dr. Williams on Twitter:  @DrHettie2017   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America (Liveright, 2020) by Marcia Chatelain is a fascinating examination of the relationship between the fast-food industry, Black business owners, and the communities where they set up franchises after the Holy Week Uprisings of 1968. Using McDonalds as a “prism” to study the expansion of the fast-food industry and the effects of Black capitalism, Franchise tells a complex origins story about Black franchisees and their reception in Black communities across the nation in Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, Cleveland, and Los Angeles after the classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement. Chatelain ultimately exposes the limits of Black entrepreneurship to supplant state responsibility to create socially and economically reparative conditions in Black communities, while demonstrating how a range of progressive Black politicians and activists came to support Black entrepreneurship as a solution to widespread federal and municipal disinvestment from Black communities. As Black franchise owners assisted the development of McDonalds into a wealthy and successful national brand, they also encountered glass-ceilings and discriminatory practices within McDonalds corporate and the larger business world despite their tremendous success compared to white counterparts. Chatelain traces these tensions and interconnections across political, business, and community stakeholders to explain how fast-food franchises ingratiated themselves into Black communities, while exasperating inequalities in Black America. Francise teaches readers to be skeptical of corporate or market-driven solutions whether articulated as Black capitalism or “empowerment,” especially during and after moments of Black uprising. Marcia Chatelain is a scholar, speaker, and strategist based in Washington, D.C. She teaches courses in African American life and culture at Georgetown University. Amanda Joyce Hall is a Ph.D. Candidate in History and African American Studies at Yale University. She is writing an international history on the grassroots movement against South African apartheid during the 1970s and 1980s. She tweets from @amandajoycehall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this episode of the New Books Network, Lee Pierce (s/t) interviews Rebekah Farrugia and Kellie D. Hay of Oakland University on their new book Women Rapping Revolution.(University of California Press, 2020). Detroit, Michigan, has long been recognized as a center of musical innovation and social change. Rebekah Farrugia and Kellie D. Hay draw on seven years of fieldwork to illuminate the important role that women have played in mobilizing a grassroots response to political and social pressures at the heart of Detroit’s ongoing renewal and development project. Focusing on the Foundation, a women-centered hip-hop collective, Women Rapping Revolution argues that the hip-hop underground is a crucial site where Black women shape subjectivity and claim self-care as a principle of community organizing. Through interviews and sustained critical engagement with artists and activists, this study also articulates the substantial role of cultural production in social, racial, and economic justice efforts. Resources mentioned in the show: Farrugia and Hay,“The Politics and Place of a ‘Legendary’ Hip Hop Track in Detroit,” Journal of Music and Politics. Rebekah Farrugia is Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations at Oakland University. She is the author of Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology, and Electronic Dance Music Culture. Connect @b3kkaf on Twitter and @rebekah.farrugia.7 on Facebook. Kellie D. Hay is Professor of Cultural Studies in the Department of Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations at Oakland University. She has authored many articles about music, politics, and cultural identity, and specializes in critical qualitative methodologies. Connect @obihay on Twitter, @kellie.hay.37 on Facebook and by email at We’d love to hear your thoughts on this interview and the book, Women Rapping Revolution. Connect with your host @rhetoriclee on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America (NYU Press, 2019) is an intellectual and cultural history of the educational activism of African American women and girls in the long nineteenth century. Kabria Baumgartner focuses her narrative on the actions of “African American women and girls living in the antebellum Northeast” in cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. These women including individuals such as Sarah Mapps Douglas and Sarah Parker Remond wrote essays about education, built schools, and became educators in their own right while living their lives with a “sense of purpose” defined as a “purposeful womanhood”. Activism is “broadly construed” by the author to note that Black women engaged in “concerted efforts to procure advancing schooling (beyond the primary level) and teaching opportunities for themselves and their community”. Baumgartner notes that not only did these women advocate for entrance into educational institutions for themselves, but that they also developed schools that welcomed students of all races. In this text, the author essentially traces the historical development of victories against segregation won at the state and local level, in the educational system, a century before the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education, Topeka Kansas in 1954 that helped to make the Civil Rights Movement a mass movement across the United States (U.S.). Baumgartner, in her text, importantly notes that these achievements gained in the nineteenth century were the result of both individual and collective efforts of Black women such as Sarah Harris, Mary E. Miles, Serena de Grasse, Rosetta Morrison, Sarah Parker Remond, Susan Paul, Sarah Mapps Douglass and Charlotte Forten. This text is concisely organized around two major sections and six chapters with an “Introduction” and a “Conclusion.” Baumgartner reads the activism of Black women in the nineteenth century as “continuous and dynamic, becoming more and more organized” by the mid-nineteenth century. For women such as Sarah Harris, profiled in Chapter One of the text, the schoolhouse was both “an extension of the home and a defining civic space” or place for these women to define a purposeful womanhood. Harris and other Black women who helped to integrate schools in Connecticut such as the Canterbury Female Boarding School did so with the larger goal of securing rights as citizens beyond the schoolhouse. Baumgartner weaves together a network of Black women activists in her narrative who forged a collective attack against school segregation and laid the foundations for the ideology of a beloved community moving beyond the schoolhouse that eventually became the intellectual basis for the Black freedom struggle in the twentieth century. She does this by reading an array of sources against the grain including census records, letters, pamphlets, school records, annual reports, almanacks, petitions, newspapers, abolitionist literature and published writings. Hettie V. Williams PhD is an Assistant Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University where she teaches courses in African American history and U.S. history. She has published book chapters, essays, and edited/authored five books. Her latest publications include Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History (Praeger, 2017) and, with Dr G. Reginald Daniel, professor of historical sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Race and the Obama Phenomenon: The Vision of a More Perfect Multiracial Union (University Press of Mississippi 2014). Website: Follow me on twitter: @DrHettie2017 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Black Political Thought: From David Walker to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2020) is a nuanced and long-needed anthology interrogates the “never ending issue” of the unequal positioning of black Americans by combining primary documents that highlight black political ideas and ideals with incisive scholarly commentary. In words of the editor, this collection “focuses how and why blacks in the United States, as individuals and as a group, have historically conceptualized, analyzed, and responded to the ill will of ordinary whites those in power who through laws, policies and customs, and cultural practice have made blacks into inferior beings as a justification to deny them their rights of equality, in such a way that the interest of the dominant class are upheld and preserved and which today have not disappeared.” Highlighting the importance of resistance, the book begins with David Walker and – using thematic chapters – ends in the 21st century. The book aims to make sense of past, present, and future concerns that have and continue to inform and shape the political in black thinking. There is no better time to read this anthology. Each section opens with a scholarly essay that provides context as well as insightful interpretation that connects the primary documents. The book masterfully brings together accomplished scholars from multiple disciplines: Political Science; Multicultural and Gender Studies; History; English; and African, Africana, and African American Studies. Thoughtfully designed as a book for students as well as general readers, Black Political Thought, combines accessibility and clarity with challenging interpretation and further readings for each section. The podcast features Sherrow O. Pinder (editor and author of “Key Concepts, Ideas, and Issues that have Formed Black Political Thought” and “Feminism and Difference”), Charisse Burden-Stelly (author of “Race and Racism”), Babacar M’Baye (author of “Black Nationalism”), and Brenda E. Stevenson (author of “Slavery and Its Discontents”). The book includes essays by Nikki L. M. Brown (“Reconstruction”) and Erica Cooper (“Past, Present, and Future Issues”). We recorded our conversation the day of Mr. George Floyd’s funeral and the invited scholars connect these centuries of thought to the ideals and practices that remain contradictory in the USA – as well as a tradition of black intellectual resistance. Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013) and, most recently, “Retreat from the Rule of Law: Locke and the Perils of Stand Your Ground” in the Journal of Politics (August 2020). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Aaron Kamugisha reads CLR James and Sylvia Wynter to glean from them ways to navigate the “beyond” of coloniality. In his new book Beyond Coloniality: Citizenship and Freedom in the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition (Indiana University Press, 2019), reminds us of a Caribbean radical tradition that is fiercely critical of racism, middle-class complacencies and the incursions of neoliberalism. It is also full of hope, and brings our attention to James’ “newforms of existence that are a gift of the Caribbean to the world” as well as Wynter’s enormous contribution to our understanding of the black experience in the Americas. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Race remains a potent and divisive force in our society. Whether it is the shooting of minority people by the police, the mass incarceration of people of color, or the recent KKK rallies that have been in the news, it is clear that the scars from the United States’ histories of slavery and racial discrimination run too deep to simply be ignored. But what are the most productive ways to deal with the toxic and torturous legacies of American racism? In Slavery's Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation(Rutgers UP, 2019), editors Jill Strauss and Dionne Ford have brought together contributors from a variety of racial backgrounds, all members or associates of a national racial reconciliation organization called Coming to the Table, to tell their stories of dealing with America’s racial past through their experiences and their family histories. Some are descendants of slaveholders, some are descendants of the enslaved, and many are descendants of both slaveholders and slaves. What they all have in common is a commitment toward collective introspection, and a willingness to think critically about how the nation’s histories of oppression continue to ripple into the present, affecting us all. The stories in Slavery’s Descendants deal with harrowing topics—rape, lynching, cruelty, shame—but they also describe acts of generosity, gratitude, and love. Together, they help us confront the legacy of slavery to reclaim a more complete picture of U.S. history, one cousin at a time. Dr. Strauss teaches conflict resolution and communications at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York. Powell Morales holds a Master of Science in International Relations from Troy University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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