In civil-rights-era Chicago, a dedicated group of black activists, educators, and organizations employed black public history as more than cultural activism. Their work and vision energized a black public history movement that promoted political progress in the crucial time between World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Ian Rocksborough-Smith's meticulous research and adept storytelling provide the first in-depth look at how these committed individuals leveraged Chicago's black public history. Their goal: to engage with the struggle for racial equality. Rocksborough-Smith shows teachers working to advance curriculum reform in public schools, while well-known activists Margaret and Charles Burroughs pushed for greater recognition of black history by founding the DuSable Museum of African American History. Organizations like the Afro-American Heritage Association, meanwhile, used black public history work to connect radical politics and nationalism. Together, these people and their projects advanced important ideas about race, citizenship, education, and intellectual labor that paralleled the shifting terrain of mid-twentieth century civil rights.
The story of Madeline Morgan, the activist educator who brought Black history to one of the nation’s largest and most segregated school systems A Worthy Piece of Work tells the story of Madeline Morgan (later Madeline Stratton Morris), a teacher and an activist in WWII-era Chicago, who fought her own battle on the home front, authoring curricula that bolstered Black claims for recognition and equal citizenship. During the Second World War, as Black Americans both fought to save democracy abroad and demanded full citizenship at home, Morgan’s work gained national attention and widespread praise, and became a model for teachers, schools, districts, and cities across the country. Scholar Michael Hines unveils this history for the first time, providing a rich understanding of the ways in which Black educators have created counternarratives to challenge the anti-Black racism found in school textbooks and curricula. At a moment when Black history is under attack in school districts and state legislatures across the country, A Worthy Piece of Work reminds us that struggles over history, representation, and race are far from a new phenomenon.
Buildings once symbolized Chicago's place as the business capital of Black America and a thriving hub for Black media. In this groundbreaking work, E. James West examines the city's Black press through its relationship with the built environment. As a house for the struggle, the buildings of publications like Ebony and the Chicago Defender embodied narratives of racial uplift and community resistance. As political hubs, gallery spaces, and public squares, they served as key sites in the ongoing Black quest for self-respect, independence, and civic identity. At the same time, factors ranging from discriminatory business practices to editorial and corporate ideology prescribed their location, use, and appearance, positioning Black press buildings as sites of both Black possibility and racial constraint. Engaging and innovative, A House for the Struggle reconsiders the Black press's place at the crossroads where aspiration collided with life in one of America's most segregated cities.
Considering the development and ongoing influence of Black thought From 1900 to the present, people of African descent living in the United States have drawn on homegrown and diasporic minds to create a Black intellectual tradition engaged with ideas on race, racial oppression, and the world. This volume presents essays on the diverse thought behind the fight for racial justice as developed by African American artists and intellectuals; performers and protest activists; institutions and organizations; and educators and religious leaders. By including both women’s and men’s perspectives from the U.S. and the Diaspora, the essays explore the full landscape of the Black intellectual tradition. Throughout, contributors engage with important ideas ranging from the consideration of gender within the tradition, to intellectual products generated outside the intelligentsia, to the ongoing relationship between thought and concrete effort in the quest for liberation. Expansive in scope and interdisciplinary in practice, The Black Intellectual Tradition delves into the ideas that animated a people’s striving for full participation in American life. Contributors: Derrick P. Alridge, Keisha N. Blain, Cornelius L. Bynum, Jeffrey Lamar Coleman, Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, Stephanie Y. Evans, Aaron David Gresson III, Claudrena N. Harold, Leonard Harris, Maurice J. Hobson, La TaSha B. Levy, Layli Maparyan, Zebulon V. Miletsky, R. Baxter Miller, Edward Onaci, Venetria K. Patton, James B. Stewart, and Nikki M. Taylor
Black women living in the French empire played a key role in the decolonial movements of the mid-twentieth century. Thinkers and activists, these women lived lives of commitment and risk that landed them in war zones and concentration camps and saw them declared enemies of the state. Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel mines published writings and untapped archives to reveal the anticolonialist endeavors of seven women. Though often overlooked today, Suzanne Césaire, Paulette Nardal, Eugénie Éboué-Tell, Jane Vialle, Andrée Blouin, Aoua Kéita, and Eslanda Robeson took part in a forceful transnational movement. Their activism and thought challenged France's imperial system by shaping forms of citizenship that encouraged multiple cultural and racial identities. Expanding the possibilities of belonging beyond national and even Francophone borders, these women imagined new pan-African and pan-Caribbean identities informed by black feminist intellectual frameworks and practices. The visions they articulated also shifted the idea of citizenship itself, replacing a single form of collective identity and political participation with an expansive plurality of forms of belonging.
By subverting comedy's rules and expectations, African American satire promotes social justice by connecting laughter with ethical beliefs in a revolutionary way. Danielle Fuentes Morgan ventures from Suzan-Lori Parks to Leslie Jones and Dave Chappelle to Get Out and Atlanta to examine the satirical treatment of race and racialization across today's African American culture. Morgan analyzes how African American artists highlight the ways that society racializes people and bolsters the powerful myth that we live in a "post-racial" nation. The latter in particular inspires artists to take aim at the idea racism no longer exists or the laughable notion of Americans "not seeing" racism or race. Their critique changes our understanding of the boundaries between staged performance and lived experience and create ways to better articulate Black selfhood. Adventurous and perceptive, Laughing to Keep from Dying reveals how African American satirists unmask the illusions and anxieties surrounding race in the twenty-first century.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Chicago witnessed a remarkable flourishing of visual arts associated with the Black Arts Movement. From the painting of murals as a way to reclaim public space and the establishment of independent community art centers to the work of the AFRICOBRA collective and Black filmmakers, artists on Chicago's South and West Sides built a vision of art as service to the people. In Art for People's Sake Rebecca Zorach traces the little-told story of the visual arts of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how artistic innovations responded to decades of racist urban planning that left Black neighborhoods sites of economic depression, infrastructural decay, and violence. Working with community leaders, children, activists, gang members, and everyday people, artists developed a way of using art to help empower and represent themselves. Showcasing the depth and sophistication of the visual arts in Chicago at this time, Zorach demonstrates the crucial role of aesthetics and artistic practice in the mobilization of Black radical politics during the Black Power era.
Koritha Mitchell analyzes canonical texts by and about African American women to lay bare the hostility these women face as they invest in traditional domesticity. Instead of the respectability and safety granted white homemakers, black women endure pejorative labels, racist governmental policies, attacks on their citizenship, and aggression meant to keep them in "their place." Tracing how African Americans define and redefine success in a nation determined to deprive them of it, Mitchell plumbs the works of Frances Harper, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison, Michelle Obama, and others. These artists honor black homes from slavery and post-emancipation through the Civil Rights era to "post-racial" America. Mitchell follows black families asserting their citizenship in domestic settings while the larger society and culture marginalize and attack them, not because they are deviants or failures but because they meet American standards. Powerful and provocative, From Slave Cabins to the White House illuminates the links between African American women's homemaking and citizenship in history and across literature.
In Autochthonomies, Myriam J. A. Chancy engages readers in an interpretive journey. She lays out a radical new process that invites readers to see creations by artists of African descent as legible within the context of African diasporic historical and cultural debates. By invoking a transnational African/diasporic lens and negotiating it through a lakou or ”yard space,” we can see such identities transfigured, recognized, and exchanged. Chancy demonstrates how the process can examine the salient features of texts and art that underscore African/diasporic sensibilities and render them legible. What emerges is a potential for richer readings of African diasporic works that also ruptures the Manichean binary dynamics that have dominated previous interpretations of the material. The result: an enriching interpretive mode focused on the transnational connections between subjects of African descent as the central pole for reader investigation. A bold challenge to established scholarship, Autochthonomies ranges from Africa to Europe and the Americas to provide powerful new tools for charting the transnational interactions between African cultural producers and sites.
In this landmark guide, nearly two dozen essays by scholars, educators, and museum leaders suggest the next steps in the interpretation of African American history and culture from the colonial period to the twentieth century at history museums and historic sites. This diverse anthology addresses both historical research and interpretive methodologies, including investigating church and legal records, using social media, navigating sensitive or difficult topics, preserving historic places, engaging students and communities, and strengthening connections between local and national history. Case studies of exhibitions, tours, and school programs from around the country provide practical inspiration, including photographs of projects and examples of exhibit label text. Highlights include: Amanda Seymour discusses the prevalence of "false nostalgia" at the homes of the first five presidents and offers practical solutions to create a more inclusive, nuanced history. Dr. Bernard Powers reveals that African American church records are a rich but often overlooked source for developing a more complete portrayal of individuals and communities. Dr. David Young, executive director of Cliveden, uses his experience in reinterpreting this National Historic Landmark to identify four ways that people respond to a history that has been too often untold, ignored, or appropriated—and how museums and historic sites can constructively respond. Dr. Matthew Pinsker explains that historic sites may be missing a huge opportunity in telling the story of freedom and emancipation by focusing on the underground railroad rather than its much bigger "upper-ground" counterpart. Martha Katz-Hyman tackles the challenges of interpreting the material culture of both enslaved and free African Americans in the years before the Civil War by discussing the furnishing of period rooms. Dr. Benjamin Filene describes three "micro-public history" projects that lead to new ways of understanding the past, handling source limitations, building partnerships, and reaching audiences. Andrea Jones shares her approach for engaging students through historical simulations based on the "Fight for Your Rights" school program at the Atlanta History Center. A exhibit on African American Vietnam War veterans at the Heinz History Center not only linked local and international events, but became an award-winning model of civic engagement. A collaboration between a university and museum that began as a local history project interpreting the Scottsboro Boys Trial as a website and brochure ended up changing Alabama law. A list of national organizations and an extensive bibliography on the interpretation of African American history provide convenient gateways to additional resources.
Founder of a beauty empire, Madam C. J. Walker was celebrated as America's first self-made female millionaire in the early 1900s. Known as a leading African American entrepreneur, Walker was also devoted to an activist philanthropy aimed at empowering African Americans and challenging the injustices inflicted by Jim Crow. Tyrone McKinley Freeman's biography highlights how giving shaped Walker's life before and after she became wealthy. Poor and widowed when she arrived in St. Louis in her twenties, Walker found mentorship among black churchgoers and working black women. Her adoption of faith, racial uplift, education, and self-help soon informed her dedication to assisting black women's entrepreneurship, financial independence, and activism. Walker embedded her philanthropy in how she grew her business, forged alliances with groups like the National Association of Colored Women, funded schools and social service agencies led by African American women, and enlisted her company's sales agents in local charity and advocacy work. Illuminating and dramatic, Madam C. J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving broadens our understanding of black women’s charitable giving and establishes Walker as a foremother of African American philanthropy.
What does democracy look like? And when should we cause trouble to pursue it? Troublemakers fuses photography and history to demonstrate how racial and economic inequality gave rise to a decades-long struggle for justice in one American city. In dialogue with 275 of Art Shay’s photographs, Erik S. Gellman takes a new look at major developments in postwar US history: the Second Great Migration, “white flight,” and neighborhood and street conflicts, as well as shifting party politics and the growth of the carceral state. The result is a visual and written history that complicates—and even upends—the morality tales and popular memory of postwar freedom struggles. Shay himself was a “troublemaker,” seeking to unsettle society by illuminating truths that many middle-class, white, media, political, and businesspeople pretended did not exist. Shay served as a navigator in the US Army Air Forces during World War II, then took a position as a writer for Life Magazine. But soon after his 1948 move to Chicago, he decided to become a freelance photographer. Shay wandered the city photographing whatever caught his eye—and much did. His lens captured everything from private moments of rebellion to era-defining public movements, as he sought to understand the creative and destructive energies that propelled freedom struggles in the Windy City. Shay illuminated the pain and ecstasy that sprung up from the streets of Chicago, while Gellman reveals their collective impact on the urban fabric and on our national narrative. This collaboration offers a fresh and timely look at how social conflict can shape a city—and may even inspire us to make trouble today.