Before Harlem

Before Harlem: An Anthology of African American Literature from the Long Nineteenth Century
edited by Ajuan Maria Mance

PS 508 .N3 M34 2016

“Despite important recovery and authentication efforts during the last twenty-five years, the vast majority of nineteenth-century African American writers and their work remain unknown to today’s readers. Moreover, the most widely used anthologies of black writing have established a canon based largely on current interests and priorities. Seeking to establish a broader perspective, this collection brings together a wealth of autobiographical writings, fiction, poetry, speeches, sermons, essays, and journalism that better portrays the intellectual and cultural debates, social and political struggles, and community publications and institutions that nurtured black writers from the early 1800s to the eve of the Harlem Renaissance.

As editor Ajuan Mance notes, previous collections have focused mainly on writing that found a significant audience among white readers. Consequently, authors whose work appeared in African American-owned publications for a primarily black audience – such as Solomon G. Brown, Henrietta Cordelia Ray, and T. Thomas Fortune – have faded from memory. Even figures as celebrated as Frederick Douglass and Paul Laurence Dunbar are today much better known for their “cross-racial” writings than for the larger bodies of work they produced for a mostly African American readership. There has also been a tendency in modern canon making, especially in the genre of autobiography, to stress antebellum writing rather than writings produced after the Civil War and Reconstruction. Similarly, religious writings – despite the centrality of the church in the everyday lives of black readers and the interconnectedness of black spiritual and intellectual life – have not received the emphasis they deserve.

Filling those critical gaps with a selection of 143 works by 65 writers, Before Harlem presents as never before an in-depth picture of the literary, aesthetic, and intellectual landscape of nineteenth-century African America and will be valuable resource for a new generation of readers.”
– publisher description

They Can’t Kill Us All

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement
by Wesley Lowery

E 185.86 .L69 2016

“Conducting hundreds of interviews over the course of more than one year of reporting on the ground, Washington Post writer Wesley Lowery traveled from Ferguson, Missouri to Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland, and then back to Ferguson to uncover life inside the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today.

In an effort to grasp the magnitude of the response to Michael Brown’s death and understand the scale of the problem police violence represents, Lowery speaks to Brown’s family and the families of other victims as well as local activists. By posing the question “What does the loss of any one life mean to the rest of the nation?” Lowery examines the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, and too few jobs.

Studded with moments of joy, and tragedy, They Can’t Kill Us All offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, showing that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice. As Lowery brings vividly to life, the protests against police killings are also about the black community’s long history on the receiving end of perceived and actual acts of injustice and discrimination. They Can’t Kill Us All grapples with a persistent if largely unexamined aspect of the otherwise transformative presidency of Barack Obama: the failure to deliver tangible security and opportunity to those Americans most in need of both.”
– publisher description

Bone Rooms

Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums
by Samuel J. Redman

CC 79.5 .H85 R43 2016

“In 1864 a U.S. Army doctor dug up the remains of a Dakota man who had been killed in Minnesota. Carefully recording his observations, he sent the skeleton to a museum in Washington, DC, that was collecting human remains for research. In the “bone rooms” of this museum and others like it, a scientific revolution was unfolding that would change our understanding of the human body, race, and prehistory.

In Bone Rooms Samuel Redman unearths the story of how human remains became highly sought-after artifacts for both scientific research and public display. Seeking evidence to support new theories of human evolution and racial classification, collectors embarked on a global competition to recover the best specimens of skeletons, mummies, and fossils. The Smithsonian Institution built the largest collection of human remains in the United States, edging out stiff competition from natural history and medical museums springing up in cities and on university campuses across America. When the San Diego Museum of Man opened in 1915, it mounted the largest exhibition of human skeletons ever presented to the public.

The study of human remains yielded discoveries that increasingly discredited racial theory; as a consequence, interest in human origins and evolution – ignited by ideas emerging in the budding field of anthropology – displaced race as the main motive for building bone rooms. Today, debates about the ethics of these collections continue, but the terms of engagement were largely set by the surge of collecting that was already waning by World War II.”
– publisher description

Deadly Injustice

Deadly Injustice: Trayvon Martin, Race, and the Criminal Justice System
edited by Devon Johnson, Particia Y. Warren, & Amy Farrell

HV 9950 .D425 2015

“The murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial and acquittal of his assailant, George Zimmerman, sparked a passionate national debate about race and criminal justice in America. Combined with intense outrage at New York City’s Stop and Frisk program and escalating anger over the effect of mass incarceration of the nation’s African American community, the Trayvon Martin case brought the racialized nature of the American justice system to the forefront of our national consciousness. Deadly Injustice uses the Trayvon Martin case as a springboard to examine race, crime, and justice in our criminal justice system. Contributors explore how race and racism inform how Americans think about criminality; how crimes are investigated and prosecuted; and how highly publicized criminal cases go on to shape public views about offenders and the criminal process. With a foreword by Lawrence D. Bobo, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, Deadly Injustice is a timely, well-argued collection that illuminates the tragic and consequential death of Trayvon Martin.”
– publisher description

White Rage

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

E 185.61 .A5438 2016

“As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, with media commentators referring to the angry response of African Americans yet again as “black rage,” historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post showing that this was, instead, “white rage” at work. “With so much attention on the flames,” she writes, “everyone had ignored the kindling.”

Now, in her eloquent and powerfully argued narrative, Anderson makes clear that since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances toward full participation in our democracy, white reaction – usually in the courts and legislatures – has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains. The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with the Black Codes and Jim Crow. The Great Migration north was physically opposed in many Southern states, and blacks often found conditions in the North to be no better. The Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South while taxpayer dollars financed segregated white private schools. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 triggered a coded but powerful response – the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs that disenfranchised and imprisoned millions of African Americans. The election of Barack Obama, and the promise it heralded of healing our racial divide, precipitated instead a rash of voter suppression laws in Southern and swing states, while the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Carefully linking these and other historical flash points when social progress for African Americans was countered by deliberate and cleverly crafted white opposition, Anderson pulls back the veil that has long covered punitive actions allegedly made in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud. Compelling and dramatic in the unimpeachable history it relates over a century and a half, White Rage will add an important new dimension to the national conversation about race in America.”
– publisher description

The Black Presidency

The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America
by Michael Eric Dyson

E 185.615 .D9449 2016

“Michael Eric Dyson, “one of our most graceful and lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today” (Vanity Fair), delivers a provocative exploration of the politics of race and the Obama presidency.

Barack Obama’s presidency unfolded against the national traumas of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and Walter Scott. The nation’s first African American president was careful to give few major race speeches, yet he faced criticism from all sides, including from African Americans. How has Obama’s race affected his presidency and the nation’s identity?

Dyson explores whether Obama’s use of his own biracialism as a radiant symbol has been driven by the president’s desire simply to avoid a painful moral reckoning on race. And he sheds light on identity issues within the black power structure, telling the fascinating story of how Obama has spurned traditional black power brokers, significantly reducing their leverage. Perhaps most movingly, Dyson illuminates the transformative moments, especially in his second term, when Obama has publicly embraced his blackness and used it as a powerful lens onto America, black and white.

President Obama’s own voice – from an Oval Office interview granted to Dyson for the book – along with that of Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, and Andrew Young, among others, adds unique depth to this illuminating tour of the nation’s first black presidency.”
– publisher description

Stamped from the Beginning

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

E 185.61 .K358 2016

“Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brillian scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them – and in the process, gives us reason to hope.”
– publisher description