Exploring the Black Experience through Politics

The election of the United States’ first Black president may have heralded a new era in American politics, but not in the way many people expected. Looking back, what actually changed with that election, and what had been set in motion long before? This Black History Month, we look back on Obama’s presidency and its aftermath in the context of what happened before—and after. Whatever your interpretation of that particular story, Black voters and Black leaders have been central figures in American politics for centuries.

Of course, American politics don’t start or end with the president or the major parties. Black Americans have a robust history of grassroots political movements. This list of PUP books highlights not only Black leadership and participation in presidential and major party politics, but also the birth of Black Power amid localized racial and class politics.

Barack Obama’s election as the first African American president seemed to usher in a new era, and he took office in 2009 with great expectations. But by his second term, Republicans controlled Congress, and, after the 2016 presidential election, Obama’s legacy and the health of the Democratic Party itself appeared in doubt. In The Presidency of Barack Obama, Julian Zelizer gathers leading American historians to put President Obama and his administration into political and historical context.

Engaging and deeply informed, The Presidency of Barack Obama is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand Obama and the uncertain aftermath of his presidency.

Few transformations in American politics have been as important as the integration of African Americans into the Democratic Party and the Republican embrace of racial policy conservatism. The story of this partisan realignment on race is often told as one in which political elites—such as Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater—set in motion a dramatic and sudden reshuffling of party positioning on racial issues during the 1960s. Racial Realignment instead argues that top party leaders were actually among the last to move, and that their choices were dictated by changes that had already occurred beneath them. Drawing upon rich data sources and original historical research, Eric Schickler shows that the two parties’ transformation on civil rights took place gradually over decades.

Presenting original ideas about political change, Racial Realignment sheds new light on twentieth and twenty-first century racial politics.

As the birthplace of the Black Panthers and a nationwide tax revolt, California embodied a crucial motif of the postwar United States: the rise of suburbs and the decline of cities, a process in which black and white histories inextricably joined. American Babylon tells this story through Oakland and its nearby suburbs, tracing both the history of civil rights and black power politics as well as the history of suburbanization and home-owner politics. Robert Self shows that racial inequities in both New Deal and Great Society liberalism precipitated local struggles over land, jobs, taxes, and race within postwar metropolitan development. Black power and the tax revolt evolved together, in tension.

Using the East Bay as a starting point, Robert Self gives us a richly detailed, engaging narrative that uniquely integrates the most important racial liberation struggles and class politics of postwar America.

Covering more than four decades of American social and political history, The Loneliness of the Black Republican examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians, from the era of the New Deal to Ronald Reagan’s presidential ascent in 1980. Their unique stories reveal African Americans fighting for an alternative economic and civil rights movement—even as the Republican Party appeared increasingly hostile to that very idea. Black party members attempted to influence the direction of conservatism—not to destroy it, but rather to expand the ideology to include black needs and interests.

The Loneliness of the Black Republican provides a new understanding of the interaction between African Americans and the Republican Party, and the seemingly incongruous intersection of civil rights and American conservatism.

Exploring the Black Experience through the Arts

Black Americans’ work in the arts has long been both prominent and under-recognized. Black artists’ expressions of their experiences are some of the most iconic artifacts of American history. This Black History Month, we explore Black resistance through visual art, literature, and other art forms, and we highlight the central role of Black artists and Black art in American aesthetics and culture.

These books from PUP’s catalog focus on an iconic historical engraving, an award-winning immigrant writer, Black literature under surveillance, an important contemporary visual artist, and the poetry of loss, memory, and the natural world.

One of the most iconic images of slavery is a schematic wood engraving depicting the human cargo hold of a slave ship. First published by British abolitionists in 1788, it exposed this widespread commercial practice for what it really was–shocking, immoral, barbaric, unimaginable. Printed as handbills and broadsides, the image Cheryl Finley has termed the “slave ship icon” was easily reproduced, and by the end of the eighteenth century it was circulating by the tens of thousands around the Atlantic rim. Committed to Memory provides the first in-depth look at how this artifact of the fight against slavery became an enduring symbol of black resistance, identity, and remembrance.

Beautifully illustrated, Committed to Memory features works from around the world, taking readers from the United States and England to West Africa and the Caribbean. It shows how contemporary black artists and their allies have used this iconic eighteenth-century engraving to reflect on the trauma of slavery and come to terms with its legacy.

“Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.”—Create Dangerously

In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis. Inspired by Albert Camus’ lecture, “Create Dangerously,” and combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. Danticat also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe.

Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat’s belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy.

Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) was one of the most important artists of the 1980s. A key figure in the New York art scene, he inventively explored the interplay between words and images throughout his career, first as a member of SAMO, a graffiti group active on the Lower East Side in the late 1970s, and then as a painter acclaimed for his unmistakable Neoexpressionist style. From 1980 to 1987, he filled numerous working notebooks with drawings and handwritten texts. This facsimile edition reproduces the pages of eight of these fascinating and rarely seen notebooks for the first time.

The Notebooks are filled with images and words that recur in Basquiat’s paintings and other works. Iconic drawings and pictograms of crowns, teepees, and hatch-marked hearts share space with handwritten texts, including notes, observations, and poems that often touch on culture, race, class, and life in New York. Like his other work, the notebooks vividly demonstrate Basquiat’s deep interests in comic, street, and pop art, hip-hop, politics, and the ephemera of urban life. They also provide an intimate look at the working process of one of the most creative forces in contemporary American art.

Few institutions seem more opposed than African American literature and J. Edgar Hoover’s white-bread Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind the scenes the FBI’s hostility to black protest was energized by fear of and respect for black writing. Drawing on nearly 14,000 pages of newly released FBI files, F.B. Eyes exposes the Bureau’s intimate policing of five decades of African American poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlem’s renaissance and Hoover’s career at the Bureau, secretive FBI “ghostreaders” monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoover’s death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureau’s close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet, as William J. Maxwell reveals, FBI surveillance came to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century.

Illuminating both the serious harms of state surveillance and the ways in which imaginative writing can withstand and exploit it, F.B. Eyes is a groundbreaking account of a long-hidden dimension of African American literature.

In Radioactive Starlings, award-winning poet Myronn Hardy explores the divergences between the natural world and technology, asking what progress means when it destroys the places that sustain us. Primarily set in North Africa and the Middle East, but making frequent reference to the poet’s native United States, these poems reflect on loss, beauty, and dissent, as well as memory and the contemporary world’s relationship to the collective past.

A meditation on the complexities of transformation, cultures, and politics, Radioactive Starlings is an important collection from a highly accomplished young poet.


Exploring the Black Experience through Economics

For hundreds of years, the American and global economies have been built on the backs of Black people. In each era, new forms of marginalization—enslavement, segregation, exclusion—have been devised to limit Black economic success. Still, Black dreams and Black resilience have created space for Black people’s hard-won economic gains. As workers, scholars, migrants, and emissaries of empire, Black people have shaped the American and global economies in crucial ways.

From industrial migration to economic colonization, and from unfunded neighborhoods to elite business schools, these four books from PUP’s catalog highlight different aspects of Black Americans’ experiences at the center, the margins, and the cutting edge of the formal economy.

From 1940 to 1970, nearly four million black migrants left the American rural South to settle in the industrial cities of the North and West. Competition in the Promised Land provides a comprehensive account of the long-lasting effects of the influx of black workers on labor markets and urban space in receiving areas.

Employing historical census data and state-of-the-art econometric methods, Competition in the Promised Land revises our understanding of the Great Black Migration and its role in the transformation of American society.

In 1901, the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington, sent an expedition to the German colony of Togo in West Africa, with the purpose of transforming the region into a cotton economy similar to that of the post-Reconstruction American South. Alabama in Africa explores the politics of labor, sexuality, and race behind this endeavor, and the economic, political, and intellectual links connecting Germany, Africa, and the southern United States. The cross-fertilization of histories and practices led to the emergence of a global South, reproduced social inequities on both sides of the Atlantic, and pushed the American South and the German Empire to the forefront of modern colonialism.

Tracking the intertwined histories of Europe, Africa, and the Americas at the turn of the century, Alabama in Africa shows how the politics and economics of the segregated American South significantly reshaped other areas of the world.

Baltimore was once a vibrant manufacturing town, but today, with factory closings and steady job loss since the 1970s, it is home to some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in America. The Hero’s Fight provides an intimate look at the effects of deindustrialization on the lives of Baltimore’s urban poor, and sheds critical light on the unintended consequences of welfare policy on our most vulnerable communities.

Blending compelling portraits with in-depth scholarly analysis, The Hero’s Fight explores how the welfare state contributes to the perpetuation of urban poverty in America.

For nearly three decades, English has been the lingua franca of cross-border organizations, yet studies on corporate language strategies and their importance for globalization have been scarce. In The Language of Global Success, Tsedal Neeley provides an in-depth look at a single organization—the high-tech giant Rakuten—in the five years following its English lingua franca mandate. Neeley’s behind-the-scenes account explores how language shapes the ways in which employees who work in global organizations communicate and negotiate linguistic and cultural differences.

Examining the strategic use of language by one international corporation, The Language of Global Success uncovers how all organizations might integrate language effectively to tap into the promise of globalization.

Exploring the Black Experience

In honor of Black History Month, PUP is running a special blog series aimed at Exploring the Black Experience. Each week, we’ll highlight titles from PUP’s catalog to highlight a different facet of Black Americans’ experiences and histories. There are as many understandings—not to mention experiences or mobilizations—of identity as there are individuals. Today we look at the role of Black identity in local neighborhood history, nonviolent religious activism, global liberation movements, and American historical memorialization.

These four books explore Black identities both local and transnational, through movements both religious and political, and conversations both current and historical.

American Prophets sheds critical new light on the lives and thought of seven major prophetic figures in twentieth-century America whose social activism was motivated by a deeply felt compassion for those suffering injustice. In this compelling and provocative book, acclaimed religious scholar Albert Raboteau tells the remarkable stories of Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and four other inspired individuals who succeeded in conveying their vision to the broader public through writing, speaking, demonstrating, and organizing.

Raboteau examines the influences that shaped their ideas, discusses their theological and ethical positions, and traces how their lives intertwined—creating a network of committed activists who significantly changed attitudes about contentious political issues such as war, racism, and poverty. A momentous scholarly achievement as well as a moving testimony to the human spirit, American Prophets represents a major contribution to the history of religion in American politics.

I Hear My People Singing shines a light on a small but historic black neighborhood at the heart of one of the most elite and world-renowned Ivy-League towns—Princeton, New Jersey. The vivid first-person accounts of more than fifty black residents detail aspects of their lives throughout the twentieth century. Their stories show that the roots of Princeton’s African American community are as deeply intertwined with the town and university as they are with the history of the United States, the legacies of slavery, and the nation’s current conversations on race.

An intimate testament of the black community’s resilience and ingenuity, I Hear My People Singing adds a never-before-compiled account of poignant black experience to an American narrative that needs to be heard now more than ever.

Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey (1887–1940) organized the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Harlem in 1917. By the early 1920s, his program of African liberation and racial uplift had attracted millions of supporters, both in the United States and abroad. The Age of Garvey presents an expansive global history of the movement that came to be known as Garveyism. Offering a groundbreaking new interpretation of global black politics between the First and Second World Wars, Adam Ewing charts Garveyism’s emergence, its remarkable global transmission, and its influence in the responses among African descendants to white supremacy and colonial rule in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States.

The United States of America originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how that history of slavery and its violent end was told in public space—specifically in the sculptural monuments that increasingly came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Here Kirk Savage shows how the greatest era of monument building in American history arose amidst struggles over race, gender, and collective memory. As men and women North and South fought to define the war’s legacy in monumental art, they reshaped the cultural landscape of American nationalism.

Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves, the first sustained investigation of monument building as a process of national and racial definition, probes a host of fascinating questions: How was slavery to be explained without exploding the myth of a “united” people? How did notions of heroism become racialized? And more generally, who is represented in and by monumental space? How are particular visions of history constructed by public monuments? As debates rage around the status of Civil War monuments in public spaces around the country, these questions have never been more relevant. An updated edition, forthcoming in fall 2018, will feature a new introduction from the author addressing these debates.

20 University Press Books for Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, PUP has chosen twenty of the most relevant, intriguing books published by university presses, ranging from poetry to prose, modern critiques to historical accounts. Included are recent PUP titles, Story/Time: The Life of an Idea by Bill T. Jones, The Notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros by Galawdewos. Don’t miss the links to these titles’ design stories on our Tumblr design blog.

1. We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program by Richard Paul & Steven Moss (University of Texas Press)

We could not fail

2. Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda E. Lewis & John B. Diamond (Oxford University Press)

despite the best intentions

3. Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis (Northwestern University Press)

forest primeval jacket

4. Stigma and Culture: Last-Place Anxiety in Black America by J. Lorand Matory (University of Chicago Press)

stigma and culture

5. The Notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat (Princeton University Press)

Check out a video of spreads from The Notebooks.

The Notebooks jacket

6. Thin Description:Ethnography and the African Hebrew Isrealites of Jerusalem by John L. Jackson, Jr (Harvard University Press)

Thin Description jacket

7. Black Georgetown Remembered: A History of Its Black Community from the Founding to “The Town of George” in 1751 to the Present Day
by Kathleen Menzie Lesko, Valerie Babb, and Carroll R. Gibbs (Georgetown University Press)

black georgetown remembered

8. Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conception of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society by John A. Powell (Indiana University Press)

Racing to Justice

9. Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical by Sherie M. Randolph (University of North Carolina Press)

Florence "Flo" Kennedy

10. Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime by Deborah Elizabeth Whaley (University of Washington Press)

Black women in sequence jacket

11. Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind by Osagie K. Obasogie (Stanford University Press)

Blinded by sight jacket

12. Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus by Krin Gabbard (University of California Press)

Better git it in your soul jacket

13. African American Slang: A Linguistic Description by Maciej Widawski (Cambridge University Press)

African American Slang

14. Tracing Southern Storytelling in Black and White by Sarah Gilbreath Ford (University of Alabama Press)

tracing southern storytelling in black and white jacket

15. Fly Away by Peter M. Rutkoff and William B. Scott (John Hopkins University Press)

fly away

16. The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman by Galawdewos (Princeton University Press)

The Life and Struggle of Our Mother Walatta Petros jacket

17. The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City by Eric Avila (University of Minnesota Press)

Folklore of the Freeway

18. Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry by Tiffany M. Gill (University of Illinois Press)

Beauty shop politics

19. Walking from the Dream: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David L. Chappell (Duke University Press)

waking from the dream

20. Story/Time: The Life of an Idea by Bill T. Jones (Princeton University Press)

Read more about the design process of Story/Time.


2015 Black History Month Reading List

We are about halfway into the month of February and well into the celebration of Black History Month. Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chooses a commemorative theme, and this year’s is “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture.” To learn more, click, here. In recognition of Black History Month, we’ve curated a must-read book list. Several of our titles have been receiving attention in the press of late, including in this Atlantic piece by Theodore R. Johnson on Leah Wright Rigueur’s new book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, and in this feature in Raw Story (via The Guardian) on F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature.  You can check out the first chapter of each book in our reading list linked below.



F.B. Eyes:
How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature

William J. Maxwell


bookjacket The Hero’s Fight:
African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State

Patricia Fernández-Kelly



The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics

Marie Gottschalk



Sea of Storms:
A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina

Stuart B. Schwartz



The Loneliness of the Black Republican:
Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power

Leah Wright Rigueur


Elizabeth Alexander to deliver the first half of The Toni Morrison Lectures today, 5:30 PM, at Princeton University

Alexander-Poster_web-image[1]Toni Morrison Lectures

“The Idea of Ancestry” in Contemporary Black Art

by Professor Elizabeth Alexander

“A Voice from the Nondead Past”:   Rethinking Lucille Clifton
April 24, 2013
5:30 p.m.
Wallace Hall, Room 300 (Please Note This is a New Location)

The recent posthumous publication of the collected poems of Lucille Clifton, and the acquisition of her archive by Emory University provide the opportunity to consider the work of this great American poet in its full dimension.    This talk will reframe her ouvre and focus specifically on the philosophical underpinnings of poems that speak across the porous scrim between life and death that is a premised understanding of Clifton’s work.


“Don’t Forget to Feed the Loas:” Near Ancestry in Contemporary Black Arts
April 25, 2013
5:30 p.m.
Betts Auditorium, School of Architecture (Please Note This is a New Location)

This talk will focus on the work of recently-deceased Eritrean-American painter Ficre Ghebreyesus and the painterly language of   “near-ancestry” in his and other black diaspora art.   Developing Etheridge Knight’s phrase “the idea of ancestry,” the talk will also look to the dances of Bill T. Jones and the work of Anna Deavere Smith and other art that speaks to intimate proximity to death and the ancestral imperative in black art.

Click here to watch the lectures via a live webcast through Princeton University’s website. The live webcast will start 10 minutes before the beginning of each lecture.

We will also be hosting a live “tweet-up” for this lecture. Follow the lecture on twitter at www.twitter.com/princetoncaas

Matthew Briones with Cornel West on C-Span

With recent immigration debates and events such as the Trayvon Martin case triggering racial anxieties,  Matthew Briones, author of Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America has been speaking out about the undiscussed and potential alliances between Asian Americans and Latina/os. Recently he spoke at the Hue Man bookstore in Harlem with his friend Cornel West about race relations and the coming election, as well as his book, which follows the life of Charles Kikuchi, a Japanese American who was sent to an internment camp alongside 100,000 other Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The event drew a very engaged crowd, and was featured on Book TV this past weekend. Check out their conversation on C-Span’s site here, and their passionate post on this election year in interracial America for our Election 101 blog here.

Cornel West and Matthew Briones talk election year in interracial America

Recently Matthew Briones, author of Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America, collaborated with esteemed Princeton scholar Cornel West on an essay for our Election 101 forum discussing this election year in interracial America. The interaction of racial and ethnic groups, particularly the  alliances between Asian Americans and African Americans, has been understudied in the US, and many actually see the two groups as pitted against one another. Read on to hear their arguments for the importance of interracial coalitions, not only in the 1940s, but especially now as we head into the election season.


“…there’s a train a-comin'”

Cornel West and Matthew Briones


As this election season envelops the nation, we have already witnessed the Republican Party pivot within a nasty primary from a usually disciplined election-year message to an array of cultural war “greatest hits,” including assaults on women’s rights and their bodies, contraception, and personhood amendments.  Meanwhile, an increasing number of state legislatures have eviscerated the few benefits workers deserve these days, quashing unions (under 12% participation nationwide) and proclaiming themselves right-to-work states (23 and counting).  In Benton Harbor, Michigan, an expanded state law permitted an unelected emergency manager to overrule and disband the duly elected city council and commissioners under the guise of fiscal discipline.  The authoritarian power grab obviated the rights and franchise of thousands of citizens, predominantly African American (90%), while this manager saw fit to prioritize the building of a sprawling new golf course (for its predominantly white [92%] and wealthier sister-city, St. Joseph) with nary a concern over poverty in the area.  In sum, we’ve experienced an unabashed assault on women, workers, African Americans, and the poor in the past year, and the best our mainstream media can provide is whether or not Snooki is pregnant.

With the publication of Matt’s new book, Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America, we wanted to recapture the gaze of concerned citizens and freedom fighters alike, to bear witness to the new “Jim and Jap Crow” taking place in 2012 interracial America.  First and foremost, readers of all colors should be extremely concerned over the insidious (but familiar) practice of voter suppression laws wending their way through state legislatures.  Some of these measures include eliminating same-day registration, limiting the timeframe for early voting, making it more difficult for ex-felons to vote, and most significantly, requiring government-issued identification cards or other similar photo ID documents.  These acts blatantly overburden the poor, college students, workers, and people of color—all of whom comprise the traditional foundation of the Democratic Party electorate.  According to Harvard legal scholar Alexander Keyssar, “[B]eefed-up ID requirements have passed in more than a dozen states since 2005 and are still being considered in more than 20 others.”  As the civil rights icon and U.S. Representative John Lewis penned in the New York Times on the eve of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, these 21st-century schemes are little more than “A Poll Tax by Another Name.”

On an intertwined subject, the Associated Press most recently revealed to us its 2012 corollary of “Jap Crow,” through their reportage on the NYPD’s systematic surveillance of Muslims in Newark, New Jersey, and college students of Muslim faith across the Northeast.  In a sad but not unexpected twist of partisan politics, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (R) has loudly denounced the practice, along with Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), while Democratic senator Chuck Schumer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) have defiantly justified the NYPD tactic.  Hence, nearly seventy years to the day that Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942), which unconstitutionally incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast in the racialized hysteria of World War II, the AP issued an update on its ongoing investigation of America’s spying on its own citizens of color.  As one tragicomic example, they reported that an undercover policeman posed as a student to accompany a Muslim students’ organization from the City College of New York on a white-water rafting trip upstate.  Jawad Rasul, one of the students on the trip, remarked, “There’s nothing to say really about the trip, except that it was a group of Muslims.”  According to Rasul, in retrospect, the spy’s intentions now appear quite obvious: “What makes us think that we know who it was is that he was an older person, nobody saw him taking classes even though he said he was taking engineering classes. He said he had a job but somehow he was available for all the trips.”  Rasul has since admitted that he now constantly updates his Facebook status, in order to provide complete transparency for Big Brother eyes he knows are watching him.  While the federal government has not rounded up over 100,000 Americans and imprisoned them behind barbed wire as it overtly did seventy years ago, its deafening silence over the covert activity of the NYPD demonstrates that government no longer needs physical barbed wire to virtually corral and monitor Muslim Americans whom they believe prima facie are terrorists-in-the making.  The systematic oppression signified by “Jap Crow” in the 1940s has simply transmuted into its Orientalist cousin of the 21st century.

Of course, in this tragicomic phase of America culture, when it seems the plutocrats scoffing at the 99% have won the day, and the weight of simply living as “everyday people” has crushed us, as we pay our debts, feed our children, keep our neighborhoods safe, and maintain our dignity, we also bear witness to the courageous acts of resistance and protest evidenced by the Occupy Movement, promising a spring revival of its own, in many ways a humble tribute to the Arab Spring of last year.  The Right, lobbyists on K Street, and even those surfeited on Pennsylvania Avenue will be surprised when May Day draws immigrant workers of all colors—Asian brothers and sisters from Chinatown, Latina/o brothers and sisters from Boyle Heights to Queens, and proud Black brothers and sisters from Chicago to Tulsa.  They will take pause when they see members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe in Hayward, Wisconsin, military veterans in Akron, Ohio, workers at the DC Central Kitchen, and coal miners in West Virgina banding together, standing up and protesting, “Enough!  Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  And our collective fight must be waged—not only through the power of our franchise at the ballot box, but also through the strength of our voices and footfalls in the streets.  People, get ready.

Matthew M. Briones is assistant professor of American history and the College at the University of Chicago.

Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton and, in June 2012, he will return to the site of his first teaching post at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan.  A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, Dr. West also earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton.  A consummate teacher and mentor, Dr. West is best known for his New York Times Bestseller Race Matters (1993) and The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (1989).  He co-hosts a weekly discussion with Tavis Smiley on Public Radio International (PRI), while the two have most recently collaborated on The Rich and The Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto (2012).


“The Indignant Generation” wins the 2012 BCALA Literary Award

Congratulations to Lawrence P. Jackson, whose book The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 has won the 2012 BCALA Literary Award in the Nonfiction Category. This award recognizes excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2011. According to the BCALA press release:

“The Indignant Generation is a fascinating exploration of the development of African American literature after the Harlem Renaissance to the modern day Civil Rights Movement. Lawrence P. Jackson offers readers rare insights into the lives of key players who contributed to the breadth of writing that flourished between 1934 and 1960. From Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes to James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, Jackson highlights the unique challenges faced by the writers during the time of the Great Depression, Jim Crow, World War II and the Cold War. Dozens of illustrations and photographs enhance this stunning work that celebrates African American artistic and intellectual achievement in writing. Professor Jackson teaches English and African American Studies at Emory University.”


“The Indignant Generation” wins William Sanders Scarborough Prize, is finalist for the 2011 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award

Congratulations to Lawrence P. Jackson, whose book The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934–1960 is picking up accolades left and right. The book has won the 2011 William Sanders Scarborough Prize from the Modern Language Association, which recognizes “an outstanding scholarly study of black American literature or culture.”

“In this magisterial narrative history of African American literature running from the end of the Harlem Renaissance to the beginning of the civil rights period, Lawrence P. Jackson expands the archive for assessing African American writing during a period that has often been reduced to protest writing. Jackson places writers into fresh contexts of cohorts (critics and editors included) and threads a clear narrative line through three heady decades jam-packed with African American authors publishing in a variety of genres and venues. Jackson is excellent on the important influence of the Communist Party, on mid-twentieth-century black literary culture, and on issues of publishing and reception. Beautifully written and rich in historical detail, The Indignant Generation should quickly become a standard work in twentieth-century African American studies and United States publishing history.”

Jackson’s work is also a finalist for the 2011 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction, from the Hurston/Wright Foundation.

 “The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award™ is the first national award presented to published writers of African descent by the national community of Black writers. This award consists of prizes for the highest quality writing in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry.”


Create Dangerously is the One Book, One Philadelphia selection

Edwidge Danticat’s collection of essays, Create Dangerously, originally published in cloth by PUP and now in paperback by Vintage, has been selected for the One Book, One Philadelphia reading program. What this means is that the Free Library of Philadelphia is encouraging all Philadelphians (Is that what they are called?) to read the book and will sponsor a series of events — readings, lectures, film screenings — to foster a dialogue around the issues in the book.

Create Dangerously is a beautiful, moving book that presents Edwidge’s thoughts on what it means to be a writer; what it means to be an immigrant writer; and what it means to be an immigrant writer, writing outside of your homeland. I love the title of this article announcing the selection: “Creating dangerously, reading collectively”, as it really captures one of the themes in the book: an author may write at their own peril in order to bring important ideas about human rights to a global audience.

While I know many will pick up the paperback for economic reasons, I hope some people will opt to purchase the hardback edition. It is such an elegant and provocative package — with a printed case and a little slip of a dust jacket that is hand-printed — that it would be a lovely addition to anyone’s personal library (especially since it can be found on some online retailers for a mere $3-$4 more than the paperback!).