Welcome to the United States of Flint

We have all been shocked by the unfolding tragedy in Flint, MI, as an entire city and thousands of children have been exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water. According to public health historians David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, authors of Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children, this most recent incident sheds light on what is actually the longest-lasting childhood health epidemic in U.S. history. In other words, Flint is not an anomaly. Over the course of the past century, tens of millions of children have been poisoned by lead and millions more remain in danger of it today. If it were not for a mix of racism and corporate greed, this would not be the case. Rosner and Markowitz have been crying a call to action for years.

In this post that appeared originally on TomDispatch (reproduced with their kind permission), Rosner and Markowitz survey the situation not just in Flint, but nationally. Our children are being poisoned by industrial pollutants in what amounts to a ticking toxic time bomb. Alarmed? You should be. Read on.


Two, Three… Many Flints
America’s Coast-to-Coast Toxic Crisis
By David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz

“I know if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself if my kids’ health could be at risk,” said President Obama on a recent trip to Michigan.  “Up there” was Flint, a rusting industrial city in the grip of a “water crisis” brought on by a government austerity scheme.  To save a couple of million dollars, that city switched its source of water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a long-time industrial dumping ground for the toxic industries that had once made their home along its banks.  Now, the city is enveloped in a public health emergency, with elevated levels of lead in its water supply and in the blood of its children.

The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive.  In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable.   As little as a few specks of lead in the water children drink or in flakes of paint that come off the walls of old houses and are ingested can change the course of a life. The amount of lead dust that covers a thumbnail is enough to send a child into a coma or into convulsions leading to death. It takes less than a tenth of that amount to cause IQ loss, hearing loss, or behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the government agency responsible for tracking and protecting the nation’s health, says simply, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

President Obama would have good reason to worry if his kids lived in Flint.  But the city’s children are hardly the only ones threatened by this public health crisis.  There’s a lead crisis for children in Baltimore, Maryland, Herculaneum, Missouri, Sebring, Ohio, and even the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and that’s just to begin a list.  State reports suggest, for instance, that “18 cities in Pennsylvania and 11 in New Jersey may have an even higher share of children with dangerously elevated levels of lead than does Flint.” Today, scientists agree that there is no safe level of lead for children and at least half of American children have some of this neurotoxin in their blood.  The CDC is especially concerned about the more than 500,000 American children who have substantial amounts of lead in their bodies. Over the past century, an untold number have had their IQs reduced, their school performances limited, their behaviors altered, and their neurological development undermined.  From coast to coast, from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt, children have been and continue to be imperiled by a century of industrial production, commercial gluttony, and abandonment by the local, state, and federal governments that should have protected them.  Unlike in Flint, the “crisis” seldom comes to public attention.

In Flint, the origins of the current crisis lay in the history of auto giant General Motors (GM) and its rise in the middle decades of the twentieth century to the status of the world’s largest corporation. GM’s Buick plant alone once occupied “an area almost a mile and a half long and half a mile wide,” according to the Chicago Tribune, and several Chevrolet and other GM plants literally covered the waterfront of “this automotive city.” Into the Flint River went the toxic wastes of factories large and small, which once supplied batteries, paints, solders, glass, fabrics, oils, lubricating fluids, and a multitude of other materials that made up the modern car. In these plants strung out along the banks of the Flint and Saginaw rivers and their detritus lay the origins of the present public health emergency.

The crisis that attracted President Obama’s attention is certainly horrifying, but the children of Flint have been poisoned in one way or another for at least 80 years. Three generations of those children living around Chevrolet Avenue in the old industrial heart of the city experienced an environment filled with heavy metal toxins that cause neurological conditions in them and cardiovascular problems in adults.

As Michael Moore documented in his film Roger and Me, GM abandoned Flint in a vain attempt to stave off financial disaster.  Having sucked its people dry, the company ditched the city, leaving it to deal with a polluted hell without the means to do so.  Like other industrial cities that have suffered this kind of abandonment, Flint’s population is majority African American and Latino, and has a disproportionate number of families living below the poverty line.  Of its 100,000 residents, 65% are African American and Latino and 42%  are mired in poverty.

The president should be worried about Flint’s children and local, state, and federal authorities need to fix the pipes, sewers, and water supply of the city. Technically, this is a feasible, if expensive, proposition. It’s already clear, however, that the political will is just not there even for this one community. Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, has refused to provide Flint’s residents with even a prospective timetable for replacing their pipes and making their water safe. There is, however, a far graver problem that is even less easy to fix: the mix of racism and corporate greed that have put lead and other pollutants into millions of homes in the United States. The scores of endangered kids in Flint are just the tip of a vast, toxic iceberg.  Even Baltimore, which first identified its lead poisoning epidemic in the 1930s, still faces a crisis, especially in largely African American communities, when it comes to the lead paint in its older housing stock.

Just this month, Maryland’s secretary of housing, community, and development, Kenneth C. Holt, dismissed the never-ending lead crisis in Baltimore by callously suggesting that it might all be a shuck.  A mother, he said, might fake such poisoning by putting “a lead fishing weight in her child’s mouth [and] then take the child in for testing.” Such a tactic, he indicated, without any kind of proof, was aimed at making landlords “liable for providing the child with [better] housing.” Unfortunately, the attitudes of Holt and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan have proven all too typical of the ways in which America’s civic and state leaders have tended to ignore, dismiss, or simply deny the real suffering of children, especially those who are black and Latino, when it comes to lead and other toxic chemicals.

There is, in fact, a grim broader history of lead poisoning in America.  It was probably the most widely dispersed environmental toxin that affected children in this country.  In part, this was because, for decades during the middle of the twentieth century, it was marketed as an essential ingredient in industrial society, something without which none of us could get along comfortably.  Those toxic pipes in Flint are hardly the only, or even the primary, source of danger to children left over from that era.

In the 1920s, tetraethyl lead was introduced as an additive for gasoline.  It was lauded at the time as a “gift of God” by a representative of the Ethyl Corporation, a creation of GM, Standard Oil, and Dupont, the companies that invented, produced, and marketed the stuff. Despite warnings that this industrial toxin might pollute the planet, which it did, almost three-quarters of a century would pass before it was removed from gasoline in the United States.  During that time, spewed out of the tailpipes of hundreds of millions of cars and trucks, it tainted the soil that children played in and was tracked onto floors that toddlers touched.  Banned from use in the 1980s, it still lurks in the environment today.

Meanwhile, homes across the country were tainted by lead in quite a different way. Lead carbonate, a white powder, was mixed with linseed oil to create the paint that was used in the nation’s homes, hospitals, schools, and other buildings until 1978.  Though its power to harm and even kill children who sucked on lead-painted windowsills, toys, cribs, and woodwork had long been known, it was only in that year that the federal government banned its use in household paints.

Hundreds of tons of the lead in paint that covered the walls of houses, apartment buildings, and workplaces across the United States remains in place almost four decades later, especially in poorer neighborhoods where millions of African American and Latino children currently live.  Right now, most middle class white families feel relatively immune from the dangers of lead, although the gentrification of old neighborhoods and the renovation of old homes can still expose their children to dangerous levels of lead dust from the old paint on those walls. However, economically and politically vulnerable black and Hispanic children, many of whom inhabit dilapidated older housing, still suffer disproportionately from the devastating effects of the toxin. This is the meaning of institutional racism in action today.  As with the water flowing into homes from the pipes of Flint’s water system, so the walls of its apartment complexes, not to mention those in poor neighborhoods of Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, and virtually every other older urban center in the country, continue to poison children exposed to lead-polluted dust, chips, soil, and air.

Over the course of the past century, tens of millions of children have been poisoned by lead and millions more remain in danger of it today. Add to this the risks these same children face from industrial toxins like mercury, asbestos, and polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as PCBs) and you have an ongoing recipe for a Flint-like disaster but on a national scale.

In truth, the United States has scores of “Flints” awaiting their moments.  Think of them as ticking toxic time bombs — just an austerity scheme or some official’s poor decision away from a public health disaster.  Given this, it’s remarkable, even in the wake of Flint, how little attention or publicity such threats receive.  Not surprisingly, then, there seems to be virtually no political will to ensure that future generations of children will not suffer the same fate as those in Flint.

The Future of America’s Toxic Past

A series of decisions by state and local officials turned Flint’s chronic post-industrial crisis into a total public health disaster.  If clueless, corrupt, or heartless government officials get all the blame for this (and blame they do deserve), the larger point will unfortunately be missed — that there are many post-industrial Flints, many other hidden tragedies affecting America’s children that await their moments in the news. Treat Flint as an anomaly and you condemn families nationwide to bear the damage to their children alone, abandoned by a society unwilling to invest in cleaning up a century of industrial pollution, or even to acknowledge the injustice involved.

Flint may be years away from a solution to its current crisis, but in a few cities elsewhere in the country there is at least a modicum of hope when it comes to developing ways to begin to address this country’s poisonous past. In California, for example, 10 cities and counties, including San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Oakland, have successfully sued and won an initial judgment against three lead pigment manufacturers for $1.15 billion. That money will be invested in removing lead paint from the walls of homes in these cities. If this judgment is upheld on appeal, it would be an unprecedented and pathbreaking victory, since it would force a polluting industry to clean up the mess it created and from which it profited.

There have been other partial victories, too. In Herculaneum, Missouri, for instance, where half the children within a mile of the nation’s largest lead smelter suffered lead poisoning, jurors returned a $320 million verdict against Fluor Corporation, one of the world’s largest construction and engineering firms. That verdict is also on appeal, while the company has moved its smelter to Peru where whole new populations are undoubtedly being poisoned.

President Obama hit the nail on the head with his recent comments on Flint, but he also missed the larger point. There he was just a few dozen miles from that city’s damaged water system when he spoke in Detroit, another symbol of corporate abandonment with its own grim toxic legacy. Thousands of homes in the Motor City, the former capital of the auto industry, are still lead paint disaster areas. Perhaps it’s time to widen the canvas when it comes to the poisoning of America’s children and face the terrible human toll caused by “the American century.”

David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, TomDispatch regulars, are co-authors and co-editors of seven books and 85 articles on a variety of industrial and occupational hazards, including Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution and, most recently, Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children.  Rosner is a professor of sociomedical sciences and history at Columbia University and co-director of the Center for the History of Public Health at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. Markowitz is a professor of history at John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Both have been awarded a certificate of appreciation by the United States Senate through the office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who has recognized the importance of their work on lead and industrial poisoning.

Vintage Valentines

It’s almost Valentine’s Day! As the rush for candy, roses, stuffed animals, and jewelry hits its peak, let’s not forget the old standard: Valentine’s cards.

Though the deepest roots of the holiday are still quite difficult to confirm, we do know that the modern Valentine’s celebration has roots in England, most obviously with the poetry of Chaucer in the late Middle Ages. America caught on in the 1840s, “mainly with a torrent of cards”: once printers could readily produce ready-made greetings, giving of Valentine’s cards stateside took off dramatically.


Bruce Forbes describes the old practice in America’s Favorite Holidays: “The individually written notes were indeed exchanges, so that if a man sent a poem to a woman expressing his interest and asking her to be his valentine, she would be expected to reply, either positively or negatively. This did not happen in just one day, so the valentine period informally extended over a week or so as one side composed and sent a note and then waited for a reply.”

The poems on the cards could also be drawn from “Valentine Writers”, or little booklets containing ready-made poems for those who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) compose their own verses. Here is an sample, including two possible replies:

I for my Valentine have got
A little comfortable cot;
I’ve got a little piece of land,
And other things too at command:
Oh, tell me then if you’ll be mine,
Say if you’ll be my Valentine.

To my thanks you have a claim,
For the kindness which you proffer:
I should be indeed to blame,
Were I to reject your offer.

’Tis not land that can impart,
A good temper, a good heart,
In the cottage we may find,
Anger and a troubled mind.

Furthermore, the practice of anonymous Valentines was much more widespread in the early days of the American Valentine’s Day—which made humorous, suggestive, or downright insulting messages much easier to send without repercussion. In 1858, Harper’s Weekly estimated an even split between sentimental and satiric valentines in the United States, with about one and a half million cards in each category.

Read more about the roots of America’s cultural standbys in America’s Favorite Holidays.

Goodreads Giveaways: Books for Black History Month

We’re excited to bring you more Goodreads giveaways this month! Entries are free, and all Goodreads members residing in the United States are eligible to win. Just click to enter! Be sure to visit our Goodreads profile often, as new giveaways will be appearing every month– and don’t forget to review, rate, and add your favorite UC Press books to your Goodreads shelves.

Check out these new UC Press titles, and learn more about the history of African-Americans even after February is over.

The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon Morris

Winner of the 2016 R.R. Hawkins Award of the 2016 PROSE Awards 

(click for Goodreads giveaway)

In this groundbreaking book, Aldon D. Morris’s ambition is truly monumental: to help rewrite the history of sociology and to acknowledge the primacy of W. E. B. Du Bois’s work in the founding of the discipline. (Giveaway begins on February 17th and ends on March 17th.)

Letters from Langston: From the Harlem Renaissance to the Red Scare and Beyond edited by Evelyn Louise Crawford, MaryLouise Patterson, and Robin D.G. Kelley

(click for Goodreads giveaway)

Accessible, personal, and inspirational, Hughes’s poems portray the African American community in struggle in the context of a turbulent modern United States and a rising black freedom movement. This indispensable volume of letters between Hughes and four leftist confidants sheds vivid light on his life and politics. (Giveaway ends on February 18th.)

Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood by Miriam J. Petty

(click for Goodreads giveaway)

Stealing the Show is a study of African American actors in Hollywood during the 1930s, a decade that saw the consolidation of stardom as a potent cultural and industrial force. Petty focuses on five performers whose Hollywood film careers flourished during this period to reveal the “problematic stardom” and the enduring, interdependent patterns of performance and spectatorship for performers and audiences of color. (Giveaway begins on February 17th and ends on March 17th.)

Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis by Ruth Fine

(click for Goodreads giveaway)

This beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies the first major museum retrospective of the painter Norman Lewis (1909–1979). Lewis was the sole African American artist of his generation who became committed to issues of abstraction at the start of his career and continued to explore them over its entire trajectory. This is a milestone in Lewis scholarship and a vital resource for future study of the artist and abstraction in his period.

(Giveaway begins on February 17th and ends on March 17th.)

Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus by Krin Gabbard

(click for Goodreads giveaway)

Gabbard sets aside the myth-making and convincingly argues that Charles Mingus created a unique language of emotions—and not just in music. Capturing many essential moments in jazz history anew, Better Git It in Your Soul will fascinate anyone who cares about jazz, African American history, and the artist’s life.

(Giveaway begins on February 17th and ends on March 17th.)

Going Home Again

Gordon Young has focused his journalism work on his hometown in Michigan as it deals with the Flint Water Crisis


When I traveled to my hometown of Flint, Michigan in the summer of 2009, I was hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but had become one of the country’s most impoverished and dangerous cities. What I found was a place of stark contrasts and dramatic stories, where an exotic dancer could afford a lavish mansion, speculators scooped up cheap houses by the dozen on eBay, and arson was often the quickest route to neighborhood beautification.

I described these experiences in Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City, a book filmmaker Michael Moore described as “a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city.” I chronicle a once-thriving place still fighting—despite overwhelming odds—to rise from the ashes. I was lucky to meet a collection of urban homesteaders and die-hard locals who refused to give up as they tried to transform the birthplace of General Motors into a smaller, greener, more livable town.

I continued to write about the city where four generations of my family lived—in the New York Times, Slate, and Belt Magazine. Often, I was covering the incremental steps the city was taking to turn things around, such as improvements in Flint’s historic district or an influx of international students to local universities. I also worked with residents to raise money to demolish a burned-out, abandoned house in an otherwise healthy neighborhood.


But Flint is now in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons after it emerged that state officials ignored clear signs of lead poisoning in the city’s water supply. One of the most agonizing aspects of what has come to be known as the FlintWater Crisis is that it was entirely preventable. And yet, given that state officials seem intent only on balancing the city budget and not solving the city’s problems, it shouldn’t be all that surprising when bad things happen.

“This was the ultimate curse of a shrinking city,” I wrote in Teardown. “The economic collapse and declining population actually necessitated more city services as crime and poverty skyrocketed. As Flint got smaller, it needed more money to manage the transformation from a thriving industrial powerhouse to something else. Instead, the city was being forced to slash its budget.”

For me, the water crisis is the ultimate proof that Flint needs a comprehensive plan to stop the suffering and stabilize the city.

“I may be delusional, but I’m hoping that some sliver of good can come out of the water crisis,” I wrote recently in Politico Magazine. “But simply dealing with the latest calamity without having a national conversation about why these bad things happen to places like Flint—and coming up with systematic, long-term solutions—ensures that in five or 10 years we will be right back where we started. Flint’s problems may seem outsized, but they are not isolated and hold dire lessons for the rest of America. A growing number of places throughout the country look a lot like my hometown, defined by persistent poverty, crumbling infrastructure and a populace that feels betrayed and abandoned. If you think your community is immune from these problems, I’d ask you to reconsider. A familiar line I’ve heard more than once around town is a warning we should all heed, regardless of where we live: ‘Flint, coming to a city near you.’”


Gordon Young grew up in Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors, where his accomplishments included learning to parallel park the family’s massive Buick Electra 225. After reaching an uneasy truce with the nuns in the local Catholic school system, he went on to study journalism at the University of Missouri and English literature at the University of Nottingham. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Utne Reader, and numerous other publications. Young has published Flint Expatriates, a blog for the long-lost residents of the Vehicle City, since 2007. He is a senior lecturer in the Communication Department at Santa Clara University and lives in San Francisco.

Beyond the Walled City

Beyond the Walled City
Beyond the Walled City

UC Press is pleased to present Beyond the Walled City: Colonial Exclusion in Havana, the first book by Guadalupe García. Havana has recently become the center of media attention as one of the world’s most rapidly changing cities. Beyond the Walled City chronicles its growth and expansion. It begins with the colonial founding of Havana in the sixteenth century and extends through the end of the US military occupation in 1902. The multiple maps included in the book visually illustrate how local and global forces shaped the topography of the contemporary city.

Through her study of Havana, García shows us how Spanish colonialism in Cuba relied heavily on the hidden spaces of the city. It was in and through these spaces that empires clashed long before nations were ever formed, but not before city residents defined the terms of their own local belonging. What readers will discover through this book is how colonial governing practices are connected to broader and contemporary debates on urbanization, and how the regulation of public space continues to define how cities are experienced. With global eyes focused on Havana, this is a timely book for understanding the contemporary city, as well as the colonial development of cities throughout in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Guadalupe García is Assistant Professor of History at Tulane University.

Join Us at the 2016 College Art Association Conference in Washington, DC!

University of California Press is exhibiting at the 104th Annual College Art Association Conference! The meeting convenes February 3-6 in Washington, DC.

Please visit us at booth #225 in the exhibit hall at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel for the following offers:

  • 40% conference discount on all orders
  • Request exam copies to consider for course adoption
  • Enter for a chance to win $100 worth of books by subscribing to UC Press eNews

Our art list is comprised of an interdisciplinary selection of titles perfect for research and course usage. Please see our flyer at our booth for our latest releases. Acquisitions and marketing staff will be available for your publishing questions, including our new Art History Editor, Nadine Little!

Follow @educatedarts, @collegeart, and hashtag #caa2016 for current meeting news. Catch up on our recent blog posts on Art & Architecture here.

Letters from Langston

Although there are several books of correspondence between Langston Hughes and his contemporaries, none so far have closely explored Langston’s politics, from the early 1930s to his death in 1967. Letters from Langston, edited by Evelyn Louise Crawford and MaryLouise Patterson collects letters, postcards, and telegrams between Langston Hughes, Louise Thompson Patterson, William L. Patterson, Matt N. Crawford, and Evelyn “Nebby” Graves Crawford. Below are several excerpts from the book.



Our parents enjoyed a relationship with Langston that lasted over forty years, and they also had abiding friendships with one another that, in some instances, stretched for eight decades. The five shared many family experiences and a burgeoning intellectual and political curiosity, mostly focused on race and liberation. All of them came of age in a radical historical period marked by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, the labor upheavals of the Great Depression, and the rise and defeat of fascism. It was a time bubbling over with an intensity, energy, creativity, and promise that came in the wake of a new revolutionary movement.

By 1932 Louise was working with the Communist party and other leftists in Harlem. She had been recruited to create a committee to support a film about Negro life in the United States, to be produced in Moscow. Its working title was Black and White. Some time in late March or early April 1932, Langston had agreed to have his name added to the committee.


April 24, 1932

My Dear Lang:

I am awaiting eagerly news of your various escapades in the land of sunshine, frameups and red terrorism. I look forward any day to seeing notice in the paper that Capt. Hynes and his brave boys have yanked you off the platform in the midst of a tirade on Scottsboro or Tom Mooney. Or are you doing the straight society act? Hope not.

But the purpose of this letter is to let you know how the Cooperating Committee is or is not cooperating. We have about given up on the idea of raising any money to pay the passage of people who may wish to go but have not the wherewithal and are concentrating on those who want to go and can pay their own way. There are several interested in this way and Ford says that he will send along the number that can go and let them recruit others in Europe.

So he asked me to write you about your going. Will you go in case there are only a few and when will you be ready to go? The same conditions hold, of course, and your own plans can be worked out as you have planned then. Also, have you run across anyone who wants to go and will pay his, or her, own way? What about Loren?

Write me as soon as you can, please, and let me know [y]our plans. I do wish that I was out there with you now. I had a letter from Nebby yesterday and she told me that they were looking forward to seeing you up north.

Remember me to all—friend or foe.

Always your pal,


Langston did go on the trip to the U.S.S.R., and even though the plans for the film had fallen through, the group did tour the country.

Langston Hughes, 1943. Photo by Gordon Parks




Langston Hughes

Lenin walks around the world.

Frontiers cannot bar him.

Neither barracks nor barricades impede.

Nor does barbed wire scar him.

Lenin walks around the world.

Black, brown, and white receive him.

Language is no barrier.

The strangest tongues believe him.

Lenin walks around the world.

The sun sets like a scar.

Between the darkness and the dawn

Rises a red star.

[Note below poem] Man, I have been to St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, as Narrator for the Music Festivals. Travelling with maestros and prima donnas!!! Sure did!



Letters from Langston begins in 1930 and ends shortly before his death in 1967, providing a window into a unique, self-created world where Hughes lived at ease. This distinctive volume collects the stories of Hughes and his friends in an era of uncertainty and reveals their visions of an idealized world—one without hunger, war, racism, and class oppression.

Evelyn Louise Crawford, a retired arts administrator and consultant, and MaryLouise Patterson, a pediatrician in clinical practice, are the daughters of Langston Hughes’s cherished friends Evelyn Graves Crawford, Matt N. Crawford, Louise Thompson Patterson, and William L. Patterson. Hughes was a frequent guest in the homes of the two families and was like an uncle to Evelyn Louise and MaryLouise.


Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests chosen as finalist in the 2015 National Jewish Book Awards

Jason Sion Mokhtarian’s book, Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests: The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran, was selected by the Jewish Book Council as a finalist for the Nahum Sarna Memorial Award for Scholarship as a part of the 2015 Jewish Book Awards.

NJBA Finalist seal.

The Jewish Book Council, dating back to 1925, is one of the oldest organizations providing continual service to the American Jewish community. Additionally, the National Jewish Book Awards, now in its 65th year, is the longest-running program for recognizing high quality, informed Jewish scholarship and literature in North America.

Read more about the awards, including the press release of the full results, here. Many congratulations to Jason and the rest of this year’s NJBA finalists and winners!

On the town with David Ireland

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the restoration of 500 Capp Street, home of David Ireland for many years. Not least of all, because we recently published 500 Capp Street: David Ireland’s House by Constance M. Lewallen.

But, in case you missed it, the David Ireland moment in San Francisco is now.

The recently restored house museum is open and delighting the crowds. Sign up for a guided tour, or attend one of the many happenings at the house here.

The San Francisco Art Institute’s David Ireland exhibition, also curated by Connie Lewallen, opened last weekend to a phenomenal turnout. Be sure to catch it before it closes on March 26th.

Angel-Go-Round, opening reception of David Ireland exhibition, San Francisco Art Institute
Angel-Go-Round (panorama), opening reception of David Ireland exhibition, San Francisco Art Institute

And, the Anglim Gilbert Gallery is also hosting an exhibition honoring David Ireland’s work through February 27th.

To learn more, we suggest the following:

SFAQ’s review of 500 Capp Street

“Constance Lewallen has created a detailed, generously illustrated guide to this ‘cabinet of wonders’ . . . a valuable accompaniment to visiting Ireland’s house at 500 Capp Street.”—Sally B. Woodbridge, SFAQ

Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes Podcast featuring Constance Lewallen

New York Times piece on the restoration of 500 Capp Street

SF Gate story, ‘Taking up residence for a day. . .’

After all that, we’re wagering you may still not have had enough DI in your life, so to save 30% on 500 Capp Street: David Ireland’s House and The Art of David Ireland: The Way Things Are—enter discount code 16W917B at checkout.

The Birth of Modern Sociology

We were taught that American sociology originated with the Chicago School.  What if we were wrong?

In honor of Black History Month, let’s consider a counterview posed by author Aldon Morris—that W. E. B. Du Bois developed the first scientific school of sociology at Atlanta University, a historically black institution of higher learning located in the heart of Atlanta’s black community. Read below from The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology.  And please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

The Du Bois–Atlanta school profoundly influenced sociology and the social sciences. While at times these influences have been acknowledged, in most instances they have been overlooked. It was relatively easy for mainstream sociologists to ignore Du Bois’s contributions because these were effectively marginalized by early generations of white sociologists and by succeeding generations who followed the established pattern. As generations of scholars passed, the school no longer required marginalization because the success of earlier efforts had caused it to drop from sight. Yet its intellectual impact could not be erased completely given the merits of its ideas and given that some scholars, especially blacks, documented the significance of Du Bois’s work for the historical record and elaborated its scientific paradigm. In a previous essay I assessed the lasting intellectual influence of Du Bois on generations of black scholars who came to maturity after Du Bois’s groundbreaking scholarship and journeyed in his footsteps. They, too, conducted research showing that black people had developed their own communities, race consciousness, institutions, and discontent with racial oppression and that they did not wish to be fully assimilated into white culture.

Black sociologists often appear to have been exclusively the students of white sociologists who served as formal advisers at prestigious white universities. Yet I have shown that the first generation of black sociologists was also mentored by Du Bois and his Atlanta school. It may appear that Du Bois and his school operated as an “invisible college” that quietly produced scholarship along subterranean channels. However, for Work, Wright, Haynes, Ovington, and numerous other members of the school, the scholarly work produced at Atlanta was highly visible and influential. These scholars did not view their work as insignificant labor performed on the academic periphery. Nevertheless, racism obscured the vision of white academics, causing them to overlook original sociological work produced early in the twentieth century.