LA is Still the South

By Marcus Anthony Hunter and Zandria F. Robinson, authors of Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life

A man is dragged from his seat. A group of police officers congregate around him as the recording continues. By the end of the ordeal the man, hospitalized and humiliated, becomes a siren song for resistance and uprising. A half-hearted apology is issued by those responsible. Sounds familiar? You may be thinking of the recent United Airlines ordeal. Yet twenty-five years ago, the scene was a traffic stop in Los Angeles. The man, not a doctor and not of Asian descent but instead is a black resident of Los Angeles named Rodney King.

The verdict “not guilty,” rang out across the Los Angeles’s Black belt like acid on old wounds. By 1992, black migration from the American South had over the 20th Century manifested into a entire Black region, South Central Los Angeles. Neighborhoods like Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills were built on a history of black artists and entertainers great enough to make millions but too black for Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. Separate water fountains and bathrooms had been replaced with separate communities and regions of the city. So when the brutal beating of Rodney King hit the television and airwaves, the graphic images and tale were an all too familiar reminder that black migrants hadn’t escape the chokehold of the Jim Crow South. The South followed them to California, refracted back in a video of a Black man savagely beaten by police officers. Never before had a recording so captured the experience. Never before had there been such clear indisputable evidence of the tendency for police officers to be forgetful of the humanity of black citizens. Even still, hearts would be crushed, tears shed and storefronts damaged after word of the verdict spread through South-Central.

From late April until early May ‘the Rodney King verdict’ reverberated across the city and nation in waves of protests, unrest and heavy police presence. Stores and buildings burned with the fury of a population that had escaped the South only physically. The commonly unheard voices of the city’s Black and Latino residents roared just beyond the gates and palm tree-lined campus of the University of Southern California.

More Than 25 Years Later

More than 25 years later many things have changed. On the site of the 1992 uprisings now sits a construction site accompanied by the noise and scaffolding of light rail construction. Built on the future of Los Angeles, the site—packed with steel and concrete, will create a vast transportation intersection between South Central and the rest of the city by 2020. As predominantly white runners clubs jog along the blocks that burned after the verdict, the spectacle of 25 years ago is merely a distant memory.

The name of the region of the city has changed too. No longer ‘South Central’, the area is called ‘South LA’ and ‘Mid-City’ now. Trolley cars shuttle back and forth between downtown and the Santa Monica promenade, as young white families and residents have discovered how convenient the area is. Where there was once an isolated set of black neighborhoods, there are gentrifying blocks. Many displaced black residents have gone back to the South to states like Texas and Louisiana and cities like Atlanta and Houston. Those who are poor, homeless and unemployed move about the city’s shrinking residential choices, as the cost of living continues to price them out.

More than 25 years later many things remain deeply consistent too. Tinsel town continues to draw Black people West in search of fame, fortune and freedom. Los Angeles still reflects the unrealized aspirations of the some of the oldest Americans, Black people. Indeed, UCLA’s recent reports confirm that diversity in Hollywood remains relatively non-existent. Hollywood, like the famous sign affixed to Laurel Canyon, is still white. Black actresses, like most all the black LA workforce, are forced to live out their dreams in a highly segmented and segregated labor industry. Although the median household income of black households in Los Angeles has historically outpaced the national average, black homeownership and black employment levels remain low and are declining.

Historically Black neighborhoods are contracting. New all white residential zones are forming. Police helicopters fly above. And shiny new trains traverse old gang boundaries. The city emerges from the ashes of the uprising, while long-standing Black residents fend for themselves. The makings of a classic movie about the South or country western, this, however is just a slice of black life in LaLa Land 25 years after the verdict. #BlackHistoryMonth #BHM


Marcus Anthony Hunter is Chair of the Department of African American Studies, Associate Professor of Sociology, and he holds the Scott Waugh Endowed Chair in the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Black Citymakers: How the Philadelphia Negro Changed Urban America and the president of the Association of Black Sociologists.

 

 

Zandria F. Robinson is Associate Professor in Rhodes College’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She is the author of This Ain’t Chicago: Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South and coeditor of Repositioning Race: Prophetic Research in a Postracial Obama Age. See Zandria’s website New South Negress.


Extraordinary Histories

An opportunity to reflect on the numerous events and figures in American history, Black History Month is more than a month; it is an expansive and growing history of America. The recommended books below highlight poignant historical moments and social movements and exemplary leaders at the front of societal change. Just a sample of the breadth of titles we publish in African American history, and on ethnic studies, more broadly, these titles foster greater understanding of national and world history.


Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
By Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.

In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the United States, the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as part of a global struggle against American imperialism. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with offices in sixty-eight U.S. cities and powerful allies around the world. The notions of self-reliance and self-determination were at the core of the Panther’s beliefs, but the Party’s legacy has been largely misunderstood.

With Black Against Empire, historian Waldo E. Martin and sociologist Joshua Bloom provide the most comprehensive, unvarnished examination of the Party and its place in the larger scope of revolutionary and political tides swirling in the tumultuous 1960s. A book Bobby Seale called “profoundly important,” this bold, engrossing, and richly detailed history cuts through the mythology to reveal the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement.

Selected as San Francisco’s 2017 One City One Book.

Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City
By Tyina L. Steptoe

Beginning after World War I, the city of Houston was transformed from a black-and-white frontier town into one of the most ethnically and racially diverse urban areas in the United States. Tyina L. Steptoe’s award-winning Houston Bound draws on social and cultural history to show how, despite Anglo attempts to fix racial categories through Jim Crow laws, converging migrations—particularly those of Mexicans and Creoles—complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race. This migration history also examines these racial complexities through music and sound to trace the emergence of Houston’s blues and jazz scenes in the 1920s as well as the hybrid forms of these genres that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities and politics.

Winner of the Urban History Association’s 2016 Kenneth Jackson Award, the Western History Association’s 2017 W. Turrentine-Jackson Award, and the Friends of the Texas Room’s 2017 Julia Ideson Award.

Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life
By Marcus Anthony Hunter and Zandria Robinson

When you think of a map of the United States, what do you see? Now think of the Seattle that begot Jimi Hendrix. The Dallas that shaped Erykah Badu. The Holly Springs, Mississippi, that compelled Ida B. Wells to activism against lynching. The Birmingham where Martin Luther King, Jr., penned his most famous missive. Now how do you see the United States?

Chocolate Cities offers a new cartography of the United States—a “Black Map” that more accurately reflects the lived experiences and the future of Black life in America. Drawing on cultural sources such as film, music, fiction, and plays, and on traditional resources like Census data, oral histories, ethnographies, and health and wealth data, the book offers a new perspective for analyzing, mapping, and understanding the ebbs and flows of the Black American experience—all in the cities, towns, neighborhoods, and communities that Black Americans have created and defended. Black maps are consequentially different from our current geographical understanding of race and place in America. And as the United States moves toward a majority minority society, Chocolate Cities provides a broad and necessary assessment of how racial and ethnic minorities make and change America’s social, economic, and political landscape.

Charles Burnett: A Cinema of Symbolic Knowledge
By James Naremore

Considered by the Chicago Tribune as “one of America’s very best filmmakers” and by The New York Times as “the nation’s least-known great filmmaker and most gifted black director,” Charles Burnett is a crucial figure in the history of American cinema and often regarded as the most influential member of the L.A. Rebellion group of African American filmmakers. The first book devoted to Burnett, James Naremore provides a close critical study of all Burnett’s major pictures for movies and television, including Killer of SheepTo Sleep with AngerThe Glass ShieldNightjohnThe WeddingNat Turner: A Troublesome Property, and Warming by the Devil’s Fire. Having accessed new information and rarely seen material, Naremore shows that Burnett’s career has developed against the odds and that his artistry, social criticism, humor, and commitment to what he calls “symbolic knowledge” have given his work enduring value for American culture.

Holy Hip Hop in the City of Angels
By Christina Zanfagna

In the 1990s, Los Angeles was home to numerous radical social and environmental eruptions. In the face of several major earthquakes and floods, riots and economic insecurity, policebrutality and mass incarceration, some young black Angelenos turned to holy hip hop—a movement merging Christianity and hip hop culture—to “save” themselves and the city. Converting street corners to open-air churches and gangsta rap beats into anthems of praise, holy hip hoppers used gospel rap to navigate complicated social and spiritual realities and to transform the Southland’s fractured terrains into musical Zions. Armed with beats, rhymes, and bibles, they journeyed through black Lutheran congregations, prison ministries, African churches, reggae dancehalls, hip hop clubs, Nation of Islam meetings, and Black Lives Matter marches. Zanfagna’s fascinating ethnography provides a contemporary and unique view of black LA, offering a much-needed perspective on how music and religion intertwine in people’s everyday experiences.

The Chosen Ones: Black Men and the Politics of Redemption
By Nikki Jones 

In The Chosen Ones, sociologist and feminist scholar Nikki Jones shares the compelling story of a group of Black men living in San Francisco’s historically Black neighborhood, the Fillmore. Against all odds, these men work to atone for past crimes by reaching out to other Black men, young and old, with the hope of guiding them toward a better life. Yet despite their genuine efforts, they struggle to find a new place in their old neighborhood. With a poignant yet hopeful voice, Jones illustrates how neighborhood politics, everyday interactions with the police, and conservative Black gender ideologies shape the men’s ability to make good and forgive themselves—and how the double-edged sword of community shapes the work of redemption.

Forthcoming June 2018; preorder today.

Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century
By Barbara Ransby 

In the wake of the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the exoneration of his killer, three black women activists launched a hashtag and social-media platform, Black Lives Matter, which would become the rubric for a larger movement. To many, especially those in the media, Black Lives Matter appeared to burst onto the national political landscape out of thin air.

But as historian and esteemed activist Barbara Ransby shows in her highly-anticipated Making All Black Lives Matter, the movement has roots in prison abolition, anti-police violence, black youth movements, and radical mobilizations across the country dating back at least a decade. Ransby interviewed more than a dozen of the movements principal organizers and activists, and she provides a detailed review of its extensive coverage in mainstream and social media. A critical history of the present, Making All Black Lives Matter offers one of the first overviews of Black Lives Matter and explores the challenges and possible future for this growing and influential movement.

Forthcoming September 2018; preorder today.


What’s in a Name? W. E. B. Du Bois vs. W.E.B. DeBois

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

Today marks the 149th anniversary of the birth of W. E. B. Du Bois. Just over a week ago, The United States Department of Education, headed by its newly appointed Secretary Betsy DeVos, set out to honor Du Bois during Black History Month. On the Department’s official website Du Bois’ famous quote “Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life” was emblazoned. It was wonderful that this great controversial scholar and activist was being honored by the Department of Education. However, all hell broke loose once the quotation made its rounds through social and print media, and radio and television. The reason for the explosion is that the Department of Education attributed Du Bois’ quote to “W.E.B. DeBois!”

Du Bois was precise when it came to the written word. He would have been unamused by the misspelling of his name and by all people, the Department of Education. Responding to a speaking invitation by the Chicago Sunday Evening Club in 1939, Du Bois made it clear that: “My name is pronounced in the clear English fashion: Du, with u as in Sue; Bois, as in oi in voice. The accent is on the second syllable.” Given Du Bois’ exactness regarding the spelling and pronunciation of his name, the Department of Education was derelict in its duty to educate. Like the school children it represents, the least DeVos and her Department should do is their homework before going public.

We should not merely obsess with this terrible spelling error. The significance of Du Bois’ work for the nation and the world should be the focus always. Du Bois excelled as a social scientist, man of letters, journalist, philosopher, poet and novelist and prodigious activist. He is the scholar of the twentieth century that taught us most about race and its future place in America and the world. His penetrating work on the global color line unraveling the souls of black and white people remains highly relevant in these troubling times. No person today should be labeled “learned” without having read Du Bois’ timeless classics, The Souls of Black Folk, and Black Reconstruction as well as his unsettling article, The Souls of White Folk.

Du Bois’ activism influenced social change throughout the twentieth century. Du Bois’ radical ideas and activism helped overthrow colonialism and race oppression in Africa, Asia, and South America. Du Bois was crucial in changing America. By being a founder of the Niagara Movement, the NAACP and the Crisis Magazine, Du Bois created the blueprint by which Martin Luther king, Jr. and the civil rights movement overthrew Jim Crow. In honoring Du Bois’ pioneering activism, Dr. King wrote, “One idea he insistently taught was that black people have been kept in oppression and deprivation by a poisonous fog of lies… The twisted logic ran if the black man was inferior he was not oppressed-his place in society was appropriate to his meager talent and intellect. Dr. Du Bois recognized that the keystone in the arch of oppression was the myth of inferiority and he dedicated his brilliant talents to demolish it.”

Du Bois supported young black student protesters reminiscent of activists in Black Lives Matter today. Responding to Black student protests in the 1920s, Du Bois exclaimed, “And here again we are always actually or potentially saying hush to children and students, we are putting on the soft peddle, we are teaching them subterfuge and compromise, we are leading them around to back doors for fear that they shall express themselves. And yet whenever and wherever we do this we are wrong, absolutely and eternally wrong. Unless we are willing to train our children to be cowards, to run like dogs when they are kicked, to whine and lick the hand that slaps them, we have got to teach them self-realization and self-expression.”

The Department of Education should not have misspelled Du Bois’ name. However, on Du Bois’ 149th birthday, we should not mistake the trees (misspelled name) for the forest (prodigious body of scholarship and activism) when considering the meaning of Du Bois. Indeed, the mythical “DeBois” withers from sight when confronted with the real W. E. B. Du Bois.


Aldon D. Morris is Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University and the author of The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change, among other books. And read more about Aldon’s thoughts From Du Bois to Black Lives Matter.

 


The Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program

Last October marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California, when, in 1966, college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton vowed to prevent police brutality against black communities. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with offices in sixty-eight U.S. cities and powerful allies around the world.

Today, the Party’s fight against police brutality continues to inspire activists and organizers, who look to develop new ways of organizing as tools and methods change and current events shift. In the new preface to Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, authors Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. place the Black Panther Party in today’s political landscape, especially as it relates to Black Lives Matter. They write:

Like the Black Panther Party, #BlackLivesMatter and other contemporary activists have coupled confrontational tactics with community organizing and sought to challenge racism by mobilizing against police brutality. And again, today antiracist activists face repression including state surveillance, arrests, and coordinated public vilification. As in the 1960s, the forces of racial retrenchment are eager to move on without disturbing the basic arrangements of white privilege. . . . Indeed, each generation must make its own history, under new conditions, in new ways. Rather than emulating the specifics, we believe that developing effective antiracist practices today requires emulating the general political dynamic common to both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party.

Included in the book is The Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program. First publicized in the the second issue of the organization’s newspaper, Black Panther, on May 15, 1967, the platform and program, titled “What We Want Now! What We Believe,” was a set of guidelines written by Newton and Seale that emphasized the Party’s ideals and commitment to advancing a revolution that addressed the needs of the black community. It appeared in every succeeding issue of the newspaper.

The original Ten Point Program read:

What We Want Now! What We Believe

To those poor souls who don’t know Black history, the beliefs and desires of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense may seem unreasonable. To Black people, the ten points covered are absolutely essential to survival. We have listened to the riot producing words “these things take time” for 400 years. The Black Panther Party knows what Black people want and need. Black unity and self defense will make these demands a reality.

What We Want

  1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black community.
  2. We want full employment for our people.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the White man of our Black community.
  4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter [of] human beings.
  5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.
  6. We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
  7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people.
  8. We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county, and city prisons and jails.
  9. We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black communities. As defined by the constitution of the United States.
  10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

What We Believe

  1. We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.
  2. We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the White American business men will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the business men and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
  3. We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as retribution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities: the Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered 6,000,000 Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over 50,000,000 Black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.
  4. We believe that if the White landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.
  5. We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
  6. We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized by the White racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.
  7. We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States gives us a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm themselves for self defense.
  8. We believe that all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
  9. We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all White juries that have no understanding of the “average reasoning man” of the Black community.
  10. When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Above the Ten Point Program, under the headline “Minister of Defense,” the Black Panther carried a photo of Huey that served to announce to the world that the vanguard of Black Power had arrived.

Learn more about the history and politics of the Black Panther Party and Black against Empire here.


Better Git It in Your Soul

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

9780520260375If you know a little about Charles Mingus, you probably know that he was a brilliant jazz bassist, composer, and bandleader but that he could also be angry and violent. He did, however, have an extraordinary sense of humor that comes through even in his music. I know many jazz artists who crack jokes off the bandstand but who are deadly serious when they play. Not Mingus. Go to YouTube and check out the very different ways that music can be funny in his recordings of “Jelly Roll” (1959), “Original Fables of Faubus” (1960), and “Eat That Chicken” (1961). Even his song titles are funny: “All the Things You Could Be by Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother,” “If Charlie Parker Were a Gun-Slinger There’d Be a Lot of Dead Copy Cats,” “Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon,” “Love Is a Dangerous Necessity,” and “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers.”

Mingus began his autobiography with the phrase, “In other words, I am three.” And indeed, he could simultaneously hold seemingly contradictory feelings. Mingus was both funny and serious on “What Love” (1960), a remarkable out-of-tempo duet with saxophonist Eric Dolphy. Mingus was apparently angry with Dolphy when they were about to record, and you can actually hear his bass “speaking” a set of curses. You can even make out the phrase, “Did you hear what I said?” The dialogue goes on for several minutes with Mingus plucking out schoolyard taunts while Dolphy honks and squawks back, sometimes with pathos, sometimes with mock anger. You may find yourself chuckling even as you admire the musicians’ amazing ability to speak through their instruments.

Krin Gabbard retired after thirty-three years of teaching at Stony Brook University, and he now teaches in the jazz studies program at Columbia University. His previous books include Hotter than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture and Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema. He lives in New York City with his wife, Paula, and he is busy playing his trumpet and writing a memoir about his parents.


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.)


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.