Books by Henry Louis
Colored People /
Our Nig /
The African American Century /
The Bondwoman's Narrative /
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man
The Trials of Phillis Wheatley /
"Race," Writing, and Difference /
Wonders of the African World
In Search of Identity /
Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex /
The Signifying Monkey
Identity and Violence /
The Norton Anthology of African American Literature
* * *
Lincoln on Race and Slavery
Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Interviewed by
Henry Louis “Skip”
Gates, Jr. was born in Piedmont, West Virginia on
September 16, 1950 to Henry, Sr. and Pauline Coleman.
Today, he is a world-renowned scholar and educator and
the Alphonse Fletcher Professor at Harvard University.
In his capacity as a
public intellectual, he has served as host of
“African-American Lives,” a PBS series which employs a
combination of genealogy and science to reconstruct the
family trees of the descendants of slaves. And just last
year, he co-founded “The Root,” a sophisticated website
dedicated to the concerns of the black intelligentsia.
Here, in conjunction
with the celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of
Abraham Lincoln, Professor Gates discusses two new
projects revolving around the 16th President, his book,
Lincoln on Race and Slavery, and his PBS special,
“Looking for Lincoln.”
* * *
Hi Dr. Gates, I’m honored to have this opportunity to
speak with you.
No, it’s my pleasure.
Where should I start? What approach did you take in
terms of producing your new PBS series on Lincoln?
Lincoln’s myth is so capacious that each generation of
Americans has been able to find its own image reflected
in the mirror of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is our “Man
for All Seasons.” There’s a Communist Lincoln, a
Republican Lincoln, Lincoln the writer, Lincoln the
orator, Lincoln the atheist, Lincoln the Christian,
Lincoln the war criminal, Lincoln the Savior of the
Union, the Confederate Lincoln, the African-American
Lincoln, etcetera. So, I wanted to look at all these
myths about Lincoln, deconstruct them, and see what the
actual man was like. And, frankly, I also wanted to
confront the complexity of his attitudes towards slavery
and racial equality, which weren’t exactly the same
thing. For, while he was fundamentally opposed to
slavery, it took him a while to embrace racial equality.
As a person who majored in black studies, I appreciated
the fact that you included
Lerone Bennett and a
discussion of his 650-page biography of Lincoln,
into Glory. Bennett’s ordinarily overlooked when it
comes to Lincoln scholars, since he indicts the 16th
President as a racist who very reluctantly freed the
Thank you. First of all, I admire
When I was 18, I read his essay in Ebony Magazine, “Was
Abe Lincoln a White Supremacist?” At the time, I didn’t
have the intellectual sophistication to judge his
evidence. But of course it was a shock when I read it.
Did you enjoy doing research for the series?
It was a delight! [Chuckles] Doing this film was a
learning experience for me, because I hadn’t explored
much of the Lincoln scholarship other than George
Fredrickson’s last book. [Big
Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts
Slavery and Race] I went back to read Lincoln’s own
words and what historians had to say about him.
What did you learn?
That he was an enormously complex man . . . that he had his
flaws, but he changed. He progressed. He changed during
the Civil War. Through the efforts of Frederick Douglass
and the achievements of the 200,000 black men who fought
in the Union Army, he came to have new respect for black
people. And, in fact, in his last speech he advocated
the right to vote for the black veterans and for the
“very intelligent Negroes.” That’s what made John Wilkes
Booth kill him. Booth was in the audience, and said,
“That’s it. That means [N-word] citizenship. And I’m
going to run him through.” So, Lincoln literally gave
his life for espousing black rights.
On the show, historian
Doris Kearns Goodwin
“It’s not Lincoln’s fault that he was mythologized.
Lincoln had to live in his times.” You responded to her
by saying, “Doris was right,” and “I’ve come to admire
him.” How did you get to that point?
I really got to that point in the middle of that
interview. I had been walking around upset with
Lincoln’s reluctance to support equal rights and his
determination to free the slaves but to encourage them
to migrate to Panama, Haiti or Liberia. Doris said,
“You’re upset because you feel like you’ve been lied to.
But Lincoln didn’t lie to you. The historians did.”
There’s a cult of Lincoln among some historians who feel
almost like they’re the disciples of Christ. Lincoln is
like a secular Christ in America. So, once I could get
straight about who to be upset with, I was fine.
KW: Another thing
you said which upset me was when you spoke about
Lincoln’s being the seminal story in American History.
Do you really think that Lincoln has replaced the
Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and
the rest of the Colonial Period?
SG: Oh, sure,
absolutely. The primal event in American History, other
than the founding itself, is the Civil War, saving the
Union, defending the Constitution, and redefining the
Declaration of Independence to include all men, which
Lincoln did. Lincoln was very consistent about that. So,
whereas you can’t have subsequent events without the
founding, it really was the Civil War which was the
truly great American Revolution.
KW: Tell me a little about
Lincoln on Race and Slavery.
SG: In this book,
I examine three strands of thought. Imagine a braid of
hair. Most of just us say, “Lincoln freed the slaves,
therefore he liked black people.” That’s the braid, but
it turns out the braid has three strands. One strand is
how he felt about slavery; another is how he felt about
racial equality, and the third is colonization. We find
contradictory impulses in Lincoln at least through 1863
when he finally begins to do the right thing, and all
three strands are re-connected into a new braid.
KW: What do you think about our new president?
SG: I think Barack Obama is going to be one of the
best presidents in the history of this republic.
KW: Is there a question you’ve never been asked,
that you wish someone would?
SG: [Chuckles] I’ve pretty much been asked
everything. . . . Here’s one: Why do I do what I do?
KW: Why do you do what you do?
SG: Because I love black people, and my goal is to
restore black history from on the grand scale, the broad
sweep of history, down to the level of each black
person’s family tree.
KW: Speaking of family trees, will there be a third
season of African-American Lives?
SG: My next
series is called “Faces of America,” where I’ll be
tracing the roots of two Jewish-Americans, two
Arab-Americans, two Latino-Americans, two
Asian-Americans, two West Indian-Americans, two Irish
Americans and an Italian-American. So, we’ll be
employing the same genetics and genealogy format, but
for the broader American public. I’m very excited about
KW: When I
interviewed Lisa Kudrow, she told me a similar British
TV-series is helping her trace her roots which had sort
of hit a dead end with the Holocaust as far as she
SG: Yeah, these
genealogy shows are popping up everywhere now. And most
of them are the sons and daughters of African-American
Lives, so I’m very proud of that.
KW: I remember you traced most of your roots back to
SG: Only on my father’s side. I definitely have
something called the U Neill Haplotype on my father’s
sign, which means I’m related to 8% of all the men in
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
SG: Sure, I was afraid the American people weren’t
going to do the right thing and overcome centuries of
discrimination by voting for the better candidate. A
month ago, my 95 year-old father had pneumonia and I was
KW: 95! God bless him!
SG: Thanks. A little fear is a good thing. Being
paralyzed by fear, however, is not a good thing.
KW: Why did you
stay at Harvard during the great exodus of so many other
African-American professors after they were mistreated
by then Harvard President Larry Summers (who is now in
the Obama administration)?
SG: I stayed to
defend what I,
former Harvard President
Neil Rudenstine and our
other colleagues had all built. I felt that it would be
vulnerable, if I left. That’s why I stayed, and it was
the right decision.
KW: How are Harvard students different from
SG: I’ve never taught Princeton students.
KW: Wait, I live in Princeton, and I used to see you
around town and even met you here at an NAACP function.
SG: I was at the
Institute for Advance Study while on leave from Harvard.
But I didn’t teach. I was on sabbatical. However, I
would imagine that the students are just as smart and as
energetic and wonderful as the students at Harvard.
They’re from the same gene pool. [Chuckles]
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
SG: I’m a very happy person. My life has been such a
fantasy, I’m sometimes afraid that I’m going to wake up
and it’ll turn out that I’ve been in a coma.
KW: That’s the vibe you give off, like Alicia Keys,
who has a very grounded vibe.
SG: Yeah, she’s very centered.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the
last book you read?
SG: A biography of
Alain Locke by Leonard Harris
and Chalres Molesworth.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of
your hero list?
SG: My mother, Pauline Coleman Gates, who is
deceased, and my father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr.
KW: What was the biggest obstacle you’ve ever had to
SG: I had an
infected hip replacement, a 300,000 white blood cell
count, which is huge. So, I had to have emergency
surgery, because I could have died. I wasn’t frightened,
but that was the biggest obstacle. That’s when you’ve
descended into the valley of the shadows, and you have
to fight to come back. And fortunately, I made it.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What
music are you listening to?
SG: I almost
exclusively listen to Soul Street on XM Radio, Channel
60. It’s R&B from the Fifties and Sixties. I’m just an
old-school black man.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help
SG: I want them to watch my programs and then give
me their feedback and tell me what they think. That’s
the best way they can help.
KW: What advice do you have for a young black kid
who wants to follow in your footsteps?
SG: Overall, by
staying in school, deferring gratification and believing
in the power of education is the way that we can help
ourselves as a people.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
SG: As a man who loved black people, and who fought
to preserve their great cultural traditions!
KW: Thanks again for the time, Dr. Gates.
SG: Thank you, buddy.
To see a trailer for
Looking for Lincoln
hosted by Skp Gates
* * *
Looking for Lincoln
PBS-TV Film Review by
What’s the truth about Abraham Lincoln? Was he really the man
mythologized as “The Great Emancipator” and a champion of equality for
African-Americans? Or was he, as some detractors say, a racist only
freed the slaves as a last resort to save the Union because the North
was losing the Civil War. Or still again, was he, as unrepentant rebels
still describe, a traitor of Southern whites who single-handedly ruined
the nation forever with the Emancipation Proclamation.
These are the divergent points-of-view of the 16th President of the
United States presented in Looking for Lincoln, a 2-part PBS
Series hosted by Harvard University Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates.
Among the historians weighing-in is Ebony Magazine editor Emeritus
Lerone Bennett, Jr. author of
into Glory, a
damning biography which depicts Honest Abe as a hypocrite who enslaved
far more blacks than he ever freed. And at the other extreme, Gates
interviews some rednecks he tracked down at a sons of the Confederacy
convention who looked like they were ready to string him up if he pushed
surprisingly, most of the luminaries participating in the program tend
to speak of Lincoln in more glowing terms. Included in this group are
Pulitzer Prize-winners Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner, former
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Professors David Blight,
Allen Guelzo, James Horton and David Herbert.
usual with his PBS programs, Skip Gates is given to making some of his
typically-grating, nails-on-the-blackboard pronouncements, such as “If I
had been President, I would have followed the same blueprint.”
Equally-infuriating is his saying “Doris was right,” in going out of his
way to rubber-stamp Kearns Goodwin’s lame explanation for Abe’s
decades-long delay in joining the abolitionist movement. “Lincoln had to
live in his times,” she explains.
Perhaps even more ponderous is her assertion that “It’s not Lincoln’s
fault that he was mythologized” despite her adding to the mystique with
her best seller “Team of Rivals.” Then, she makes the equally-bizarre
claim that he was assassinated “on the happiest day of his life” without
providing any conclusive proof to draw such a dramatic conclusion.
Nonetheless, Looking for Lincoln is a worthwhile bio-pic which
knocks off his pedestal an American icon undeserving of secular
Excellent (4 stars) ? Rated: TV-PG / Running time: 120 minutes /
To see a trailer for
Looking for Lincoln hosted by Skip Gates, visit:
* * * *
Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr.,
Ph.D. (born September 16, 1950) is an American literary critic,
educator, scholar, writer, editor and public intellectual. He was the
first African American to receive the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Fellowship. He has received numerous honorary degrees and awards for his
teaching, research, and development of academic institutions to study
black culture. In 2002, Gates was selected to give the
Jefferson Lecture, in recognition of his "distinguished intellectual
achievement in the humanities." The lecture resulted in his 2003 book,
The Trials of Phillis Wheatley.
As the host of the 2006 and 2008
PBS television miniseries
African American Lives, Gates explored the genealogy of prominent
African Americans. Gates sits on the boards of many notable arts,
cultural, and research institutions. He serves as the
University Professor at
Harvard University, where he is Director of the
W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.
Michael Kinsley referred to him as "the nation's most famous black
However he is criticized as non-representative of Black people by
prominent African-American scholars such as
John Henrik Clarke, and
Maulana Karenga. . . .
On July 16, 2009, Gates returned
home from a trip to China to find the door to his house jammed. His
driver attempted to help him gain entrance. A passer-by called police
reporting a possible break-in and a
Cambridge police officer was dispatched. The resulting confrontation
resulted in Gates being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
Prosecutors later dropped the charges.The incident spurred a politically
charged exchange of views about race relations and law enforcement
throughout the United States. The arrest garnered national attention
after the President declared that the police "acted stupidly" in
arresting Gates. The President eventually extended an invitation to both
Gates and the officer involved to share a beer with him at the White
House.On March 9, 2010, Gates claimed on
Oprah Winfrey Show that he and Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting
officer in the Cambridge incident, share a common ancestor.—Wikipedia
* * * *
Abraham Lincoln (February
12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States,
serving from March 1861 until
his assassination in 1865. He led the country through a great
constitutional, military and moral crisis — the
American Civil War — preserving the Union while ending slavery and
promoting economic and financial modernization. Reared in a poor family
on the western frontier, Lincoln was mostly self-educated. He became a
country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, and a one-term member of
United States House of Representatives, but failed in two attempts
at a seat in the
United States Senate. He was an affectionate, though often absent,
husband and father of four children.
After deftly opposing the expansion
slavery in the United States in his campaign debates and speeches,
Lincoln secured the Republican nomination and was
elected president in 1860. Following declarations of
secession by southern slave states, war began in April 1861, and he
concentrated on both the military and political dimensions of the war
effort, seeking to reunify the nation. He vigorously exercised
unprecedented war powers, including the arrest and detention without
trial of thousands of suspected secessionists. He prevented British
recognition of the
Confederacy by skillfully handling the
Trent affair late in 1861. He issued his
Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoted the passage of the
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing
Lincoln closely supervised the war
effort, especially the selection of top generals, including the
Ulysses S. Grant. He brought leaders of various factions of his
party into his cabinet and pressured them to cooperate. Under his
Union took control of the
border slave states at the start of the war and tried repeatedly to
capture the Confederate capital at Richmond. Each time a general failed,
Lincoln substituted another until finally Grant succeeded in 1865. An
exceptionally astute politician deeply involved with power issues in
each state, he reached out to
War Democrats and managed his own re-election in the
1864 presidential election.
As the leader of the moderate
faction of the Republican party, Lincoln came under attack from all
Radical Republicans wanted harsher treatment of the South, War
Democrats desired more compromise, and
Copperheads despised him—not to mention irreconcilable secessionists
in reconquered areas. Politically, Lincoln fought back with patronage,
by pitting his opponents against each other, and by appealing to the
American people with his powers of oratory. His
Gettysburg Address of 1863 became the most quoted speech in American
history. It was an iconic statement of America's dedication to the
principles of nationalism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. At the
close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of
Reconstruction, seeking to speedily reunite the nation through a
policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter
divisiveness. However, just six days after the surrender of Confederate
Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was shot and killed by Confederate
John Wilkes Booth at
Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. His death marked the first
assassination of a U.S. president. Lincoln has been consistently
ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. presidents.—Wikipedia
* * *
* * *
Remarks by the
President and the First Lady at Presentation of the National
Medal of the Arts and the National Humanities medal.—November
5, 1998—THE PRESIDENT: Near the beginning of this century,
W. E. B. Du Bois predicted a "black tomorrow" of African
American achievement. Thanks in large measure to Henry Louis
Gates, that tomorrow has turned into today. For 20 years he
has revitalized African American studies. In his writing and
teaching, through his leadership of the Dream Team of
African American scholars he brought together at Harvard,
Gates has shed brilliant light on authors and traditions
kept in the shadows for too long. From "signifying monkeys"
to small-town West Virginia, from ancient Africa to the new
New York, Skip Gates has described the American experience
with force, with dignity and, most of all, with color.
Ladies and gentlemen, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Applause.) The
Medal is presented.)—clinton6
The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American
Literary Criticism (1989)
Colored People: A Memoir (1994, memoir)
* * *
* * *
The Fiery Trial
Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
By Eric Foner
A mixture of visionary
progressivism and repugnant racism, Abraham Lincoln's
attitude toward slavery is the most troubling aspect of his
public life, one that gets a probing assessment in this
study. Columbia historian and Bancroft Prize winner Foner
(Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men) traces the
complexities of Lincoln's evolving ideas about slavery and
African-Americans: while he detested slavery, he also
publicly rejected political and social equality for blacks,
dragged his feet (critics charged) on emancipating slaves
and accepting black recruits into the Union army, and
floated schemes for colonizing freedmen overseas almost to
war's end. Foner situates this record within a lucid,
nuanced discussion of the era's turbulent racial politics;
in his account Lincoln is a canny operator, cautiously
navigating the racist attitudes of Northern whites,
prodded--and sometimes willing to be prodded--by
abolitionists and racial egalitarians pressing faster
But as Foner tells it, Lincoln also embodies a
society-wide transformation in consciousness, as the war's
upheavals and the dynamic new roles played by
African-Americans made previously unthinkable claims of
freedom and equality seem inevitable. Lincoln is no paragon
in Foner's searching portrait, but something more
essential--a politician with an open mind and a restless
conscience. 16 pages of illus., 3 maps.—Publishers
* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.
She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
* * * * *
What This Cruel War Was Over
Soldiers Slavery and the Civil
By Chandra Manning
For this impressively researched
Civil War social history, Georgetown
assistant history professor Manning
visited more than two dozen states
to comb though archives and
libraries for primary source
material, mostly diaries and letters
of men who fought on both sides in
the Civil War, along with more than
100 regimental newspapers. The
result is an engagingly written,
convincingly argued social history
with a point—that those who did the
fighting in the Union and
Confederate armies "plainly
identified slavery as the root of
the Civil War." Manning backs up her
contention with hundreds of
first-person testimonies written at
the time, rather than
memoirs. While most Civil War
narratives lean heavily on officers,
Easterners and men who fought in
Virginia, Manning casts a much
broader net. She includes
immigrants, African-Americans and
western fighters, in order, she
says, "to approximate cross sections
of the actual Union and Confederate
Based on the author's dissertation, the book is
free of academese and appeals to a general
audience, though Manning's harsh
condemnation of white Southerners'
feelings about slavery and her
unstinting praise of Union soldiers'
"commitment to emancipation" take a
step beyond scholarly objectivity.—Publishers
* * * *
A Life of Reinvention
in the making-the definitive biography of
the legendary black activist.
Of the great figure in twentieth-century
American history perhaps none is more
complex and controversial than Malcolm X.
Constantly rewriting his own story, he
became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and
an icon, all before being felled by
assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine.
Through his tireless work and countless
speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands
of black Americans to create better lives
and stronger communities while establishing
the template for the self-actualized,
independent African American man. In death
he became a broad symbol of both resistance
and reconciliation for millions around the
new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement.
Filled with new information and shocking revelations
that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a
sweeping story of race and class in America, from the
rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the
struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties
Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his
parents' activism through his own engagement with the
Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the
world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the
never-before-told true story of his assassination.
Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of
the most singular forces for social change, capturing
with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in
the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.
* * *
The People Debate the Constitution,
By Pauline Maier
A notable historian
of the early republic, Maier devoted a
decade to studying the immense
documentation of the ratification of the
Constitution. Scholars might approach
her book’s footnotes first, but history
fans who delve into her narrative will
meet delegates to the state conventions
whom most history books, absorbed with
the Founders, have relegated to
obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local
counties and towns, they influenced a
convention’s decision to accept or
reject the Constitution. Their
biographies and democratic credentials
emerge in Maier’s accounts of their
elections to a convention, the political
attitudes they carried to the conclave,
and their declamations from the floor.
The latter expressed opponents’
objections to provisions of the
Constitution, some of which seem
anachronistic (election regulation
raised hackles) and some of which are
thoroughly contemporary (the power to
tax individuals directly).
Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists,
animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting
how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s.
Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution
originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a
neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist
* * *
Lincoln on Race and Slavery
Edited By Henry Louis Gates and Donald
Generations of Americans have debated
the meaning of Abraham Lincoln's views
on race and slavery. He issued the
Emancipation Proclamation and supported
a constitutional amendment to outlaw
slavery, yet he also harbored grave
doubts about the intellectual capacity
of African Americans, publicly used the
n-word until at least 1862, and favored
permanent racial segregation. In this
book—the first complete collection of
Lincoln's important writings on both
race and slavery—readers
can explore these contradictions through
Lincoln's own words. Acclaimed Harvard
scholar and documentary filmmaker Henry
Louis Gates, Jr., presents the full
range of Lincoln's views, gathered from
his private letters, speeches, official
documents, and even race jokes, arranged
chronologically from the late 1830s to
Complete with definitive texts, rich historical
notes, and an original introduction by Henry Louis
Gates, Jr., this book charts the progress of a war
within Lincoln himself. We witness his struggles
with conflicting aims and ideas—a hatred of slavery
and a belief in the political equality of all men,
but also anti-black prejudices and a determination
to preserve the Union even at the cost of preserving
slavery. We also watch the evolution of his
racial views, especially in reaction to the heroic
fighting of black Union troops.
* * * * *
Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality,
By Adam Fairclough
Better Day Coming is intended,
in author Adam Fairclough's words, as
"neither a textbook nor a survey, but an
interpretation" (p. xiv) of the
circuitous struggle for racial equality
pursued by African Americans and their
occasional allies between 1890 and 2000.
Chronologically organized, the narrative
moves from an evaluation of the
hard-pressed, contending forces vying
for ascendancy in the black South at the
nadir to the interwar period and well
beyond, into the urban cauldron of the
northern ghettoes at the high point of
the Black Power movement. Fairclough
brings to his project a fluent
understanding of the shifting
institutional configurations of
opposition to Jim Crow and a keen
sensitivity to the ways in which the
efforts of those who fought it were
hampered, circumscribed, and
occasionally crushed by the pressures of
operating in a society formally
committed—for most of the period under
discussion—to aggressive defense of the
racial status quo.
Fairclough's "basic argument" seems at first glance
uncontroversial: that "although blacks differed . .
. about the most appropriate tactics in the struggle
for equality, they were united in rejecting
allegations of racial inferiority and in aspiring to
a society where men and women would be judged on
merit rather than by race or color" (p. xii).
But his ultimate aim is more ambitious: he sets out
to rehabilitate the accommodationist tradition
represented by Booker T. Washington which, though
"apparently unheroic," in the author's view "laid
the groundwork for the militant confrontation of the
Civil Rights Movement" (p. xiii).—h-net
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
posted 17 February 2009