This is the course blog for the seminar in U.S. Black Freedom Movements. Students will be submitting their work here throughout the semester. Students can submit links, video clips, and their own thoughts on reading materials and even current events or conversations that intersect with the course.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Reading (and Viewing) Suggestions 1
Here is a the documentary produced by California Newsreel of Bayard Rustin's life and career as an activist.
Suggestions for further reading:
The first comes from an essay that has won a prize for the
best essay on Civil War scholarship from the official journal, The Journal
of the Civil War Era, of the Society of Civil War Historians. The essay,
titled “‘Only Murder Makes Men’: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience,”
was written by historian Carole Emberton of the University of Buffalo. I have
not been able to locate a full-text copy of the article, which appeared in the
September 2012 issue of the journal. (The journal appears to be available through Project Must, but the library may not have a subscription. Please let me know if you have any better luck.) However, I have copied the first paragraph
of her article below:
“In his pioneering study of emancipation, W. E.
B. Du Bois made a provocative assertion about the manner in which African
American men earned their freedom. ‘How extraordinary,’ he wrote, ‘and what a
tribute to ignorance and religious hypocrisy, is the fact that in the minds of
most people, even those of liberals, only murder makes men.’ Reflecting on the
relationship between violence, manhood, and freedom, he continued, ‘The slave
pleaded, he was humble; he protected the women of the South, and the world
ignored him. The slave killed white men; and behold, he was a man.’ Du Bois’s
discomfort with the relationship between military service, manhood, and freedom
seems at odds with the view held by many people at the time, particularly
abolitionists, who imagined the military as not only the most direct path to
political equality for African Americans and the swiftest route to slavery’s
destruction but also as an indispensible vehicle for the internal
transformation of slaves into free men and citizens. Frederick Douglass
heralded soldiering as the key to both collective and personal liberation. He
reminded a crowd in Philadelphia in 1863 that ‘slavery can be abolished by
white men, but liberty so won for the black man, while it may leave him an
object of pity, can never make him an object of respect.’ Confident ‘in the
full belief that the true course to the black man’s freedom and citizenship was
over the battlefield,’ Douglass worked tirelessly as an army recruiter to
convince his fellow African Americans to share in his libratory vision of
military service. For Douglass, whose own transformation from slave to free man
had begun years earlier when he drew blood in battle with the slave breaker
Covey, fighting back enabled black men to break both the physical and mental
bonds of slavery. The story of black manhood won on Civil War battlefields
became a point of pride for African Americans in the dark days of Jim Crow.
Why, then, did Du Bois seem so disenchanted with the glorious narrative of the
black Civil War soldier?”
As mentioned in class:
Langston Hughes, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (1926). This essay has been anthologized often, so you should be able to locate a copy pretty easily. If not, I have it in my office.
Kenneth Warren, What Was African American Literature? Harvard University Press, 2012.
And two more:
Glenda R. Carpio, Laughing Fit to Kill: Black Humor in the Fictions of Slavery. Oxford University Press, 2008
Jelani Cobb, "Barack X." Posted on The New Yorker's "News Desk" Blog: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/10/barack-obama-and-malcolm-x.html