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Book Review Archives - Institute of the Black World 21st Century

Titus Kaphar: Page 4 of Jefferson’s ‘Farm Book’…, 2018. That page of Jefferson’s ledger lists the names of enslaved people on his plantation at Monticello in January 1774.

How Proslavery Was the Constitution?

By | Commentaries/Opinions, Reparations

By Nicholas Guyatt — Were the Founding Fathers responsible for American slavery? William Lloyd Garrison, the celebrated abolitionist, certainly thought so. In an uncompromising address in Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, Garrison denounced the hypocrisy of a nation that declared that “all men are created equal” while holding nearly four million African-Americans in bondage. The US Constitution was hopelessly implicated in this terrible crime, Garrison claimed: it kept free…

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Mansa Musa, the king of Mali, approached by a Berber on camelback; detail from The Catalan Atlas, attributed to the Majorcan mapmaker Abraham Cresques, 1375

Africa’s Lost/Forgotten Kingdoms

By | Reparations

By Howard W. French, NYR — There is a broad strain in Western thought that has long treated Africa as existing outside of history and progress; it ranges from some of our most famous thinkers to the entertainment that generations of children have grown up with. There are Disney cartoons that depict barely clothed African cannibals merrily stewing their victims in giant pots suspended above pit fires.1 Among intellectuals there is…

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Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, 1968

The Language of the Unheard: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Social Democracy

By | Editors' Choice, Reparations

By Robert Greene II, The Nation — Gone was the optimism of 1963. It had been replaced by a sense of disillusionment, a sense of urgency that America was about to lose the last chance to have its soul.” This was how Jet magazine described the climax of the Poor People’s Campaign, which reached Washington, DC, in the tumultuous summer of 1968. For Jet and for many early civil-rights activists, the Poor People’s Campaign…

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Nazi officials use calipers to measure an ethnic German's nose on January 1, 1941. The Nazis developed a pseudoscientific system of facial measurement that was supposedly a way of determining racial descent.

The Disturbing Resilience of Scientific Racism

By | Editors' Choice

A new book explores how racist biases continue to maintain a foothold in research today By Ramin Skibba, Smithsonian — Scientists, including those who study race, like to see themselves as objectively exploring the world, above the political fray. But such views of scientific neutrality are naive, as study findings, inevitably, are influenced by the biases of the people conducting the work. The American sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote,…

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Turbulent history … Tamara Lawrance in the BBC adaptation of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song.

‘We’re still living with slavery’

By | Reparations

From prize-winners Esi Edugyan and Marlon James to debut novelists such as Sara Collins, a new generation of novelists is exploring a painful past. By Colin Grant, The Guardian — Two hundred years ago, slave narratives seemed one of the few routes to publication for black writers on both sides of the Atlantic. Autobiographical accounts written by former slaves such as Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass proved enormously popular with readers, who…

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Empire Windrush migrants arrive at Tilbury in 1948.

‘There were Africans in Britain before the English came here’

By | Commentaries/Opinions, Reparations

How Staying Power shook British history. When it was published in 1984 Staying Power vividly captured the struggle for black British identity. Nearly 35 years on it still has lessons to teach. By Gary Younge, The Guardian — “The very serious function of racism is distraction,” Toni Morrison argued in a lecture in Portland, Oregon, in 1975: It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and…

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Frederick Douglass

David Blight on Frederick Douglass: ‘I call him beautifully human’

By | Commentaries/Opinions

‘At first I didn’t want to,’ says the author of this magisterial biography of the great abolitionist, ‘it was so daunting’ By Martin Pengelly, The Guardian — David Blight arrives in New York pulling his carry-on luggage, en route from Washington, soon to fly onwards to San Francisco. Such is the interest in his new biography of Frederick Douglass, a book 10 years in the writing and a whole career…

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The crowd at a get-out-the-vote rally during a speech by Michelle Obama, Miami, Florida, September 2018

Fighting to Vote

By | Editors' Choice

By Michael Tomasky, The New York Review — The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present by Allan J. Lichtman Harvard University Press, 315 pp., $27.95 If you grew up, as I did, in the 1960s and 1970s, watching (albeit through a child’s eyes) the civil rights movement notch victory after victory, you could be forgiven for thinking at the time that that happy condition was normal.…

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Denmark Vesey House at 56 Bull Street in Charleston, South Carolina.

Slavery and Memory in Charleston, South Carolina

By | Reparations

By Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders, AAIHS — The familiar refrain after the Emmanuel AME massacre on June 17, 2015, was that Dylann Roof, the murderer, was not from “here.” But as Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts’ Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy aptly demonstrates, Roof’s understanding of history and memory in Charleston led him to that church; and his understanding was not alien to the sometimes violently, oft-contested memory of slavery in the…

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Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd after an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Missouri.

How Fascism Works review: a vital read for a nation under Trump

By | Commentaries/Opinions

Yale professor Jason Stanley enters a growing literary field with a sober examination of an inflammatory political concept. By Tom McCarthy, The Guardian — One of the insidious ironies of fascist politics, the philosopher Jason Stanley writes in his arresting new book, is that talk of fascism itself becomes more difficult because it is made to seem outlandish. The normalization of the fascist myth “makes us able to tolerate what was once…

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