February is Black History Month, and we’re pleased to share some of our recent books and journals that explore this essential field.
In Why the Vote Wasn’t Enough for Selma Karlyn Forner rewrites the heralded story of Selma to explain why gaining the right to vote did not bring about economic justice for African Americans in the Alabama Black Belt. Drawing on a rich array of sources, Forner illustrates how voting rights failed to offset decades of systematic disfranchisement and unequal investment in African American communities. Forner demonstrates that voting rights are only part of the story in the black freedom struggle and that economic justice is central to achieving full citizenship.
Born in 1901, Louise Thompson Patterson was a leading and transformative figure in radical African American politics. Throughout most of the twentieth century she embodied a dedicated resistance to racial, economic, and gender exploitation. In Louise Thompson Patterson: A Life of Struggle for Justice, the first biography of Patterson, Keith Gilyard tells her compelling story, from her childhood on the West Coast, where she suffered isolation and persecution, to her participation in the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. To read her story is to witness the courage, sacrifice, vision, and discipline of someone who spent decades working to achieve justice and liberation for all.
Named a Best Art Book of 2017 by the New York Times and Artforum, Kellie Jones’s South of Pico explores how the artists in Los Angeles’s black communities during the 1960s and 1970s created a vibrant, productive, and engaged activist arts scene in the face of structural racism. Emphasizing the importance of African American migration, as well as L.A.’s housing and employment politics, Jones shows how the work of black Angeleno artists spoke to the dislocation of migration, L.A.’s urban renewal, and restrictions on black mobility.
A landmark exhibition on display at the Brooklyn Museum from April 21 through September 17, 2017, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism. The accompanying Sourcebook republishes an array of rare and little-known documents from the period by artists, writers, cultural critics, and art historians. Available in February, the second volume, New Perspectives, includes original essays and perspectives by Aruna D’Souza, Uri McMillan, Kellie Jones, and Lisa Jones that place the exhibition’s works in both historical and contemporary contexts, and also includes two new poems by Alice Walker. We Wanted a Revolution is on display at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles through January 14, 2018; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York from February 17, 2018 through May 27, 2018; and the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston from June 26, 2018 through September 30, 2018.
In Tropical Freedom Ikuko Asaka engages in a hemispheric examination of the intersection of emancipation and settler colonialism in North America. Asaka shows how from the late eighteenth century through Reconstruction, emancipation efforts in the United States and present-day Canada were accompanied by attempts to relocate freed blacks to tropical regions, as black bodies were deemed to be more physiologically compatible with tropical climates. By tracing negotiations of the transnational racialization of freedom, Asaka demonstrates the importance of considering settler colonialism and black freedom together while complicating the prevailing frames through which the intertwined histories of British and U.S. emancipation and colonialism have been understood.
In Listening for Africa David F. Garcia explores how a diverse group of musicians, dancers, academics, and activists engaged with the idea of black music and dance’s African origins between the 1930s and 1950s. Garcia traces how attempts to link black music and dance to Africa unintentionally reinforced the binary relationships between the West and Africa, white and black, the modern and the primitive, science and magic, and rural and urban.
In The Revolution Has Come Robyn C. Spencer traces the Black Panther Party’s organizational evolution in Oakland, California, where hundreds of young people came to political awareness and journeyed to adulthood as members. Challenging the belief that the Panthers were a projection of the leadership, Spencer examines the impact the organization’s internal politics and COINTELPRO’s political repression had on its evolution and dissolution. She also centers gender politics and the experiences of women and their contributions to the Panthers and the Black Power movement as a whole.
Drawing primarily on the US #blacklivesmatter movement, contributors to South Atlantic Quarterly’s special issue “After #Ferguson, After #Baltimore: The Challenge of Black Death and Black Life for Black Political Thought” come to terms with the crisis in the meaning of black politics during the post–civil rights era as evidenced in the unknown trajectories of black protests. The authors’ timely essays frame black protests and the implications of contemporary police killings of black people as symptomatic of a crisis in black politics within the white limits of liberal democracy.
Topics in this issue include the contemporary politics of black rage; the significance of the Ferguson and Baltimore black protests in circumventing formal electoral politics; the ways in which centering the dead black male body draws attention away from other daily forms of racial and gender violence that particularly affect black women; the problem of white nationalisms motivated by a sense of white grievance; the international and decolonial dimensions of black politics; and the relation between white sovereignty and black life politics.
World Policy Journal’s special section, “Black Lives Matter Everywhere,” takes an international lens to the topic of Black Lives Matter. In ““What Will Happen to All that Beauty?”: Black Power in the Banlieues“, contributor Hisham Aidi explores how Muslim youth in France are looking to the Black Power movement in the U.S. for inspiration as they found their own race-conscious political organizations. ““Not Blacks But Citizens”: Race and Revolution in Cuba” investigates how Afrocubanas are still fighting anti-black discrimination after the Communist Party seized control of Cuba in 1959. “How are they Dying?: Politicizing Black Death in Latin America” asks the difficult question “How are black people dying?” in order to investigate attempts to humanize and dehumanize black citizens across the Americas.