Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Just finished a really excellent discussion of whiteness in the New Yorker. I’m just all aflutter at how great it is…Should I tell you all what I liked or just urge you to go read it for yourself?

Maybe I’ll leave you with Kelefa Sanneh’s conclusion and encourage you again to go read it and see how he gets there.

The demographic shift

doesn’t mean that there will be a white ‘minority’–whites will continue to be the country’s most populous racial group for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t mean that white is the new black–the two races have never been symmetrical, and never will be. And it doesn’t mean that whiteness is innocent of history–you can’t tell the story of whiteness (or, for that matter, blackness) without talking about racism. But, if the old race theory was brutally reductive, there is something reductive, too, about the idea that whiteness, for all its paradoxes, isn’t real. The history of human culture is the history of forgeries that become genuine, categories that people make and cannot simply unmake. So we should probably stop thinking of whiteness as an error, and start thinking of it, instead, as a work in progress. Historians have sometimes framed the treacherous history of whiteness as the slow death of an idea. Perhaps it’s time we start viewing it, instead, as the slow birth of a people.


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update to the update:

And then of course there’s the 10 dollar t-shirt sale TOMORROW cause of their anniversary! (actually today, Thurs, since most of you will read it on Thurs)

Been living with the same four basic t-shirts for about four months now and thinking about shopping. Got all excited by this cool website with t-shirts designed by artists and folks. I found a couple I think I might get, if I get over freaking out about money enough (some are only 12 bucks!). I was very excited by this Globe Trotter design, till I realized, well, it looks like a celebration of Britain’s worldwide empire.

Sometimes it sucks to be aware of the past. Well, that and not wanting to be a poster child for imperialism. Kinda ruins a whole lotta romantic ship imagery too, ya know? Like can’t get over the fact that those ships might be carrying slaves? (Grandpa gave us an awesome tapestry for our wedding of a ship getting ready to sail. I tacked it up happily in all our apartments till this last one…cause…well, I keep thinking there are slaves on that ship, or there is cotton from the new world picked by slaves, or guns ready to go to Africa to pick up more slaves…)

All the past is screwy and varied and awful stuff happened. That’s the problem with romanticized images. So, you know, I’m gonna get this t-shirt cause it’s not a romanticized version of the Renaissance at all:

I love trees and I love cities, so I also thought of getting this one, which is sort of a modern riff on the one above:

Other t-shirts on the site are the very opposite of romanticism, but it’s hard for me to imagine wandering around with skulls on my chest. Why not the excessively geeky puns, then? And do I really have the money? And I dearly adore many of them so how do I choose?

Best not to press purchase tonight, methinks. Cause after all it’s really just a way to escape writing my conclusion, which is actually going quite well, thank you one of my folks who provided a nice neat outline with a quote from her dissertation’s conclusion, but my brain is on vacation in t-shirt land.


I could totally wear this skeleton around and about town. Ladies and gents and folks who haven’t made up their minds, we have a new candidate:

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Sometimes I think we are in the same era as my period (1920-1940) and then I hear something like this, on the New Yorker Out Loud podcast:

I think, that, sometimes it is very important to take stock of a historical movement. I can think of no historical movement in American history that is more important to the American story than the Black Freedom Struggle.

–Editor of the New Yorker.

The podcast goes on to recognize the local nature of the struggle, and that it was not “Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement.” Scholarship does sift down into popular culture. Fascinating.

They are discussing a photographic and video portfolio of civil rights leaders as they are today that appears in the mid February edition of the New Yorker (the 85th anniversary edition).

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Went caffeine free for several years, but finally broke down recently b/c caffeinated drinks just taste better. Like any addict I said, I can start again without getting hooked. Why then am I so damn sleepy if I don’t have any coffee or tea in the morning now? (I perfer tea-time in the afternoon. I’m weird like that). …Next will come the splitting headaches if I miss a hit. Joy. Going to go make tea now.

Working on chapter 1. It’s finally better than the last draft, but still pretty shitty. Need to finish it up so I can send it to advisor before I fly back to cold country next week. Nothing like a good deadline to stir one’s soul.

Come on, Roses, at least it will mean you can stop working on Chapter 1 for awhile!!

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Eva B. Dykes

updated again: Found new picture of Eva Dykes. Amherst has uploaded a huge number of photographs from Du Bois’ Crisis and Personal files. It’s great. 3-19-2010

updated: Added a link to the edition of The Crisis on google books in which the picture of Dykes appears. 2/14/2010

Three black women received their Ph.D.s in 1921, making all three “firsts.” One, Sadie Mossell Alexander, was from a prominent Philadelphia family and went on to an influential career. She was shut out of economic work, what she got her Ph.D. in, but returned to school for a law degree and eventually became a judge. Her papers, and those of her husband, are stored at the University of Pennsylvania.

But the other two, Eva B. Dykes and Georgiana Simpson, seemed locked in a kind of mist where a short biography gets mentioned every where “firsts” are discussed, but not much else is known. I’m too lazy at the moment to look it up (and given Wikipedia’s track record with African Americans, I won’t link–I’ve had to fix its posts several times. Interested folks look at this in your local library), but I do think there is a bit more known about Dykes than Simpson (I wanted to study Simpson at the beginning of my diss process, but couldn’t find enough). Anywho, the point of this post is to tell anyone interested that there is a gorgeous photograph of Dykes in the July 1914 edition of The Crisis, p140. It is a graduation picture from Howard University. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of Dykes.

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Anybody who thinks that Jim Crow was maintained by the inertia of tradition doesn’t realize how much effort was put in to maintain it all the time, by average folks (though that is not to say that there wasn’t a lot of cooperation on both sides of the racial line).

For example, something I just read in a 1914 Crisis:

A Negro woman from Illinois was refused registration in the National Conference of Charities and Correction by a clerk employed by the local committee, until Graham Taylor peremptorily ordered that her named be entered. The sessions of the Southern Sociological Conference were adjourned form the Orpheum theater to a white church in order that the Negro members might sit on the main floor with their fellow members.

Guess I’ll have to amend the statement in the diss that academic conferences did not start to integrate until after WWII. I wonder what sort of a conference the Southern Sociological Conference was… the article describes it as a meeting of social workers, not academic sociologists. Interesting.

A couple pages later, Du Bois gives his interpretation of the event in an editorial:

The Negro problem is undoubtedly reaching a degree of spiritual complication which makes the onlooker hesitate between tears and hysterical laughter. A National Conference of Charities and Correction recently met in a great southern city. It is a conference that numbers in its membership practically ever great name in American social reform. It stands for advance and uplift, help and development in all lines of human endeavor. It met in Memphis. Memphis has a population of 142,619 with 52,441 Negroes and is the geographical center of the largest Negro population in the western world. The traveler from Altruria would surely assume that the problems touching these darker thousands and the relations of whtie and black would have been a matter of serious, thoughtful consideration. not so. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People pleaded for the inclusion of such subjects as matter of general discussion. But as the Survey says, the Negro problem was ‘not invited’ and appeared by rarely and quite incidentally on the program.

The excuse given by the officials was that the subject was too controversial and that the Southern Sociological Congress, meeting during the sessions fo the Charities Conference, would discuss these matters. Very good. But would not this same traveller from Altruria assume that at least every effort would be made to interest colored people in the general work of the conference? Here were matters touching the saving of children, the reduction of crime, increased cleanliness, the protection of mothers, conditions of labor, etc., all of which touched the colored people very closely in their every-day life. One would have thought that the highways and hedges would have been scoured to make the colored people of Memphis, and particularly their teachers, preachers, professional men and business men, become acquainted with modern philanthropic effort. This was not done. On the contrary, at the peremptory demand of the local white committee all Negroes were segregated in the gallery and, as a result, not a dozen Negroes attended the week’s sessions of this mighty conference. How could they and retain their self-respect?

Not everyone was pleased by the Southern Sociological Conference’s decision to move their meeting to avoid segregation. Du Bois quotes a letter from a man from North Carolina:

Mr. Clarence Poe, of North Carolina didn’t realize before attending the meeting that “white men and white women, Negro men and Negro women are all admitted on terms of equality as members and as participants in the Congress. At Memphis, moreover, the seating of both whites and Negroes on the first floor and the crowding out of white ladies by Negro men became so offensive (cultured ladies form my own town, for example, were escorted to their seats by negro ushers) that the local Memphis committee could not endure it, and passed a resolution asking the officers to have the Negroes seated separately in the first balcony. And then it was that ‘the officers of the conference’ the daily papers said–I do not know what officers, for you had just left town, I believe and so far as I know, the Executive Committee was not consulted–but at any rate, the ‘officers,’ in order to keep the Negro members right with the whites, left the Orpheum Theatre, which our Memphis hosts had provided, and adjourned to a separate theatre for a final meeting on the Negro problem at which one white man, one Negro, and one mixed-breed entertained the mixed assemblage of members.

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See here’s my problem. I secretly want to be a New Yorker author. There’s this wonderful article on Neil Gaiman (one of my favorite sci fi/fantasy/modern novel authors) in a recent issue. It is saying all these important things, but subtlety, without a “thesis” per se. It includes crazy things about the author’s life as well as simple observations. But I’m sure that each example was carefully selected and strung together. It’s like with this huge document I’ve forgotten how to select and instead just include everything that strikes my fancy.

I was looking at history journals last night to see if there was a different one I should send my poor rejected manuscript to, but it seems like my story is much more a sweet, interesting story of an individual than what most of the journals want. They seem to want something that studies these large, ambiguous things like “society” and “culture.” And journals that would be interested in a “smaller” story, like maybe a woman’s history journal, still want something that examines feminism and gender. I’m up a creek, without a boat or a paddle, but the flowers are gorgeous.

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