WINFRIED SIEMERLING, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2015), 560 pp.
Jan25

WINFRIED SIEMERLING, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2015), 560 pp.

Winfried Siemerling, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Past (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2015), 560 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 With his Black Atlantic Reconsidered, Winfried Siemerling has produced a necessary milestone for Black Canadian studies and, possibly, has written his magnum opus. The recipient of the 2015 Gabrielle Roy Prize, awarded by the Association for Canadian and Québec Literatures (ACQL), it counts as a major intervention in the still burgeoning scholarly field of Black Canadian Studies. At the same time as it is geared towards students, teachers, and scholars, the study garners much of its appeal by its outspoken address, too, of “a much wider readership” (ix). In The Black Atlantic Reconsidered, Siemerling combines several “time-spaces” (3) to situate what we call “Black Canadian writing” today in “its diasporic black Atlantic and hemispheric contexts,” which is one of his longstanding projects (ix).[1] In doing so, he follows other scholars like George Elliott Clarke who have criticized Paul Gilroy’s lack of attention to Canada as part of transatlantic history. Siemerling’s ambitious project features a vast amount of material from different temporal, spatial, and linguistic dimensions, stretching from the early eighteenth century to the immediate present, over various geographical locales, with a particular focus on the interplay between Canada and the Caribbean, and including the two major languages of English and French.   Following its didactic outreach, the study makes a deliberate attempt to incorporate digital enhancement and learning at home and in the classroom via its companion website blackatlantic.ca. This website offers, for example, links to author biographies as well as an ever-changing row of author portraits on the right-hand side of the page visualizing the Black Canadian diaspora. Most importantly, the website offers a plethora of documents and documentation following the chapter outline. In this way, readers are able to access primary source material, articles, newspaper clips, videos, etc., for each (sub)chapter according to their personal interests in order to ‘dig deeper’ into the archive. Here, then, lies one of the important contributions of Siemerling’s volume, i.e. continuing the work of scholars and artists like Lorris Elliott and Clarke in unearthing, presenting, and making accessible the Black Canadian archive, as well as reinforcing its undeniable presence and undisputable importance for Black Atlantic (literary) history and research.[2] The archive becomes ever more palpable in the appendix’s timeline of works and authors (362-96), which lists close to 300 years of textual production. Overall, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered can be used in different ways and might cater to different needs: one can read it as one continuous narrative, as a scholarly investigation...

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KRISTINA GRAAFF, Street Literature: Black Popular Fiction in the Era of U.S. Mass Incarceration (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 274 pp.
Jan25

KRISTINA GRAAFF, Street Literature: Black Popular Fiction in the Era of U.S. Mass Incarceration (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 274 pp.

Kristina Graaff, Street Literature: Black Popular Fiction in the Era of U.S. Mass Incarceration (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 274 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 In the late 1990s, street literature novels emerged in urban areas in the United States and have since risen to popularity particularly among African Americans. So far, this kind of popular fiction has rarely been addressed by academia, and in the instances that street literature has attracted scholarly interest, the discussions largely center either on classificatory questions or on these novels’ potential as an educational tool for promoting literacy among adolescents from marginalized and disadvantaged backgrounds.[1] Kristina Graaff’s Street Literature: Black Popular Fiction in the Era of U.S. Mass Incarceration presents an attempt to comprehend this literary phenomenon outside of the already established critical discourse. Her interdisciplinary analysis acknowledges street literature as a genre in its own right and examines the interaction between its representational and material organization. It focuses on ‘the streets’ and ‘prisons’ as symbiotic spaces that figure prominently in the narratives as well as in the lives of the authors, publishers and readers. By investigating the narrative and social (re)configuration of these two spaces, the author convincingly argues that the genre essentially reflects and rewrites larger socioeconomic developments, e.g. the increasing dominance of neoliberalism and the so-called War on Drugs with its concomitant system of mass incarceration. Moreover, examining this genre as both a social practice and a literary phenomenon enables Graaff to show street literature’s inherent ambiguities if not, in some instances, its double standards, in that it criticizes the street-prison symbiosis narratively while the involved actors often rely on it economically.   In the first part of her study, Graaff introduces her conceptualization of ‘the streets’ and ‘prisons’ as the analytical framework undergirding her investigation. Her account of the current U.S. justice system is noteworthy in this context, as it places special emphasis on the processes that engendered the emergence of prisons as institutions of mass incarceration and continue to govern their maintenance. At the same time, the author critically examines the disproportionate imprisonment of African Americans within the current U.S. justice system and criticizes the mainstream media and their coverage for amplifying racial prejudices about criminality by habitually portraying black men as violent perpetrators. Instead of accepting these populist explanations, Graaff proposes alternative explanatory models that better account for the growth of the (black) prison population: Besides the War on Drugs with “its variety of penal policies that […] are discriminatorily implemented in black low-income neighborhoods” (49) and “are more punitive toward petty crimes” (52), she also zooms in on public and private stakeholders’ economic interest in the preservation of...

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FLORIAN BAST, Of Bodies, Communities, and Voices: Agency in Writings by Octavia Butler, (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 221 pp.
Jan25

FLORIAN BAST, Of Bodies, Communities, and Voices: Agency in Writings by Octavia Butler, (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 221 pp.

Florian Bast, Of Bodies, Communities, and Voices: Agency in Writings by Octavia Butler, (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 221 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 In April 2014, the Guardian caused a stir by announcing that two previously unpublished stories—a novella entitled “A Necessary Being” and a short story, “Childminder”—had been found among notes and papers at a library in San Marino, CA.[1] The author of these texts was none other than Octavia Butler, the first black woman writer to gain fame in science fiction and the first to receive a MacArthur Fellowship for outstanding achievements in writing. The pieces were published in June 2014, immediately triggering a multitude of reviews in magazines, newspapers, and blogs within and outside of academia as well as an initial round of academic articles. The renewed attention around Octavia Butler thus highlights her continuing relevance within and influence on the cultural landscape of the United States, not only as a black woman writer who has considerably changed the ways in which we define the genres of science fiction and of African American literature, but as an iconic literary figure whose artistry touches audiences “as limitless as the identities of the characters in her writing” (Hampton 248).[2] Thus, Florian Bast’s monograph arrives at a particularly exciting time in Butler scholarship.   In his book, Bast analyzes selected works of Butler’s oeuvre through the lens of a central philosophical category, agency, arguing that Butler’s writing encompasses numerous texts that are centrally engaged with exploring the intricate ethical and theoretical complexities of agency—not only as individual texts but also in intertextual dialogue with each other. In so doing, Bast asserts further by echoing Barbara Christian’s “Race for Theory,”[3] Butler’s work both contributes to theoretical conceptions of agency by engaging with ongoing philosophical debates around it and exposes “the consequences that such general conceptualizations [of agency] have on those who face (multiple forms of) oppression” (18-19). Agency, as Bast points out, has been and continues to be paramount to African American (women’s) literary history, particularly with regards to constructions of the body, of community, and of voice (each of which is addressed in one of the three analytical chapters in this study) as well as to issues such as subjectivity, freedom, racism, and sexism, among many others (12). Yet this study’s focus on agency not only brings to the forefront the complex dynamics of oppression and marginalization in Butler’s texts, a notion that resonates particularly with a doubly-marginalized writer of black feminist science fiction. Even more importantly, Bast utilizes a highly productive analytical tool that does justice to and allows for the multifaceted—and often highly ambiguous—intersections between Butler’s heterogeneous works,...

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STELLA BOLAKI and SABINE BROECK, eds, Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies (Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 2015), Xii + 250 pp.
Jan25

STELLA BOLAKI and SABINE BROECK, eds, Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies (Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 2015), Xii + 250 pp.

Stella Bolaki and Sabine Broeck, eds, Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies (Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 2015), Xii + 250 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies is a collection of essays edited by Stella Bolaki and Sabrine Broeck in a transnational effort to show how the African American poet Audre Lorde’s (1934-1992) influential work has lived on. It is a volume that is based on a number of collaboratively organized conferences, workshops, and panels between 2012 and 2015, above all in England and Canada. The book is prefaced by Sara Ahmed’s very personal words, describing the meaning Audre Lorde has had in her own life as a woman “of color” (x) growing up in a white neighborhood in Australia. Ahmed’s “Foreword” makes evident that Lorde’s poetry, essays, and autobiography are political and have paved the way for radically voicing concerns about racism and sexism. It also reveals that the national is always already transnational since “the very ground of nations is shaped by histories of empire and colonialism” (xi). In times of a proliferation of the label “transnational,” Ahmed embraces a very down-to-earth definition that evokes the feminist idea of “the personal is the political”: “[…] the transnational is an actual lived space populated by real bodies. It is not a glossy word in a brochure but one that requires work. We have to work to learn from others who do not share our language. We have to travel out of our comfort zones, to open our ears” (xi). And this is precisely what the volume asks its readers to do. The editors of the collection describe their aim as exploring “the depth and range of Lorde’s literary, intellectual, and activist commitments by situating her life and work within transatlantic and transnational perspectives” (1). As early as in the introduction, readers begin to understand some of the dimensions of Lorde’s interest in connecting with black women across national borders, how the 1980s and the few years in the early 1990s brought her to Europe—above all to Germany, Switzerland, and England—and how concerned and even shocked she was to see racism and sexism on the rise again. People had connected tremendous hope with the destruction of the wall in Germany, but the racist attacks spreading across East Germany at the time motivated her and Gloria Joseph, her partner, to write a letter of protest to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and to ask: “Is this the new German version of ‘ethnic cleansing?’” (11). Such details of Lorde’s European activities have largely remained hidden, at least to those who are not actively involved in the preservation of Lorde’s legacy. They...

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STEFANIE MUELLER, The Presence of the Past in the Novels of Toni Morrison (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 270 pp.
Jan25

STEFANIE MUELLER, The Presence of the Past in the Novels of Toni Morrison (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 270 pp.

Stefanie Mueller, The Presence of the Past in the Novels of Toni Morrison (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 270 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 In Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007), Saidiya Hartman offers an insightful rumination on the ongoing structural and personal effects of slavery in the wake of the transatlantic slave trade. As she notes: “I, too, live in the time of slavery, by which I mean I am living in the future created by it” (133).[1] While Hartman has pushed generic boundaries for her considerations of racialized inequality, creating part autobiographical travelogue, part historiographical essay, part transnational sociological study, Toni Morrison has repeatedly and famously formalized her explorations of the legacies of slavery by turning to the genre of the novel. In order to analyze ways in which the Nobel laureate narrativizes the ongoing meaning of the apparatus of enslavement, Stefanie Mueller employs a sociological framework, approaching the following three novels: Paradise (1998), Love (2003), and A Mercy (2008).   The title of the monograph reviewed here takes its cue from sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s Logic of Practice (1990)—in which he locates “the active presence of the whole past” in the concept of habitus (qtd. in Mueller 34). It is this concept that facilitates Mueller’s examination of the relationship between past and present, which she combines with another, long-established sociological interest in analyzing how individuals are implicated in larger social structures. In her introductory chapter titled “Thinking Relationally,” which lays the theoretical groundwork of the monograph, Mueller surveys the sociological concepts relevant to her readings of Morrison’s novels. The most central one is Bourdieu’s habitus—“the interiorization of the exterior” (30), or “embodied history” (44n35)—located at the” interface between field and practice, which it generates and which does indeed change the field” (31n22). According to Bourdieu, individuals internalize exterior/social and prior/historical structures (of inequality) and reproduce them in their minds and actions. Habitus is thus both “opus operatum” and “modus operandi” (qtd. in Mueller 33), i.e. effect of structural relations of a field as well as generative cause of practices.   The first of four chapters offering close readings of Morrison’s novels opens with a narratological analysis of different strategies of focalization in Paradise, employed to signal the fragile dynamics of collectivization among the female characters who, as those familiar with the text will recall, assemble in an isolated place Morrison calls the Convent, set apart from an all-black town named Ruby. Mueller conceptualizes the dynamics at play between Ruby and the Convent and the functions of the line drawn between these two places with recourse to Norbert Elias and John L. Scotson’s model as...

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MICHELE ELAM, ed., The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (New York: Cambridge UP, 2015), 246 pp.
Jan25

MICHELE ELAM, ed., The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (New York: Cambridge UP, 2015), 246 pp.

Michele Elam, ed., The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (New York: Cambridge UP, 2015), 246 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 In the last twenty years, the major influence of theoretical frameworks such as the “Black Atlantic”[1] and the “Black Diaspora”[2] has led to the transformation of African American Studies to a more internationally oriented academic field. While this transcultural perspective has provided new insights into the works of numerous African American writers and intellectuals, the case of James Baldwin proves particularly fruitful for this angle of research: Baldwin has not only spent years of his life in countries such as France, Turkey, and Switzerland, but he has also collaborated with (and been influenced by) numerous international artists and intellectuals, and he is one of relatively few African American writers whose work has received a broad international reception. If one adds to this fact the ongoing relevance of ‘Baldwinian’ answers to questions connected to race, gender, identity, and migration, there is hardly any ground to doubt Michele Elam’s introductory argument that Baldwin’s “prescient questioning of the boundaries of race, sex, love, leadership, and country assume new urgency” in what she calls “the ‘post-race’ transnational twenty-first century” (3).   Connected by this argument, The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin presents thirteen essays by distinguished scholars of (African) American Studies, which all aim to provide new “perspectives on Baldwin’s aesthetic practice and politics across genre, across gender, across the globe, and across the color line” (12). The volume is complemented by an introductory essay by editor Michele Elam, a ‘coda’ by D. Quentin Miller, and some additional scholarly sources (among them, a chronology of Baldwin’s life, a guide to further reading, and a list of Baldwin’s works). While the supplemental material is clearly informative for anyone with little knowledge about Baldwin, Elam’s introduction appeals to scholars who are already familiar with Baldwin’s best known novels, plays, and essays, and who have an additional interest in the lesser examined domains of his work and in the complex, often contradictory images that others have (and had) of Baldwin. Stating that Baldwin’s slipping between the categories and periodizations of literary history has frequently led to a simplification of his oeuvre, Elam highlights several underappreciated aspects of his work that are investigated further throughout the volume and create coherence between the individual contributions: Baldwin’s role as “one of the first black public intellectuals of the postwar period” (5); his complex understanding of how art can relate to social reality and activate its audience through its “ethical potency” (8); his groundbreaking conception of race and identity as socially and historically constructed; and his rich view of the...

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WERNER SOLLORS, African American Writing: A Literary Approach (Philadelphia, PA: Temple U P, 2016), 296 pp.
Jan25

WERNER SOLLORS, African American Writing: A Literary Approach (Philadelphia, PA: Temple U P, 2016), 296 pp.

Werner Sollors, African American Writing: A Literary Approach (Philadelphia, PA: Temple U P, 2016), 296 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 African American Writing, Werner Sollors’s latest book, commands attention for a variety of reasons: as a compilation of previously published essays, it brings to light within the covers of one single book the astounding scope, learning, and depth of Sollors’s scholarship in the field at hand. AAW begins with an essay on eighteenth-century slave narrator Olaudah Equiano and ends two centuries later with a discussion of African American writing in the age of an Obama presidency. Some of the essays originally appeared as introductions to critical editions, such as the Norton critical edition of Equiano’s Interesting Narrative and Du Bois’s Autobiography by Oxford University Press; others were contributions to publications with rather limited circulation, as in the case of Sollors’s riveting account of African American intellectuals and Europe between the two World Wars, which was first published as part of a special issue of an academic series by the University of Tours (GRAAT) and dedicated to the late Michel Fabre. One essay, on LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman, was taken from Sollors’s first book Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones: The Quest for a “Populist Modernism” (1978), a pathbreaking study of Baraka’s metamorphosis from Beat to black poet based on Sollors’s dissertation at the Freie Universität Berlin; not only does this early monograph on Baraka stand out as a major achievement in the criticism of African American literature as ‘American’ literature, it also paved the way for the exceptional career of a German scholar of African American studies at two Ivy League universities, Columbia and Harvard.   Taken together, the twelve essays assembled here cover a large, impressive body of African American texts, both well and lesser known: from Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative and Charles Chesnutt’s plantation stories, to modernist novels such as Jean Toomer’s Cane, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Richard Wright’s Native Son; from programmatic essays (by Wright and Hurston) and a discussion of the influence of anthropology and sociology on African American writing, to Du Bois’s ambiguous account of his visit to Germany in 1936 and, finally, a survey of contemporary black literary responses to the notion of interracial kinship and a post-racial society (both concepts have been widely discussed after Obama’s inauguration as the nation’s first black president). The essays also display Sollors’s unique approach to African American writing, i.e., his attempt to understand the text under scrutiny as part of a larger transnational American modernist tradition without eclipsing its ethnic cultural specificity. This tendency is particularly apparent in a chapter on Jean Toomer’s Cane, in...

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CHRISTINA SCHÄFFER, The Brownies’ Book: Inspiring Racial Pride in African-American Children, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 60 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter Lang, 2012), 536 pp.;   GARY D. SCHMIDT, Making Americans: Children’s Literature from 1930 to 1960 (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2013), 318 pp.
Jan25

CHRISTINA SCHÄFFER, The Brownies’ Book: Inspiring Racial Pride in African-American Children, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 60 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter Lang, 2012), 536 pp.; GARY D. SCHMIDT, Making Americans: Children’s Literature from 1930 to 1960 (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2013), 318 pp.

Christina Schäffer, The Brownies’ Book: Inspiring Racial Pride in African-American Children, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 60 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter Lang, 2012), 536 pp. Gary D. Schmidt, Making Americans: Children’s Literature from 1930 to 1960 (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2013), 318 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 Christina Schäffer’s The Brownies’ Book and Gary D. Schmidt’s Making Americans are only two of the many recent contributions to an increasingly interdisciplinary field of research, which intertwines the study of children’s literature with children’s culture and a host of other academic disciplines, such as gender and media studies or the social and political sciences. In light of the explosion of publications related to children’s literature and childhood studies, Sarah Wadsworth has proclaimed another “Year of the Child,”[1] and according to John Wall this dynamic field is presently entering its “third wave.” After a first struggle for the recognition of children as social agents and subjects of human rights in the 1980s and demands for social equality since the late 1990s, children’s studies now aim to radically transform social structures and norms (Wall 70-71).[2]   As a result, there has been a steady chipping away at one of the most cherished myths of the late twentieth century—childhood innocence. In his seminal introduction to The Children’s Culture Reader (1998), Henry Jenkins explains that this powerful cultural construct, which developed from Romantic notions that children were not yet corrupted by society, served as a critique of the injustices and inequalities of Western industrial societies. By the late twentieth century, these ideas had given way to an understanding of children as pre-social, apolitical beings who needed to be protected from the dire realities surrounding them. Jenkins therefore calls for alternative models of children’s culture which acknowledge the ideological battles waged over such popular constructs and which recognize and advocate “children’s cultural, social, and political agency” (32).[3] Schäffer’s, as well as Schmidt’s, book responds to these developments and challenges, albeit in different ways.   With The Brownies’ Book: Inspiring Racial Pride in African-American Children, Schäffer provides a long overdue, comprehensive study of W. E. B. Du Bois’s efforts at launching the first monthly magazine by black authors for black children. The study contains five major chapters. Chapter two, “Genesis of a Magazine for the Children of the Sun,” introduces Du Bois’s objectives and, using the first issue from January 1920 as an example, the chief concerns, themes, and philosophical concepts behind it. Chapter three, “Taking Pride in Being Black: Strategies of Composing an African-American Children’s Magazine,” gives an overview of the magazine’s contributors and categorizes the contents of both text and image. Here, Schäffer highlights...

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ROBIN BERNSTEIN, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York and London: New York UP, 2011), 307 pp.
Jan25

ROBIN BERNSTEIN, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York and London: New York UP, 2011), 307 pp.

Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York and London: New York UP, 2011), 307 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 The idea of childhood innocence has become a naturalized element of discussions over race and rights, and, as Robin Bernstein shows in her discussion of Keith Bardwell, a justice of peace in Louisiana refusing to wed a white woman and a black man, the notion of having to “protect the children” oftentimes trumps other concerns within social debates—even if, as was the case in the Bardwell controversy, these children are wholly imagined at that particular point of the discussion (see 1 – 2). Arguing that the concept of childhood innocence has been central to the construction and negotiation of race since the nineteenth century, Bernstein highlights the binary construction of racial innocence in children: White children were imbued with innocence, black children excluded from it, while other children of color were erased from this racial binary altogether. Using a rich archive of written texts, illustrations, theater performances and artifacts of material culture (such as handkerchiefs or dolls), Bernstein traces and analyzes how “scriptive things” invited and shaped practices of conformation to anti-black ideology but also of resistance and re-appropriation.   In the introduction, Bernstein traces the development of the negotiation of childhood innocence from the Calvinist doctrine of infant depravity to the celebrations of childhood innocence such as by Locke (who famously declared children to be tabulae rasae) or Rousseau (whose Émile celebrated the idea of children’s uncorruptedness by civilization). The idea of children’s innocence took on an important turn in the nineteenth century, and it is this turn that lies at the base of Bernstein’s investigations of the role of racial innocence in the political processes of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century. Children were no longer seen as merely innocent, but became considered the embodiment of innocence itself, and as such were thought of as holy angels who could lead (inherently corrupted) adults to heaven. Importantly, however, the abstract idea of childhood (and childhood innocence) was comprised of white childhood, and the idea of the white angel-child both needed and created the need of its counterpart, the black “pickaninny.”   Methodologically, Bernstein works with a material culture approach of reading “scriptive things” (see 8–13, 69–91): an analysis of lived behavior in which cultural artifacts and the way they are used or denied to be used play a crucial role. In trying to read past performances of everyday objects by using archival and historical knowledge to determine which actions the scripted object invited and which ones it discouraged, this approach aims...

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CHRISTINE KNAUER, Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 337 pp.
Jan25

CHRISTINE KNAUER, Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 337 pp.

Christine Knauer, Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 337 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 Christine Knauer’s Let Us Fight as Free Men is a welcome addition to the growing body of historical scholarship on African American soldiers and the role of war and black military service in the black struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century. While a number of historians have analyzed the ways in which World War I served to simultaneously consolidate and challenge white supremacy, there are no studies that provide a detailed analysis of such social and political dynamics in the post-World War II era. Christine Knauer’s important book begins to bridge that historiographical gap.   Her study concentrates on black activists’ efforts to integrate the U.S. military in the second half of the 1940s, on black military service during the Korean War, and on the multiple ways in which African American activists and commentators interpreted the meanings of that particular war and black soldiers’ role in it. However, readers also learn much about the contributions of black servicemen and servicewomen to the American war effort during World War II, an aspect of the book that serves as a backdrop for the thorough analysis of the decade following the conflict’s end. Combining methodologies and analytical perspectives drawn from social, cultural, and military history, Knauer mined a considerable number of archives and analyzed the press coverage of dozens of African American and white newspapers and magazines.   What distinguishes Knauer’s work from other studies on soldiers of color after World War II is her detailed account of the interrelationship between black military service and civil rights activism, as well as her insightful analysis of the efforts of black pundits and journalists to reshape the image of black soldiers as a means of challenging centuries of racist stereotypes. She skillfully uses gender as a theoretical concept to probe how such ideas as citizenship and civil rights were intertwined with notions of femininity and masculinity. Let Us Fight as Free Men thus shows not only how discrimination within the U.S. military prompted black servicemen and servicewomen to fight for full equality in the military and in U.S. society more generally, but also how African American activists and editors utilized it to challenge entrenched traditions of white supremacy. Most significantly, the study reveals a concerted effort on the part of African American journalists to counter white supremacist memory with their own version of the past and the present, stressing black soldiers’ manly heroism in the wars that the United States had fought and attempting to project a...

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AMY KATE BAILEY, Lynched: The Victims of Southern Mob Violence (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2015), 276 pp.;  TAMEKA BRADLEY HOBBS, Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida (Tallahassee: UP of Florida, 2015), 273 pp.;  MANFRED BERG, Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011), 212 pp.
Jan25

AMY KATE BAILEY, Lynched: The Victims of Southern Mob Violence (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2015), 276 pp.; TAMEKA BRADLEY HOBBS, Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida (Tallahassee: UP of Florida, 2015), 273 pp.; MANFRED BERG, Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011), 212 pp.

Amy Kate Bailey, Lynched: The Victims of Southern Mob Violence (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2015), 276 pp. Tameka Bradley Hobbs, Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida (Tallahassee: UP of Florida, 2015), 273 pp.   Manfred Berg, Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011), 212 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 In July 2016, following the death of two African American men at the hands of police, black artists raised a flag in New York City eerily reminiscent of symbolic protest against mob violence perpetrated against African Americans during the Jim Crow era. The blocky white letters printed on black fabric read “A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday.” To protest and publicly condemn lynching, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hung a flag reading “A Man Was Lynched Today” followed by every reported lynching in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. From 1882 to 1965, white mobs killed thousands of black Americans, mostly black men between 20 and 40 years of age. Lynching was not solely a white on black crime. While the majority of lynch victims were African American, whites and other races and ethnicities also fell victim to mobs. The exact number of victims regardless of race and color will probably never be known, although not for the lack of trying on the part of researchers.   Over the last twenty-five years, sociologists, literary scholars, historians, and scholars of other disciplines have studied lynching in the United States extensively. The three books under review here add to this continuously growing field of study with different approaches, questions, and intentions. With the help of historical statistics, sociologists Amy Kate Bailey and Stewart E. Tolnay specify the identities of black lynch victims and identify commonalities and differences. By looking at four lynching cases in Florida in the 1940s, historian Tameka Bradley Hobbs uncovers the longevity of this form of violence and its painful and destructive legacy in the African American community. In contrast, historian Manfred Berg provides a sweeping historical overview of lynching in the United States.   Sociologists Amy Kate Bailey and Stewart E. Tolnay build on an earlier sociological study on lynchings in the U.S. South published by Tolnay and his colleague E. M. Beck. In A Festival of Violence (1995), the two developed an inventory of black lynch victims in ten Southern states to review the lists compiled by the NAACP, the Chicago Tribune, and the Tuskegee Institute. By sifting through newspapers, they managed to verify more than 2,400 deaths between the 1880s and 1930. Moreover,...

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MARCEL TRUDEL, Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage, Transl. George Tombs (Montréal: Véhicule Press, 2013), 323 pp.
Jan25

MARCEL TRUDEL, Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage, Transl. George Tombs (Montréal: Véhicule Press, 2013), 323 pp.

Marcel Trudel, Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage, Transl. George Tombs (Montréal: Véhicule Press, 2013), 323 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.3 George Tombs’s 2013 English translation of Marcel Trudel’s Deux siècles d’esclavage au Québec (2009) was fifty years overdue. Trudel’s magnum opus first appeared in 1960 under the title L’esclavage au Canada français and only first saw new editions in French in 2004 and again in 2009. Tombs has based his translation on this last version (13) which contains the 2009 text, Trudel’s preface and an introduction by the translator. However, both texts from 2009 and 2013 are by no means revised editions, as Trudel would still have it (13), but mere reprints of the original 1960s text, as Brett Rushforth has pointed out in his review (2005).[1] The translator does not hesitate to insert both Trudel’s work and his own in the vein of Canada’s “long denied” (7) history of black people. Indeed, the resistance to Trudel’s book was great when it first appeared in 1960. His insertion of slavery as both an established and encouraged fact from the beginnings of the settlement of what we call Canada today unveiled an inconvenient truth for nationalist historians at the time while at the same time challenging the powerful hegemonic narrative of a white settler society in New France. This revelation may well represent one of the reasons why the monograph has since become the authoritative source on slavery in New France and Quebec. In turn, this has also meant that its obvious shortcomings as well as most problematic assertions have been ignored and/or downplayed.   On the one hand, there are strong points to be made in favor of Trudel for which he should be commended: His comprehensive and ambitious study of slavery between some of the First Nations, Blacks, and European settlers, and the presence of black people in New France is certainly the first of its kind. Given that Robin Winks’s equally famous monograph from 1971 attempted to cover the whole of Canada, Trudel remains the sole authority on New France and Quebec, although Frank Mackey has recently published works on the history of slavery and black people in Montreal (2004; 2010). Trudel’s work was thus remarkable given the context of the beginning Quiet Revolution in Quebec, not only because the book established slavery as a fact that was heavily supported and maintained by religious elites, among others. Even today, to some extent, it explicitly and provocatively challenges the belief in a whitewashed history of the province by openly addressing métissage as a still “irritating problem” for many Québécois (230) and by directly linking common...

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