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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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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