The Zamani Reader

On Atlantic Africa and the West Indies (1655-1807)


Public History

Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part Two) — Why is Graduate School so Hard, Especially in the First Year?

Well, I have officially finished my first year of the PhD History program at UC Davis. To be more precise, I finished my first year a couple of months ago, when I turned in the last of my final exams for Spring Quarter around the second week of June. I meant to write these reflections immediately after finishing the school year, but then I got caught up with other obligations and I was, frankly, pretty tired of writing. I took a job right after school ended, teaching another course at Solano Community College. The new dean of the college called me up and offered me the opportunity to teach a summer course before Davis had ended. Because Davis is on the quarter system, and SCC is on the semester system, that summer class began only one week after my graduate classes finished. In fact, I was planning the summer course at SCC before I had finished my classes at Davis.

Continue reading “Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part Two) — Why is Graduate School so Hard, Especially in the First Year?”

Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part One) — What is it like Coming to an Large, Public Research Institution?

This past December concluded my first quarter as a PhD History student at the University of California, Davis. I handed in my final papers the first week of December, and I went on a short-lived winter break, from which I have already returned. Even though I had been on the dreadful “quarter system” (as opposed to the more ideal “semester system”) for my undergraduate studies at DePaul University, the timing was a little different there. At Depaul, students had a lot more time off for winter break. Our classes ended before Thanksgiving and returned after the winter holidays, during the first week of January. This gave students over a month off. At Davis, we did not get out until the end of the first week of December, leaving us about three weeks of break. But this really becomes more like two weeks because you have to discount the final week of break, which students spend doing homework in preparation for the first class of the next quarter. Sigh.

Continue reading “Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part One) — What is it like Coming to an Large, Public Research Institution?”

Reflections from an Adjunct History Instructor (Part One) — What are the Benefits and Limits of Being an Adjunct?

Well, my first semester as an adjunct History professor ended less than a month ago. The students in the course that I was teaching, HIST 037, “Women in American History,” took their final on Monday, December 14, and I spent the next few days grading those exams and submitting their scores online. Now that a few weeks have passed, I wanted to start a new series of blog entries that would do two at least things. First, extend my gratitude to everyone who makes these courses possible, from the staff and faculty of Solano Community College (SCC) to the maintenance crew, and to the students themselves, who gave me the benefit of the doubt when I was less prepared than I should have been, and who extended excellent feedback during our last seminar. Second, share some initial reflections about life as an adjunct (part-time) professor at a community college generally, and as a teacher of “Women in American History” specifically. This blog post is intended to start an ongoing exploration of these topics. I plan to follow-up with more posts throughout the year.

Continue reading “Reflections from an Adjunct History Instructor (Part One) — What are the Benefits and Limits of Being an Adjunct?”

My Favorite Historical Lecture

James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Debate Video

(Click the link above to skip the commentary and watch the debate)

Since I finished my summer independent study course last week, you will finally stop seeing book reviews on “The Black Atlantic” posted on this blog. For those of you that read some of those reviews, thank you for giving me an audience. Now, I have decided to followup my weekly tradition by posting a video. My favorite historical video. Continue reading “My Favorite Historical Lecture”

Are you Smart Enough for High School History?

As the spring 2014 semester winds down for us Loyola history majors over the course of the next week, I thought that it would be nice to celebrate with something fun, light and easy. For that reason, I am posting on our blog to share with you an interactive website that one of my students at the Howard Area Community Center has recently introduced me to. The site is an online companion to the world history textbook Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources; and it was created by the author and global historian Robert William Strayer. Continue reading “Are you Smart Enough for High School History?”

Manufacturing Sustainability in the Postindustrial Age

Image of Meiji-Jingu forest on the outskirts of Tokyo

Ninety years ago, citizens of Tokyo, Japan, asked their government for permission to honor the passing of their imperial leaders by cultivating a sustainable, forest shrine on the outskirts of town. The result was Meiji-jingu, an “eternal forest” of 120,000 trees, planted on 700,000 square meters of previous “marshland, farms, and grassland.” Based upon the Shinto religious belief that natural deities, called Kami, reside within the wood of sacred forests, the shrine was designed to be a paragon of sustainability. But, while the model of Meiji-jingu proves to be sustainable, it is also anything but natural. An examination of literature in the sub-fields of environmental and urban history reinforces this relationship, suggesting that sustainable environments have indeed existed in the past, but that they have suffered as a consequence of failed stewardship during the industrial era. Continue reading “Manufacturing Sustainability in the Postindustrial Age”

Highlights from the Chicago Metro History Fair, Suburban Regionals

history fair

Official image for the American, academic competition of National History Day, 2014.

On Saturday, March 1, 2014, Niles North High School in the village of Skokie, Illinois, hosted the Suburban Regional Competition for the Chicago Metro History Fair. The top 300 students from nineteen suburban secondary schools came to Niles North in order to present 150 historical projects in the format of poster-board exhibit, research paper, performance, documentary, or website. Emelie and I decided to attend the event as first-time, volunteer judges. After two orientations, the event organizers paired us with a veteran judge and assigned us to Room 2030, where we were tasked with judging a panel of 5 group documentaries. The following blog post is a reflection on that experience. Continue reading “Highlights from the Chicago Metro History Fair, Suburban Regionals”

Conquering the Organic in Filthy Cities

In 2012, the final episode of the BBC-documentary series Filthy Cities, hosted by the English television presenter Dan Snow, took viewers back “to a seething Manhattan in the throes of the industrial revolution.” Among other things, the only American episode of this three-part series argued that New York was a “nightmare” for the millions of poor emigrants who settled in the Lower Manhattan slum of Five Points in the late nineteenth century. Continue reading “Conquering the Organic in Filthy Cities”

Separating Cultures in Opening the Vaults at the Field Museum

Displaying photo 5.JPG

On Friday, October 23, 2013, the Field Museum of Chicago launched its temporary exhibit Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair in their Holleb Exhibition Gallery on the first floor. To be clear, this post is not intended to be a journalistic review of that exhibit. If that is what you are looking for, I can only direct you to reviews by the Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Johnson and the TimeOut Chicago reporter Jake Malooley. Instead, this post is intended to address a singular, structural assumption that other reporters have not fully discussed. This assumption is the strict and continued separation of Western civilization from other cultures—an intellectual separation that was embodied in the structure of the original Columbian Exposition of 1893, and reaffirmed one-hundred and twenty years later in the structure of Opening the Vaults. Continue reading “Separating Cultures in Opening the Vaults at the Field Museum”

Reflections on the Documentary DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis

DuSable to Obama DVD DocumentaryThe 2010, WTTW-Channel 11 (otherwise known as Chicago PBS) documentary DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis endeavors to present over two centuries of African-American history in Chicago, from the settling of the Afro-French trader Jean Baptiste Point du Sable at the mouth of the Chicago River around 1790, to the presidential victory speech of Barack Obama in November, 2008, at Grant Park. Needless to say, this is an ambitious task. At a length of exactly two hours and sixteen minutes, the documentary succeeds in packaging black-Chicago history for its public audience, but it also falls prey to problems associated with deciding when to adhere to dominant narratives and when to create a new narrative by introducing stories that are local and unexpected. Continue reading “Reflections on the Documentary DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis”

The Columbian Question: A Call for a Plebiscite on Columbus Day

Columbus Day ECardIn 1994, Common Courage Press, a progressive publishing house dedicated to social justice and based out of the small town of Monroe, Maine, produced a manuscript entitled Indians Are Us?: Culture and Genocide in Native North America. The author of this text was none other than the Creek-Muskogee intellectual, political activist, and scholar, Ward LeRoy Churchill, who was at the time serving as the professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. In the second chapter, entitled “Bringing the Law Back Home: Application of the Genocide Convention in the United States,” Churchill joined—and perhaps even surpassed—a growing number of journalists, scholars, activists, and citizens by emphatically calling for an end to the annual celebration of Columbus Day in America. “Undeniably,” Churchill wrote, “the situation of American Indians will not—in fact cannot—change for the better so long as such attitudes are deemed socially acceptable by the mainstream populace. Hence, such celebrations as Columbus Day must be stopped.” Continue reading “The Columbian Question: A Call for a Plebiscite on Columbus Day”

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