The Zamani Reader

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


Winter/Spring, 2016

Review Essay on the Gulf South Published with the Journal of Florida Studies

Dear readers, last summer I was looking for some more opportunities to publish in the field of Florida History, and so I reached out with a cover letter to a publication that I came across online called Journal of Florida Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Idea and Place that is Florida. In the following weeks, Casey Blanton, the Editor in Chief of the journal, responded with an opportunity for me to publish a book review of the historian F. Todd Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, published in 2014 by Louisiana State University Press. I agreed and, after about eight months time, that review was published in early April in the second part of a two-part issue based on the iconic, early American naturalist William Bartram (1739-1823). The issue is called Travel and Travels, taking its name from the shortened title of Bartram’s most famous work. The full title is Travels through North & South Carolina, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws, Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. The book was originally printed in Philadelphia by James and Johnson in 1791, and it detailed Bartram’s travels among American Indian peoples in the US South between the years 1773 and 1777. Here is an image of the title page to the second edition:

Bartram Image

During my initial correspondence with Casey, she told me that the Journal of Florida Studies favors more lengthy book reviews, in contrast to the 700-word reviews that are the bread-and-butter of hard-copy academic journals. The Journal of Florida Studies is, after all, an online publication; and the online platform is known for giving both editors and writers more freedom to compose longer, in-depth pieces. As a result, I took my time in this book review, and I wrote 12 pages. Of course, I wanted to evaluate Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, but I also wanted to use that work as a sounding board for some discussions of a few larger concepts that he addresses. In particular, these concepts are the theoretical framework of “New Frontier History” and the geographical region of the “Gulf South.” I am curious about both of these terms and how they will be received by historians, teachers, and students going forward. Smith’s new work is both an historical synthesis and a case study. As such, it is an ideal work for examining the implementation of these two ideas. Overall, the book is an attempt to construct a New Frontier History of the Gulf South region–an area that is loosely defined as the region of the present-day US South that border on the Gulf of Mexico–during the early-modern era.

Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier (2014)

I have included a link to my review of Louisiana below, as well as links to the current issue of the Journal of Florida Studies. For those readers who are interested in Florida History, or in getting ideas for how to create their own online journal, FJS is a great resource. Unlike most academic journals today, JFS is truly interdisciplinary. The editors have managed to mix rigorous academic research with poetry, fiction, photography, and other digital arts to create a one-of-a-kind, peer-reviewed journal that explores all aspects of Florida as both an idea and a place. As they say on their website, “JFS is an outgrowth of the Center for Interdisciplinary Writing and Research (CIWR) at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Florida.” The journal is “dedicated to the study and appreciation of Florida.”

In closing, I would like to thank Casey Blanton and everyone else at JFS for allowing me to write a book review for their publication. I would also like to thank the historian F. Todd Smith for his hard work in researching and writing Louisiana. Enjoy!

Extended Book Review of F. Todd Smith’s Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier

The Journal of Florida Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Idea and Place that is Florida, Volume 1, Issue 5, “Travel and Travels, Part 2” (2016)

Educational Yet Uninspired

The Sensuality of Sustenance: The Embodiment of Food, Life, and Sex in Natalia Toledo’s Black Flower

Citation: NATALIA TOLEDO, “A Hand in the Bush Makes Sweet Work in the Kitchen.” In The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems. Trans. from the Spanish and the Isthmus Zapotec by Clare Sullivan. Los Angeles: Phoneme Media, 2015. Pp. xi, 244. $16.00. Paperback. ISBN: 978-1-939419-46-0.

Image credit: The designs of Natalia Toledo’s poems on amate paper that are featured as images in this post were designed by Mexico City Lit.


“You open your legs wide,” writes Natalia Toledo, “when you sit down in the hammock/so that the chocolate chili of your man/may enter your calabash.” In select poems like this one, “Chocolate Chili Pepper,” Toledo puts the erotic dimensions of her poetry on full display. She constructs intimate pieces that are short and sweet, and descend into palpable meaning like water falling over cliff sides. Throughout, she scatters poignant comparisons between food and sex like rocks on the falls, throwing them into the water’s path to create a confusing and entangled fall of sensuality and sustenance. The reader is left like many subjects of these poems, feeling both hungry and aroused. They crave food and they desire orgasm. Most importantly, they question the very idea of artificial boundaries between two of the most primal activities of human life. One is the ritual crafting of food that resurrects life in its subsequent consumption; the other is the intimate crafting of actual people that reproduces life through the cycle of sex, cooking in the womb, and then birth.[1]

The following essay is a short piece that explores select themes from one section of Natalia Toledo’s Black Flower, a translated compilation of her poetry from 2015. The essay begins with a biographical section on Toledo which is intended to provide context for those who have not heard of her work. The essay will then discuss the interwoven themes of food, life, and sex in her section of poems, “A Hand in the Bush Makes Sweet Work in the Kitchen.” Meanwhile, it will draw upon language from the “Embodiments” track of the Performance Studies discipline. The discipline describes this track in one of its statements by writing that it “deals with questions of representation and documentation of bodies in performance that will encompass not only artist/practitioners but also those working in discursive fields such as literature and languages.” The language of the track also refers to the interaction of “bodies in space” and “bodies in motion.” In the sections of Black Flower relevant to this essay, we will explore how Toledo uses the vehicle of her native language and the themes of food, life, and sex to explore the body as a physical site of sensuality and sustenance, as well as the idea of the “body in motion” as it creates and sustains life.[2]

Continue reading “The Sensuality of Sustenance: The Embodiment of Food, Life, and Sex in Natalia Toledo’s Black Flower”

Overview of Brown in the Windy City by Lilia Fernández

Lilia Fernández. Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 392. $30.00. Paperback. ISBN: 9780226244280.*

About the Author:

Lilia Fernández is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Ohio State University. She obtained her PhD in Ethnic Studies from the University of California at San Diego in 2005. Brown in the Windy City (henceforth, BWC) is her revised dissertation and first book; the project was originally called “Latina/o Migration and Community Formation in Postwar Chicago: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Gender, and Politics, 1945-1975;” and her committee chairs were Ramón A. Gutiérrez and Vicki L. Ruiz. Lastly, Fernández is a native Chicagoan who grew up at least partly in one of the areas that is the subject of her study, the Lower West Side neighborhood of Pilsen.


BWC is the first intertwined history of Puerto Rican and Mexican-American immigrant communities in postwar Chicago, from roughly 1942 to 1975. The work contextualizes the migration, community formation, racialization, and social activism of these groups during a tumultuous period of Chicago’s history. Overall, Fernández offers an intimate look into how two Spanish-speaking ethnic groups built their identities in a shared climate of racism, housing discrimination, deindustrialization, urban blight, gentrification, dislocation, urban renewal, and activism in a major, postwar American city.

Continue reading “Overview of Brown in the Windy City by Lilia Fernández”

Becoming Traditional in the Contemporary New: A Relational Analysis of Two Native Authors

JOY HARJO. How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, 1975 – 2002. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002. Pp. xxviii, 242. $17.95. Hardback. ISBN: 978-0-393-32534-8.

LEANNE HOWE. Evidence of Red: Poems and Prose. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005. Pp. 101. £9.99. Hardback. ISBN: 9781844710621.

In her poem “Song For The Deer and Myself to Return On,” of the compilation How We Became Human, Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek) narrates the story of a Native American person who is living “in a house near downtown Denver.” This character invokes a traditional, Native American hunting song in order to call deer into the house. When these animals arrive, as surely they do, they “wondered at finding themselves” crammed together in this strange and very modern setting. After their initial bewilderment subsided, the deer and the narrator came together and tried to “figure out a song…to get all of us back.” Because, although both parties had gathered together in this urban environment, neither of them actually wanted to remain there. Both the deer and the narrator desired to return to a more “traditional” space, perhaps the space of their ancestral hunting grounds, where they had once lived alongside one another, long before the city of Denver had ever existed. Similarly, in the piece “The Unknown Woman,” from LeAnne Howe’s (Choctaw) book of poems, Evidence of Red, a narrator who is identified only as “The Spirit” regrets that “Copper masks made by my children appear in the Field Museum’s case. They rest in the future—from the past.”[1]

Continue reading “Becoming Traditional in the Contemporary New: A Relational Analysis of Two Native Authors”

Misunderstanding and Unity in LeAnne Howe’s “The Red Wars”

LEANNE HOWE. Evidence of Red: Poems and Prose. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005. Pp. 101. £9.99. Hardback. ISBN: 9781844710621.

LeAnne Howe’s poem “The Red Wars” is a first-person narration of an anonymous indigenous woman’s encounters with three other Native Americans. Perhaps the piece is autobiographical, and so the narrator is also Howe. This conclusion is possible because both the narrator and Howe are identified as Choctaw Indians and the piece is written in a first-person perspective. The work is also a personal reflection, with the narrator looking back on three specific moments in her youth when she encountered other Native American peoples. It describes the narrator’s attempts to read the bodies and behaviors of these other Natives and come to an understanding of who they are and how they are all related. The structure of the poem is broken up into three parts, and each part represents an individual encounter marked by a different, unique personality. The first encounter occurs in Oklahoma with a Sioux Native named Thunderhawk. The second occurs in Texas with California Red Wing, a native man who is part Dakota and part Navajo. The third encounter also occurs in Texas with a Cherokee man named Jim or Jack.[1]

Continue reading “Misunderstanding and Unity in LeAnne Howe’s “The Red Wars””

Review of Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre

ROBERT DARNTON. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Basic Books, 1984. Pp. xix, 320. $17.99. Paperback. ISBN: 0-465-02700-8.

The Great Cat Massacre is the fourth and the most popular scholarly book written by the American cultural historian, academic librarian, and specialist of eighteenth-century France, Robert Darnton (b. 1939). The book is a neat compilation of six, chapter-length case-studies that Darnton calls “Episodes.” Each of these episodes uses a specific primary source as a point of departure for exploring the cultural landscape of Ancien Régime France between 1697 and 1784. The book is considered an example of how scholars can apply an anthropological methodology to existing source material. In this sense, Darnton is most concerned with looking at old documents in new ways—treating them as physical artifacts that serve as windows to foreign cultures, otherwise known as mentalités. As Darnton shows, this task requires a detailed contextual analysis of a given subject, alongside an acute reading of the particular source that has chosen as its representative. In the early 1980s, this process exemplified an emerging historical tradition that was—and indeed still is—known as Cultural History.  For this reason, Cat Massacre (either in whole or just its title chapter) is regularly assigned in both undergraduate and graduate Historiography classes across the country. Over thirty years later, the work is still an exemplar of Cultural History.

Continue reading “Review of Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre”

Review of Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms

CARLO GINZBURG. The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 1980. Pp. xiv, 224. $22.95. Paperback. ISBN: 9781421409887. Originally published in Italian under the name Il formaggio e i vermi: Il cosmo di un mugnaio del ‘500 in 1976 by the editor Giulio Einaudi.

Special Note: This blog post is in honor of the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg, who is coming to UC Davis on Monday, April 18, 2016, to talk as this year’s guest speaker at the Eugene Lunn Memorial Lecture Series. This is the Twenty-Fourth Annual installment of the series. The theme is “Reading History Against the Grain,” and the talk will take place in the Buehler Alumni Center from 4:10 to 5:30 pm, with a reception to follow. The event is free and open to the public.

In honor of Professor Ginzburg’s visit, I have decided to post a review I wrote of what is perhaps his most famous historical work, The Cheese and the Worms, when I was in my first year of the MA program at Loyola University Chicago. This paper was one of the very first book reviews that I ever wrote in graduate school. I submitted it on October 28, 2013, for a Historiography class taught by Professor John Pincince. I can still remember that I read Ginzburg’s entire book, from the first page to the last. As many of you know, The Cheese and the Worms is not a long book, so perhaps this is not nearly as impressive of a task as I am suggesting. Nonetheless, the point is that the work was captivating, and it had a profound impact on me. Although I was quite critical in my initial review, I look back upon the work with great fondness now. Since reading The Cheese and the Worms, microhistory has become one of my favorite historical fields. I hope that one day, I can achieve anywhere near the same delicate balance between the local and the global—the intimate and the transcendent—that Ginzburg has achieved here. Thanks for reading. Enjoy.

Lunn Lecture Picture

Continue reading “Review of Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms”

Third Book Review Published on H-Florida, Forum of H-Net

Dear readers, last week I had the privilege to publish my third academic book review on the H-Florida forum of H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. This review is on Redskins: Insult and Brand, a brand new work by Professor of Ethnic Studies at Washington State University, C. Richard King. As you can probably guess, Redskins is a vociferous and trenchant argument against the name, traditions, and branding of the Washington NFL Football Team known as the Washington Redskins. In the book, King draws on academic theory and the voices of a diverse group of Native American activists to argue the team’s name has “deep roots in genocidal violence,” perpetuates a culture of anti-Indian racism, and denies Native peoples “cultural citizenship” in the United States while simultaneously transforming “them into props and playthings” (p. 167). Throughout the work, King does not shy away from his strong biases against the franchise. The work is nothing short of a sustained attack on both the team name and the colonial legacies that inform its history.

In my opinion, King’s Redskins has quite a few flaws, and I have attempted to touch upon those in my review. Nonetheless, the book is an important one for all Americans to read, no matter what stance they take (if any) on the ongoing controversy surrounding the NFL team and its continued use of the word Redskins and its associated images. While there are many books that discuss the idea of appropriating Native American stereotypes for sports–such as Philip J. Deloria’s Playing Indian and Jennifer Guiliano’s Indian Mascots–King’s is the only one written by an academic that exclusively addresses the Washington Redskins franchise. Seeing as the book just came out at the beginning of last month (March, 2016), it is also likely to be the most recent and most thoughtful publication on the issue for quite some time. For those who do not have the spare time to read the book themselves, I hope that my review will help them stay apprised of the Redskins debate and continue thinking about what this controversy means for the state of our society today, as well as its future.

Many thanks to C. Richard King for all of the hard work that he did in researching and composing Redskins. As always, many thanks to Jeanine Clark Bremer of H-Florida, and the rest of the brilliant staff at H-Net headquarters for their help in editing and publishing the following review.

Links to the Review: 

Review of Redskins: Insult and Brand on the H-Florida List

Review of Redskins: Insult and Brand on the H-Net Website

Printable Version of the Review of Redskins: Insult and Brand

The Book:

Redskins Insult and Brand

C. Richard King. Redskins: Insult and Brand. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. 256 pp. $24.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8032-7864-6.

History Quote of the Week (April 8) — Thinking on Neo-liberalism and Continued Oppression

This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only the power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.

Any attempt to ‘soften’ the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the continued opportunity to express their ‘generosity,’ the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this ‘generosity,’ which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty. That is why the dispensers of false generosity become desperate at the slightest threat to its source.”

— Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed  (1968)


The Schedule for the First Annual UC Davis Graduate History Conference is Here!

Dear readers, the organizers for the First Annual UC Davis Graduate History Conference released a copy of the final conference schedule last night, and I have attached it to this post for your perusal. The conference is less than a week away now, and all of us at UC Davis History could not be more excited. As you can see from the program, the organizers have packed both days of the conference full of promising activities. I sincerely hope some of you will be able to come out and join us for what is sure to be a great weekend of coffee, food, discussions, panels, and presentations by an array of special guests hailing from as nearby as UC Davis and from as far away as Universities like Rutgers, in New Jersey, and Wayne State, in Michigan. Hope to see you there! Until then, best wishes.

UC Davis Graduate Conference Program (Final Draft)

Announcement for the UC Davis Graduate History Conference on Saturday and Sunday, April 9-10

Dear readers, the first ever UC Davis Graduate History Conference is only nine days away! I have attached a flier for the event to this post. The flier was composed by the two principle organizers for the conference, Lawrence Abrams and Kaleb Knoblauch. Over the past half a year or so, these two outstanding graduate students have worked tirelessly, and all at their own expense, to dream up, plan, and then put into action the first-ever graduate student conference with the History Department at UC Davis. This is a very big step for a top-tier department that certainly deserves its own annual conference, yet has not had one to date.

The inaugural graduate conference is called “Historians Without Borders, History Without Limits.” It is a two day event that will include panel presentations from roughly two dozen individual graduate students on topics like Race, Gender, Borderlands, Environment, War, Art, and Literature. I myself will be presenting a seminar project from my MA program in a panel called “Race and Culture in the Colonized Americas.” The paper is called “Who Ever Heard of a Black Caesar?” and it explores hidden meanings behind classical slave naming in the early-modern world. The conference will also include two special presentations, one by the UC Davis Humanities Institute and one by the Cross-Cultural Women’s and Gender History group; it will include a key note address by Emeritus Professor of History Clarence Walker. Also, breakfast and lunch will be provided on both days of the conference.

If you are in the area of the California Central Valley on the weekend of April 9-10, I hope that you will come out and join us for this highly anticipated event and hear about some of the great work that is currently being done by both graduate students at this premier research institution as well as by their esteemed guests from academic institutions across the country. Thanks, and I hope to see you there!

Poster for the UC Davis First Annual History Conference

A New Place for Stories: Essay On the Idea of Environmental History in the Florida Straits

But if environmental history is successful in its project, the story of how different peoples have lived and used the natural world will become one of the most basic and fundamental narratives in all of history, without which no understand of the past could be complete.

William Cronon, “A Place for Stories”[1]

I am trying to think, to see if I read anything more about Miami…I can’t tell exactly how far we are from there. There are no borderlines on the sea. The whole thing looks like one.

Edwidge Danticat, Krik? Krak![2]

In the year 1990, the Journal of American History hosted its first roundtable on the emerging sub-field of Environmental History. This academic forum included five short responses by a generation of established scholars to a centerpiece article by the historian Donald Worster, a man who had already become a founder of the field. Evident in the forum was an early tradition of disputing the intellectual boundaries of Environmental History, even while they were being formed. On the one hand, Worster called for practitioners to begin “Seeing Beyond Culture” and analyzing “modes of production as ecological phenomenon.” He called for scholars to collaborate with scientists and explore capital–m Man’s relationship to the environment throughout time as a set of “autonomous, independent energies that do not derive from the drives and intentions of any culture.” On the other hand, established historians used their responses to push back on this argument. Writers like William Cronon, Richard White, and Carolyn Merchant called for scholars not to lose focus on the “broader cultural systems in which [agro-ecological modes of production] are embedded.” They asked for us to avoid ignoring cultural categories that existed “below the level of the group” implied by Man, and they asked us not to forget how particular relationships to the natural environment depended upon social constructions like race, gender, reproduction, and class.[1]

Continue reading “A New Place for Stories: Essay On the Idea of Environmental History in the Florida Straits”

Shifting Focus: A Review of Six Works on the El Salvadoran Civil War, 1983 – 2010

The second half of our graduate seminar course, “Social Movements and Radical Politics in the Americas,” has moved us out of the United States and to the small, tropical Central American country of El Salvador. Our objective has been to understand “the emergence and afterlife of radical subjectivity” during the Salvadoran Civil War, which took place from 1980 to 1992. The war was a brutal conflict which, by the estimation of one of our authors, took the lives of 75,000 people, disappeared another 7,000 and displaced as many as 500,000. Over the past five weeks, we have learned about the war through an evolving process that began with an impressionistic overview by a journalist and ended with a detailed ethnography by an anthropologist. As a result of this process, we have greatly expanded our understanding of the men and women who “filled the ranks” of the forces that opposed the Salvadoran oligarchy. Moreover, our knowledge of the conflict has grown in such a way as to mirror the understanding of US academics, who have also built on one another’s work. Nonetheless, the job of understanding El Salvador during the Civil War era is far from over. As this review will address in its closing, there are still a few subjects left to be explored.[1]

Continue reading “Shifting Focus: A Review of Six Works on the El Salvadoran Civil War, 1983 – 2010”

Précis on Readings in Environmental History (Week Nine)

The Interconnectedness of Global Capitalism

ANNA LOWENHAUPT TSING. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. Pp. 352. $29.95. Hardback. ISBN: 9780691162751.

The reading for this week is about the relationships between human and non-human species in the context of global capitalism. The work under review is Mushroom at the End of the World. It is the third book written by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Mushroom is two things at once—one of them particular and one broad. First, Mushroom is an ethnographic analysis of the matsutake mushroom trade and its global supply chain. Second, it is a meditation on the nature of global capitalism, with a suggestion for a new ethics of capitalism that breaks from what Tsing describes as the lingering assumptions of the Enlightenment era. This new ethics of capitalism is based on a recognition of the interconnectedness of the world’s species. It is based on an acceptance of vulnerability, and a recognition of the “collaborative survival” of various “assemblages” that thrive amidst the “capitalist damage” of the postwar age. Overall, Tsing’s portrayal of our “entangled ways of life” is creative and inspiring, yet it rests on a strawman: an oversimplified depiction of Enlightenment capitalism as Man conquering Nature through “expectations of progress aimed toward collective advancement.”[1]

Continue reading “Précis on Readings in Environmental History (Week Nine)”

Review of N.D.B. Connolly’s A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida

Race and the Built Environment

N.D.B. CONNOLLY. A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2014. Pp. 376. $27.00. Paperback. ISBN: 9780226378428.

The reading for this week discusses the connection between race and the built environment. The work is A World More Concrete, the first book by Professor of History at John Hopkins University, N.D.B. Connolly. The book tells the story of the foundation, construction, and renovation of a “Jim Crow system” (called “American Apartheid” to encourage comparisons with South Africa; the author sees both as variations on colonialism) in the Greater Miami area from the founding of the city in the late 1890s to the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s. Concrete is a complex story about how a diverse and unlikely group of actors found a consensus around black inferiority and white popular sovereignty. Together, although often unwittingly and with few realistic alternatives, these people built a political structure for white supremacy around ideas of real estate, land use, and property rights. That structure survived the end of de jure segregation and has remained in place today, long after the Civil Rights Movement defeated Jim Crow.[1]

Continue reading “Review of N.D.B. Connolly’s A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida”

From Diversity to Definition: A Review of New Works in the Field of “Black Power Studies”



In December of 2009, Peniel E. Joseph, a Professor of History at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, published an article in the Journal of American History that described “a new sub-field” called “Black Power Studies.” In this article, “The Black Power Movement: A State of the Field,” Joseph traced “the evolution of black power historiography” from the late 1960s to the present day. He began with a 1967 book called Black Power, written jointly by the activist Stokely Carmichael and the political scientist Charles Hamilton, and he ended with the historian Thomas J. Sugrue’s 2008 “history of the northern black freedom struggle,” entitled Sweet Land of Liberty.

In the years between 1967 and 2008, Joseph surveyed about two dozen works that addressed a wide range of topics in the subfield “Black Power Studies,” from particularistic expressions of Black Power in individual American cities like New Orleans, Durham, Newark, Baltimore, New Haven, and Philadelphia, to the gender dynamics, violent strategies, and community activism of the Oakland-based Black Panther Party for Self Defense, to the uniquely southern roots of postwar, Black Power militancy. Above all else, to skim through Joseph’s historiography is to recognize that “Black Power Studies” is a dense and dynamic historical subfield, attracting a very broad swath of scholars with a diversity of particular interests. In many ways, this dynamism reflects the elusive and often contradictory history of Black Power itself, a multifaceted activist movement that was both cultural and political, insurgent and mainstream, radical and pragmatic, and local, national, and global in breadth.[1]

Continue reading “From Diversity to Definition: A Review of New Works in the Field of “Black Power Studies””

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