Black History in headlines
GUILTY OF MISCEGENATION: A Look at Anti-Miscegenation Laws Across the United States (audio)
February 15, 2019, Backstory
This week’s BackStory deals with stories of love that challenged social norms in American history. We look at the ways Americans’ attitudes toward love reflect and influence broader cultural and political norms.
Ideas about love, and who can love who, often coalesced around the concept of miscegenation - marriage and or sexual relations between different races. Mainly, the idea reflects fears, spoken and unspoken, about the vulnerability of white supremacy in a changing American political and cultural environment.
Ultimately, thirty-eight states enacted laws preventing interracial marriages, from Virginia in 1691 to Wyoming in 1913. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all laws banning interracial marriage, in the decision known as Loving v. Virginia.
This map presents laws against interracial marriage as they varied from state to state. For the states that enacted such laws, we also showcase newspaper clippings, courtesy of newspapers.com, that reflect their impact on countless Americans. Many of them are love stories, but all are stories of political struggle and transgression.
Kara Walker’s Powerful Work Upends How We See Race in America
Yxta Maya Murray, Feb 12, 2019, Artsy
Since Kara Walker’s stunning appearance on the art scene in 1994, when the Drawing Center showed her cut-paper, Victorian-valentine-from-hell ***Gone: An Historical Romance of Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of a Young Negress and Her Heart (1994), critics have debated whether viewers of Walker’s work participate in a fruitful unearthing of “unspeakable” racial trauma, or just get a hall pass to enjoy racist pornography.
***Gone—now owned by the Museum of Modern Art—details the nightmare of a slavery-era plantation with exquisitely rendered violent, sexual imagery. On a bayou frothy with Spanish moss and homicide, a young black girl flings newborn babies from her vagina. Another black child floats through the air, buoyed by a balloon-like penis. A white man and woman kiss under the moon—but an extra pair of feet dangle from the lady’s skirts, as if she has stored a slave under her crinoline.
Many young artists might have felt stymied by the sort of explosivereaction that Walker received after that exhibition, but the twentysomething artist kept at it. She continued making controversial pieces such as “Negress Notes (Brown Folly),” a 1996 series that was swiftly snapped up by The Broad. Walker executed these watercolors in the style of racist, 19th-century caricatures, depicting black women performing intimate bodily functions and posing friskily in stockings.
Secrets of 1946 Mass Lynching Could Be Revealed After Court Ruling
Matt Stevens, February 12, 2019, The New York Times
On July 25, 1946, two black couples were riding in a car in Walton County, Ga., when they were mobbed by a group of white men. They were dragged from the car at gunpoint and tied up. Then they were shot — about 60 times, at close range — and killed.
The episode, which became known as the Moore’s Ford lynchings, is considered by many to be the last mass lynching in American history. It prompted national outrage and led President Harry Truman to order a federal investigation, making the case a critical catalyst for the civil rights movement.
Although a grand jury convened and witnesses testified for 16 days, no one was ever charged and the case remains unsolved.
Now, more than 70 years later, what those witnesses said may be on the verge of becoming public.
On Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, affirmed a lower court’s ruling that had ordered the release of the grand jury transcripts from 1946. In a 2-to-1 opinion, Judge Charles R. Wilson wrote that the event was so clearly of “exceptional historical significance” that “the interest in disclosure outweighed the interest in continued secrecy.”
Writing slavery back into American business history
Will Kane| February 12, 2019, Berkeley News
When Caitlin Rosenthal worked for McKinsey and Company, a management consulting firm, she regularly thought about issues like turnover, productivity analysis, workforce planning and depreciation. What the management consultant didn’t know is that many of those business practices were honed on slave plantations in the West Indies and the American South.
Rosenthal, today an assistant professor of history at UC Berkeley, has brought that history into fresh focus with her new book, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management, which examines how white owners of enslaved black people were early innovators of many business practices and terms we use today.
“It is an attempt to write slavery back into the history of American business,” Rosenthal said of her book.
Business owners in 19th century New England are rightly recognized for developing manufacturing efficiencies like factories and the cotton gin. But Northern business owners had trouble maintaining a stable workforce, losing as much as 100 percent of their employees in a year, Rosenthal said.
Southern plantation owners had no such problem. They owned their workers and were so determined to extract every ounce of the enslaved peoples’ available energy that they ended up developing models of business efficiency still used today.