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 In the News

Black Lives Matter movement nominated for Nobel peace prize
Martin Belam, 29 January 2021, The Guardian



The Black Lives Matter movement has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel peace prize for the way its call for systemic change has spread around the world.

In his nomination papers, the Norwegian MP Petter Eide said the movement had forced countries outside the US to grapple with racism within their own societies.

“I find that one of the key challenges we have seen in America, but also in Europe and Asia, is the kind of increasing conflict based on inequality,” Eide said. “Black Lives Matter has become a very important worldwide movement to fight racial injustice.

“They have had a tremendous achievement in raising global awareness and consciousness about racial injustice.”

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Are We Witnessing the Emergence of a New ‘Lost Cause’?
Kali Holloway, January 25, 2021, The Nation



One way to decisively convey that treasonous white-supremacist insurrectionists are unwelcome in the US Capitol might be to remove all the statues that venerate treasonous white-supremacist insurrectionists from the US Capitol.

For nearly a century, the building has been home to more than 10 bronze and marble sculptures and busts honoring leaders of the Confederacy, a nation founded by traitorous white secessionists so committed to white power and black enslavement that they launched a war that cost 600,000 lives. The Capitol’s National Statuary Hall features a standing Confederate President Jefferson Davis, staring into the white-supremacist future he surely envisioned when he betrayed the Union; a nearby depiction of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens sits atop a pedestal erroneously etched with the word “Patriot” and conspicuously missing his infamous 1861 declaration that the Confederacy’s cornerstone was “the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.” These figures are propaganda to promote the “Lost Cause,” a lie-filled depiction of history that attempts to rebrand dishonorable Confederate losers as war heroes—a myth so powerful in this white-supremacist country that in 2021 it’s still being pushed by the government Confederates sought to overthrow.

If we are not vigilant, the treasonous white-supremacist insurrectionists who tried to overtake the government this time around will end up getting the same whitewashed treatment.

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Diversity Demands Struggle: Lessons from Lawrence Reddick’s Crusade for Black History
David A. Varel, January 26, 2021, Perspectives on History



Black lives matter. Over the last year, both the idea and the movement have awakened a new consciousness in many Americans. The historical profession, however, has long understood that Black lives matter, and indeed much of the vibrancy and dynamism of scholarship over the last half century can be traced to this recognition. Yet the historical discipline, too, was late to foreground race and the African American experience, and the way it did so was deeply problematic. This history is a cautionary tale that we should bear in mind, even as this thriving subfield has emerged as one of the most sophisticated and diverse within the profession. 

There is no better guide into this troubled history than the long-neglected life and thought of Lawrence Dunbar Reddick (1910–95). Reddick was one of a generation of scholars working during the Jim Crow era who laid the groundwork for modern Black history. But these historians’ contributions and critical perspectives have long been marginalized—to everyone’s detriment. 

Centralizing the Black experience in the 1970s occurred only after two generations of Black scholars had laboriously built up the field, developed scholarly journals, collected and organized primary sources, and devised interpretive breakthroughs. The problem was that the history discipline, like American society generally, was still deeply segregated during the mid-20th century, so Black scholars’ pioneering efforts were all but ignored. 

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Do We Ask Too Much of Black Heroes?
Imani Perry, January 29, 2021, The New York Times

In the early 20th century, before Negro History Week had turned into Black History Month, African-American teachers and children in schools throughout the segregated South would paste images of celebrated figures of Black history on the walls of their schools. It was a public affirmation that greatness existed among their people despite oppression. As a woman born post desegregation, in 1972, I remember the photocopied programs featuring a list of names to celebrate: Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. DuBois, Daniel Hale Williams, with facts to go along with each. Even then, I knew these models of aspiration were meant to guard me against any feelings of inferiority that might come from not seeing my story in textbooks or on screens.

Though the world has changed a great deal over the past century, celebrating heroes remains an important and familiar part of the Black History Month ritual. It is consistent with the way Americans celebrate history. As the historian Benedict Anderson notes in Imagined Communities, his examination of the rise of nationalism, in a national imagination the solitary hero is possessed of qualities and abilities that exceed what we expect of a human being and he (and it is usually a he) invariably succeeds. In the history of the United States, dominating the landscape and vanquishing all opponents (think George Washington and Davy Crockett) are classic hero’s traits. The hero becomes a proxy for the nation.

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'His work is a testament': the ever-relevant photography of Gordon Parks
Nadja Sayej, 21 Jan 2021, The Guardian



“Gordon Parks’s photographs are timeless,” said Peter W Kunhardt Jr, executive director of the Gordon Parks Foundation. “As we reflect on what has happened in recent months, his photographs remind us to stand up, speak out and demand justice. This exhibition does just that, highlighting images that inspire resilience and empathy that the photographer made over many years.”

The two-part exhibition, on view at both Jack Shainman Gallery locations in New York, is called Gordon Parks: Half and the Whole and until 20 February, photos from Parks taken between 1942 and 1970 will be showcased.

There are portraits of political leaders, protest images and stills from the civil rights movement, from Malcolm X to Muhammad Ali and Black Panther party members Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver. There are photos from the segregated south, and from a police brutality protest in 1963, which has a striking resemblance to today’s America, over 50 years later.

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He Had a Hammer: Henry Aaron Presente
Dave Zirin, January 23, 2021, The Nation



When you write for a living, you invariably pen obituaries in advance so they are ready to be published as soon as the death knell of the famous is sounded. I could never do that with Henry “Hank” Aaron. Even at 86, he seemed so precious that I was in no position to even imagine a world without him. He seemed too important to die, like a monument that people would form a human chain to protect against the hordes determined to tear him down. Aaron was living testimony not only to greatness with a bat but to this country’s racism. His willingness to testify to this reality made him the foe of the darkest corners of this country, from chat rooms to the White House.

What we have lost in Aaron is more than just an all-time baseball player (he is among the best to ever take the field, with a record 25 All-Star selections, more RBIs than any player who ever lived, and a decades-long reign as Home Run King with 755 dingers, even though he never hit more than 47 in a season). We have lost one of our last living links to the Negro Leagues, where Aaron played for several months with the Indianapolis Clowns. We have lost someone who, even though he played much of his career in Atlanta, was a fierce foe of Jim Crow—and then the New Jim Crow, with its savage inequities in the criminal justice system. As he once said, with his deep and sincere humility, “Am I a hero? I suppose I am, to some people. If I am, I hope it’s not only for my home runs.… I hope it’s also for my beliefs, my stands, my opinions. Still, I’m not at ease being a hero.”

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